Two Evil Eyes is a very personal movie to me. It was filmed when I was 18, in my hometown of Pittsburgh, by two of the greatest minds to ever work in horror, George Romero and Dario Argento, who also brought along Luigi Cozzi and Tom Savini to aid and abet. It’s an anthology film inspired by Edgar Allan Poe, with both directors using their own unique vision to make one disjointed but interesting film. If you were around town at the time of its filming, Savini was often bringing the props to conventions, so seeing the incredibly gory “Pit and the Pendulum” girl up close was a shocking event.
The Facts In the Case of M. Valdemar is directed by Romero and is all about life beyond death. Jessica Valdemar (Adrienne Barbeau) travels to dahntahn Pittsburgh to meet with her husband’s lawyer (E.G. Marshall) about her husband Ernest’s (Pittsburgh acting legend Bingo O’Malley) will. Pike believes that Jessica is exerting undue influence on him, but the old man explains over the phone that his wife is entitled to his money.
Of course, she’s been having an affair with the man taking care of him, Dr. Robert Hoffman (Ramy Zada) and they’ve both been hypnotizing him to ensure that they get his $3 million when he dies. However, while he’s still hypnotized, the old man dies and the couple hide him in a freezer.
Soon, the body is making noises and even able to speak, explaining that he is trapped in a void with other souls that want to bring others into their dark world. Jessica panics and shoots the corpse, but that’s not the end. Soon, she’s dead and Robert is being haunted by the others, who show up as strange human shapes only visible through the flashes of lightning.
When the police, led by Detective Grogan (Tom Atkins), break in to his apartment, it’s scattered with bloody cash and Robert has become a zombie who is awake forever.
Look for Romero’s second wife Christine Forrest in this, too.
The second story, directed by Argento, is The Black Cat, which is all about Rod Usher (Harvey Keitel) who is a crime scene photographer who often works with Detective LeGrand (John Amos). It also seems like the city of my birth was host to some insane giallo-style murders in 1990!
Rod’s home life isn’t fun. Sure, he has an attractive, if strange, violin-teaching girl named Annabel (Madeleine Potter), but they aren’t compatible and he’s given to abusing the black cat that she’s adopted, all the way to strangling it while he takes photos for his new book.
Annabel searches for her missing cat as Rod goes insane, even dreaming of a pagan festival where he’s murdered in retaliation for killing the cat.
Soon, a bartender (Sally Kirkland) gives him another cat that looks exactly like the cat he’s killed, so when he tries to repeat the crime, Annabel stops him and gets murdered instead. I love that Kim Hunter and Martin Balsam play the elderly couple who tries to investigate — it’s as if Argento is indulging in complete play instead of work here, excited to work with an American crew who worships him (this is apparent in the behind the scenes footage) and working with stars from his favorite movies of the past.
Of course, Annabel’s students — Julie Benz is one of them in her first film role — suspect Rod of her murder and the black cat keeps coming back to get killed again and again. It all ends in completely disgusting fashion, as the wall Annabel was buried behind is taken down to reveal that she’s been consumed by cats and then all hell breaks loose.
Argento originally wanted the film to be a collaboration between Romero, John Carpenter, Wes Craven and himself. Carpenter and Craven pulled out, but there were also plans to make this into a cable series, with Michele Soavi making The Masque of the Red Death and Richard Stanley directing The Cask of Amontillado. It’s a tragedy that none of this ever happened.
For the best possible viewing experience, get the Blue Underground blu ray release of this film. It’s packed with extras, like a soundtrack CD and an entire disc of behind the scenes features, including interviews with the directors, a visit to Tom Savini’s home and new interviews with Barbeau, Ramy Zada, Madeleine Potter, composer Pino Donaggio, writer Franco Ferrini, assistant director Luigi Cozzi and more.
Blue Underground has had an amazing year of releases and this is a worthy addition.
The second disc astounded me, seeing Argento and Cozzi walking the streets that I have walked. The connection to my heroes and the place that I love moved me.
Two Evil Eyes didn’t get the release it deserved when it came out. You should rectify that by watching it as soon as possible.