TWO EVIL EYES Blu-ray Review – Romero and Argento Take On Poe

Starring Adrienne Barbeau, Harvey Keitel, Ramy Zada, Madeleine Potter

Directed by Dario Argento, George Romero

Distributed by Blue Underground

I’d never even heard of 1990’s Two Evil Eyes before I got an email about an upcoming special edition from Blue Underground. What should have sold me on doing this review was that the film was directed by both George Romero and Dario Argento, two titans of genre filmmaking. And yeah, that helped, but what really sold me was watching the trailer and seeing Harvey Keitel go crazy, sitting at a kitchen and yelling, “Meow! Meow! Meow!” Yes, now there’s the stuff. And so here we are.

Two Evil Eyes was originally meant to be a four-director anthology film of Edgar Allan Poe stories. Romero and Argento’s segments were adapted to take place in what was then the modern day, but I’m not sure if that was a strict requirement. John Carpenter and Stephen King were also being considered, but Carpenter had scheduling issues, and King wasn’t interested in directing another film after Maximum Overdrive (a damn shame if you ask me). Romero and Argento went ahead on their own, each writing and directing segments of around an hour in length. 

With no wraparound segment, the only thing that holds the two films together is the Poe stories. The movies are so stylistically different that the film can barely be considered a single film at all, even as an anthology. Besides Poe, there’s only a couple of other things that hold the film together. The first is Tom Savini, whose makeup and effects are, as always, top-notch. The segments also share a composer in Pino Donaggio, but even here the scores are fairly dissimilar, with Romero’s segment being entirely orchestral and Argento’s a mix of orchestral and electronic. The concept is pretty thin at times, but it’s there: two very different “evil eyes” of horror looking at Poe through their own very singular visions.

We begin with Romero’s segment, “The Facts in the Case of M. Valdemar.” Jessica (Adrienne Barbeau) is married to a mean old rich dude, the titular Mr. Valdemar (Bingo O’Malley), and now he’s dying and she’s looking to collect on his money. Jessica has a younger psychiatrist lover, one Dr. Robert Hoffman (Ramy Zada), who’s somehow able to hypnotize the fella into signing documents against his will, and even talking to his lawyer on the phone, urging the lawyer to quickly move forward in turning all of his worldly possessions over to Jessica. Yeah, this is one of those flicks where hypnosis is magic and the hypnotist has complete psychological control over their subject. It’s silly, but to be fair to Romero, this was all in the original story. 

The whole hypnosis thing gets even sillier when Valdemar croaks earlier than planned, and because he was under hypnosis at the time of his death his soul is stranded somewhere between the worlds of the living and the dead. Well, there’s certainly worse plots, and this one was really fun in its lunatic disregard for realism, so it very much added to my enjoyment of the piece.

Both of the film’s segments take Poe into a modern setting, but with “Valdemar,” there’s still quite the sense of the gothic. The movie takes place in some weird fantasy world that’s both late-80’s Pittsburgh and 19th Century Richmond. This is especially true in the architecture, specifically the mansion where the majority of the film takes place. The house seems a bit like a castle in its spaciousness, and the spiraling staircase leading to the basement looks like something out of a Hammer film. The acting is also heightened a bit so that the segment has just enough melodrama to feel slightly out of time. It’s a pretty neat effect.

Adrienne Barbeau is absolutely magnificent. She plays Jessica not completely sympathetic, but something very close to it. Her role is written so that the audience at least partly sympathizes with her, but Barbeau’s screen presence really sells it. And why not? Certainly Jessica should at the very least be entitled to a good chunk of the old bastard’s money. He’s an asshole, and certainly emotionally abusive at the very least. And it’s not like he would have been under any impression that his marriage was anything other than a business transaction. As Jessica tells their lawyer, “I let him use me for pleasure and for show, and now I’m going to let him pay for my services.” I mean, she does have a point.

There’s a lot to like about this segment from a technical standpoint. The sound design is top notch, the shots are all meticulously composed and there’s some wonderful play with light and shadow. Still, though there is camera movement, it’s nearly static compared to the Argento segment. This has the unfortunate effect of making it seem retroactively dull. And even without Argento’s piece coming up afterward, there’s something restrained and emotionally removed about the piece.

