DirectorGeorge A. Romero/Dario Argento
Release Date(s)1990 (October 29, 2019)
Studio(s)Taurus Entertainment (Blue Underground)
- Film/Program Grade: C+
- Video Grade: A-
- Audio Grade: B+
- Extras Grade: B+
After George Romero and Dario Argento collaborated on the release of Dawn of the Dead in 1978 (a deal was made in which Dario would cut his own version of the film for the European market), they became two of the biggest names in horror throughout the 1980s, particularly to those fans clutching their tattered copies of Fangoria and Gorezone magazines. Late in the decade, another project was developed by Argento: a horror anthology based upon works by Edgar Allan Poe, with he and Romero tackling separate stories. The resulting film, Two Evil Eyes, didn’t make much of an impact at the time and was not received well by critics, but was welcomed by horror fans despite not having much theatrical play in the United States.
In The Facts in the Case of M. Valdemar, the wealthy Ernest Valdemar is dying and his wife Jessica (Adrienne Barbeau) is due to gain all of his assets. She’s told by Valdemar’s lawyer that if anything happens to him that she will be held accountable. Unbeknownst to him, a Dr. Hoffman (Ramy Zada) is hypnotizing Valdemar and coercing him into allowing this to happen on Jessica’s behalf. Valedmar later dies while under hypnosis, leaving Jessica and Hoffman with trying to hide his body in a freezer downstairs. However, his death is only the beginning of their problems as uncontrollable supernatural forces are waiting to intervene.
In The Black Cat, an alcoholic crime scene photographer named Rod Usher (Harvey Keitel) is having severe disagreements with his girlfriend Annabel (Madeleine Potter) about her cat, which has taken a major dislike to Rod. He later kills the cat while photographing it, publishing the results in a book of other morbid and disturbing photos, which Annabel discovers and confronts him about. After a violent argument, he kills Annabel and walls her up in his apartment to hide the evidence. Between his inquiring neighbors and Annabel’s friends, it isn’t long before the jig is up and Rod will be due to receive his just desserts.
Two Evil Eyes is a problematic film, more so than most portmanteaus. It’s completely lopsided with the much stronger of the two films coming in second. Romero’s contribution certainly has noteworthy moments, including a memorable death scene courtesy of Tom Savini (who also cameos in Argento’s film), but its leisurely pace brings the energy of the project to a grinding halt. Argento’s film, though fairly mean-spirited in tone, has many more intriguing ideas and visuals, blowing by at a brisk pace. It’s also the more gore-ridden of the two segments, with a memorable sequence involving a razor-bladed pendulum (a nod to The Pit and the Pendulum) passing through an already split corpse. Above all, Two Evil Eyes is an interesting film, though some may find it less entertaining than others, depending on their genre requirements as a whole.
Blue Underground’s new 3-Disc Limited Edition Blu-ray release of the film features a 4K restoration of the film from the original uncut 35mm camera negative in its original aspect ratio of 1.85:1. This presentation bests its Blu-ray predecessor in terms of color, brightness, and detail—basically in every way. Although both segments were shot by two different crews, there’s a consistency in the transfer itself, including rich grain reproduction, high levels of detail (particularly on clothing and facial features), and strong textures on rain, skin, and costumes.
M. Valdemar has a touch of soft focus, but features clean, precise images. There isn’t a variety of color, but what’s present is favorable, especially skin tones which are suitably warm. Blacks are deep, though not entirely solid due to the grain, while shadow detail is improved over the previous Blu-ray release. The Black Cat is less consistent overall, including coarser grain and brightness levels that are a tad too high, but the color palette is lush and often drenched with an assortment of hues, including natural skin tones. Daytime scenes are vibrant as well. Both segments are also clean with no leftover damage of any kind.
The audio is included in English 7.1 and 2.0 DTS-HD, as well as French mono Dolby Digital. Optional subtitles are included in English SDH, French, and Spanish. While the 7.1 opens up the sound effects and score, giving them more room to breathe in the surrounding speakers, it’s basically the same stereo layout with nothing added or tweaked. The dialogue is also unusually low, which makes it a bit difficult to discern at times, depending on what else is going on in the scene. The stereo track is virtually the same dimensionally, but allows the dialogue to be heard loud and clear. It’s the more robust option of the two, even with less speaker space to play in. Regardless, both tracks are clean and free of hiss, crackle, distortions, and dropouts.
