Anyway, rather than watching two movies today, I decided to watch one movie with two baby movies inside. See how I found a loophole in yesterday's promise? Sneaky hobbitses! I simply can't be trusted. You won't be getting that engagement ring I promised either...nor will I divorce my wife. I'll simply string you along and continue this affair until---err, wait. Where am I? What was I saying? Uhh...ignore that last bit. I'm...uh, IMing someone in another browser window.
Though my nonsensical Sunday night ramblings might lead you to believe otherwise, I really did manage to watch a movie today. No really! I finally got around to watching Two Evil Eyes (1990), which I picked up on VHS for $3 at a book store some time ago. It was exactly what the doctor ordered on a chilly Sunday afternoon where I could barely get motivated to hit "play".
Two Evil Eyes is a collaboration between horror maestros George Romero and Dario Argento, each writer/director putting his own spin on tales from the master of the macabre himself, Edgar Allen Poe. While tracking down info on this flick tonight, I learned that originally it was intended to be a longer anthology with John Carpenter and Wes Craven also contributing stories. Obviously the Carpenter and Craven dropped out of the project at some point, but I like to think that if they had stayed on board, the film might have been called Four Evil Eyes. There would have been some unifying element involving a nerd. A very, very bad nerd. Alas, this was not to be. Anyway...
The first story, "The Facts in the Case of Mr. Valdemar", belongs to Romero. Adrienne Barbeau stars as Jessica, a flight attendant-turned-trophy wife for crotchety (and wealthy, natch) ol' Mr. Valdemar. As the old coot nears death, Jessica and her lover Robert (Ramy Zada) conspire to get their hands on his money. Robert, acting as Valdemar's doctor, hypnotizes the man into signing over his. The catch, however, is that the paperwork will take a few weeks to clear. If Valdemar dies in the interim, Jessica gets zilch. Shockingly enough, Valdemar dies right away. The couple decides to literally put the body on ice until they can cash in. Unfortunately, Valdemar died while still under hypnosis...and now some evil beings from the other side want to use his body as a channel to enter the world of the living.
It makes sense when you're watching it, I promise. Romero's take on M. Valdemar is like a comfy old sweater. There's alot of scheming and buildup, and the audience can sit back and wait to find out how the greedy couple is going to get their comeuppance. The story bears some similarities to the "Something to Tide You Over" short in Romero's Creepshow when Mr. Valdemar's squishy corpse starts shambling around, looking for revenge. Like I said...a comfy old sweater. It's familiar, it's enjoyable, and this could easily have been an episode of Tales form the Crypt. In my estimation, that's not a bad thing.
For the second Poe tale, "The Black Cat", Dario Argento takes the reins and ups the ante. Harvey Keitel stars as Rod Usher (nyuk nyuk!), an artist who's specialty (or obsession, maybe) is photographing crime scenes. This conceit gives Argento license to construct some elaborate gore pieces, including a body sliced in half by a pendulum and a victim with all her teeth bloodily extracted by a crazy-haired Tom Savini.
Usher's live-in girlfriend Annabel (Madeleine Potter...again, I say...nyuk) brings home a stray black cat who immediately takes a disliking to Usher. The feeling is mutual and Usher "takes care" of the situation, but the cat keeps returning. Eventually Annabel catches on that her boyfriend might not be the type of man she thought he was. As she tries to leave him, she meets the sharp end of a meat cleaver up close and personal. Usher seals her body up in the walls of the house, and you probably know how this story ends by now. This being a Dario Argento film, however, you can be sure that things soon spiral out of control into the absurd and the gory.
Undoubtedly, Argento's contribution is the more lively of the two. There's more action, there's more blood, and it feels less like another walk on familiar ground. Harvey Keitel gives a performance that's appropriately slimy, violent, and infuriating. Romero's visuals tend to be on the more subtle side, whereas Argento concocts original camera tricks and outrageous gore shots.
Despite the fact that a notice from the Humane Society (embazoned across the screen immediately at the film's end) assures the viewer that no cats experienced any physical or psychological discomfort during filming, there are portions of "The Black Cat" that I found difficult to watch- so much so that I considered turning it off. Rod Usher strangles the cat at one point and photographs it while it dies, just to give you a taste. I knew it was all camera trickery, but it's still not to my tastes, to say the least.
Whether you prefer one half of Two Evil Eyes to the other is most likely come down to style preference. I mean, do you like your Cheetos puffed or crunchy? Either way, they both taste good on a lazy Sunday afternoon. I give it 7 out of 10 orange-stained fingertips.