Finally getting a proper DVD release, 1990’s Two Evil Eyes re-unites horror genre directors George Romero and Dario Argento (they worked on Dawn of the Dead back in 1982) in an adaptation of two Edgar Allan Poe stories – previously brought to the big screen by Roger Corman in the 1962 Vincent Price vehicle, Tales of Terror.
In Romero’s The Facts in the Case of Mr Valdemar, a dying man’s wife Jessica (The Fog’s Adrienne Barbeau) allows her psychiatrist lover Dr Robert Hoffman to hypnotize her husband Ernest into signing his fortune over to her. But when Valdemar dies whilst under Hoffman’s influence, he becomes trapped in limbo, allowing the dead to cross over into the land of the living.
Argento’s The Black Cat sees Harvey Keitel play Roderick Usher, a forensic photographer who is driven to murdering his wife Annabel (Madeleine Potter) after being mentally tortured by a stray cat.
On board is SFX-maestro Tom Savini, who also gets in a cameo as a serial killer in the Black Cat story, and Carrie composer Pino Donaggio who provides a suitably chilling score. For fans of both directors, this is a true modern classic. It also marks the zenith of their achievements in the genre before their decline.
Out of the two, Romero’s Valdemar really flies. While it perfectly recaptures the EC comics spirit that Romero achieved so wonderfully in 1982’s Creepshow, it’s also a loving homage to Corman’s original – even down to the vocal soundtrack, which calls to mind Vincent Price’s spine-tingling performance.
Romero’s Black Cat may be a little long-winded, but it’s lovingly shot on the very locations where Poe lived. This gives it a strange air of authenticity. Keitel plays Keitel – weird, wired and doing a great Taxi Driver impersonation; but Madeline Potter is brilliantly creepy as the witch-like Annabel who has a somewhat perverse fixation for cats. Kim Hunter (aka Zira from Planet of the Apes) guest stars, as does Martin Balsalm (who recreates his famous death scene from Psycho). And watch out for the lovely Julie Benz in her first ever role as a teenage violin student.
Two Evil Eyes really is a must-have for your collection, and is the perfect compliment to a double-bill of Romero’s Creepshow (showing on Sky Modern Greats, Sunday 16 May, 1.55am). The new Arrow release is probably the best out there and includes a super trailer compliation of Argento’s films as well as a doco on the director.
Released 10 May.