Also included with this release is a number of extras:
DISC ONE – THE FILM
- Audio Commentary with author Troy Howarth
- U.S. Theatrical Trailer (HD – 01:28)
- Still Gallery
DISC TWO – BONUS MATERIALS
- Two Master’s Eyes (SD – 29:31)
- Savini’s EFX (SD – 12:08)
- At Home with Savini (SD – 15:42)
- Adrienne Barbeau on George Romero (SD – 4:35)
- Before I Wake (HD – 14:03)
- Behind the Wall (HD – 16:09)
- One Maestro and Two Masters (HD – 15:12)
- Rewriting Poe (HD – 13:37)
- The Cat Who Wouldn’t Die (HD – 26:33)
- Two Evil Brothers (HD – 13:52)
- Working with George (HD – 9:15)
- Easter Egg (SD – 0.46)
DISC THREE – CD SOUNDTRACK (PINO DONAGGIO)
The Facts in the Case of M. Valdemar
1. The Others (1:07)
2. Preparing the Murder (1:39)
3. The Signature (3:38)
4. Psychochemicals (4:40)
5. Unexpected Visit (2:24)
6. Hypnosis (2:06)
7. Living For Money (4:05)
8. Two Evil Eyes (7:52)
9. The Living Dead (1:51)
The Black Cat
10. Dreaming Dreams (5:14)
11. The Pit and the Pendulum (2:13)
12. Watch That Axe, Annabelle (1:40)
13. The Gothic Town (1:45)
14. Bridge Over Time (2:38)
15. Adest Sponsus (1:39)
16. The Photographer (2:47)
17. Shadyside (3:08)
18. Menace (1:51)
19. The Bloody Hacksaw (2:12)
20. The Black Cat (2:23)
21. The Hanging (2:24)
Also included is a 20-page insert booklet featuring cast and crew information, the essay The Facts in the Case of Two Evil Eyes by Michael Gingold, the CD track listing, and chapter selections. All of this material is housed within a 3-Disc amaray housing with reversible artwork and a lenticular slipcover.
As always, Troy Howarth’s commentary is quite informative, highlighting plenty of background information about the film, as well as an analysis of the film’s strengths and weaknesses. The still gallery features 104 images of posters, newspaper clippings, movie stills, behind the scenes stills, memorabilia, lobby cards, home video artwork, and poster artwork.
The other material is a mix of new and vintage, the former produced by Red Shirt Pictures and Freak-O-Rama Productions. Two Master’s Eyes is a retrospective from 2003 which interviews Dario Argento, George Romero, Tom Savini, executive producer Claudio Argento, and future actress Asia Argento; Savini’s EFX is a candid behind-the-scenes look at the film’s special make-up effects, as well as an interview with Savini; At Home with Savini is a personal tour of Tom Savini’s home; Adrienne Barbeau on George Romero is an outtake from Roy Frumkes’ archives; Before I Wake is a new interview with actor Ramy Zada; Behind the Wall is a new interview with actress Madeleine Potter; One Maestro and Two Masters is a new interview with composer Pino Donaggio; Rewriting Poe is a new interview with co-writer Franco Ferrini; The Cat Who Wouldn’t Die is a new interview with assistant director Luigi Cozzi; Two Evil Brothers is a new interview with special make-up assistant Everett Burrell; Working with George is a new interview with costume designer Barbara Anderson; and the Easter egg, which is a vintage interview outtake with Christine Forrest (formerly Romero), can be accessed by clicking right when “Back” is selected, which highlights the left eye of Valdemar next to the menu selection.
It’s worth nothing that this set doesn’t carry over a few items from other releases, including the Dario Argento: An Eye For Horror documentary from the Region 2 Anchor Bay DVD release of the film; Double Vision: A Critical Appreciation of Two Evil Eyes by critic Kim Newman, Two Evil Eyes, an interview with filmmaker Luigi Cozzi and actress Caroline Munro, and a set of Italian opening and closing credits from the Region B 88 Films Blu-ray release; and a 10-minute making of, the German theatrical trailer, and a music video by Salem’s Pop for Evil Eyes from the Region B XT Video Blu-ray release of the film.
Blue Underground mostly knocks another restoration out of the park with Two Evil Eyes. Their previous efforts on Maniac and Zombie were astonishing, and though Two Evil Eyes doesn’t quite reach the same pinnacle of perfection, it’s still a massive improvement over its predecessor. For genre fans, it comes highly recommended.
– Tim Salmons