By the time he took part in Two Evil Eyes, Romero, of course, had already made Creepshow, another anthology film. But the difference between Creepshow and Two Evil Eyes is that there was only one writer (Stephen King), and one director (Romero). Because of this Creepshow feels very much like a single piece with five segments rather than two very different films randomly stuck together. 

It’s even more jarring because Dario Argento’s “The Black Cat” is so much more interesting on just about every level. Co-written with frequent collaborator Franco Ferrini, the film features Harvey Keitel as Roderick Usher, a world-weary hyper-masculine photographer and drunk. He takes pictures at crime scenes, which made me think at first that he was a newspaper photographer, but he’s more of a fine art photographer, I guess?. I don’t know. Maybe he’s both. The movie’s not too clear on that. Whatever the case, he specializes in photographing fresh crime scenes.

Usher lives with a younger woman, a classically trained violinist named Annabel (Madeleine Potter). She’s a bit earthy, a bit of a hippie, maybe a tad flighty. But she’s also far more emotionally mature, and a far better person on just about every other level. They’re very much a case of opposites attracting.

They seem to have a decent relationship – that is until Annabel adopts a stray black cat. She adores the cat, but Usher hates it. And judging by the way the cat reacts to him, the feeling is mutual. And so, as one does, Usher decides to strangle the cat to death, photographing the act in his home studio. In what has to be one of the quickest turnarounds in the history of publishing, a book containing those photos is published about a week later. Meanwhile, he’s telling Annabel that the cat has disappeared, which she’s not buying. And neither are the cops.

As you might imagine, the cat is not the only one who dies in this segment. 

The writing is a tad weak, but that’s made up in spades with the stuff we go to Argento for anyway: emotion, atmosphere, color, and plenty of camera movement.

The script is mostly a vehicle to move the images forward. There’s even a weird extended dream sequence that takes place in some kind of vaguely medieval villages that does almost nothing to further the plot, but serves as a kind of mad swirl of surreal images, the most striking of which includes Usher getting a well-deserved stake shoved up his ass.

This being Argento, there’s red everywhere. Annabel is a redhead, wears red lipstick and red blush. There’s a ton of red smattered around the house’s decor, especially the couple’s bedroom. And of course at one point there’s a bathtub that’s almost overflowing with sticky red blood. The reds really pop when they’re set against the otherwise muted color pallet of the couple’s house.

I really had a blast with this segment. Whereas I felt like Romero’s segment was at least fifteen minutes too long, I think that “The Black Cat” could easily have been expanded into a feature.

Tom Savini’s effects, one of the few things that aesthetically unites the two segments, are in top form here. In “Valdemar” we get a very realistic-looking frozen corpse in a freezer, and later (of course) a couple of zombies-like creatures. In “The Black Cat” we get a crazy cool looking body cast of a bisected woman and a ton of other crime-scene gore. And of course who could forget the animatronic hairless demon cats that feast on a very decomposed corpse that Usher has hidden in the walls of his house.

This new Blue Underground release is packed with a ton of neat special features. The first disc includes the movie and a great commentary track by Troy Howarth, an expert in Italian horror and exploitation film in general, and Argento films in particular. He has a book coming out next year called Murder by Design: The Unsane Cinema of Dario Argento. As you can imagine, his commentary is very well researched, especially the Argento segment. And it’s hard for me to disagree with him when he says that Two Evil Eyes combines “a lesser Romero with a top-tier Argento.” 

The entire second disc contains featurettes and interviews, some as long as 30 minutes. The first few are archival, ported over from other releases. I mean, they kind of had to with the Romero interview. But aside from these, there are seven (!) new featurettes included in this special edition.

They were all interesting to varying degrees, but my favorite was definitely the “At Home with Tom Savini” featurette. Shot on video during the production of the film, we get to see a crazy collection of his own props, props from other movies, prop replicas, as well as other stuff. Savini tells stories frenetically and succinctly. Plus, he rocks a really cool early 90’s mullet, so there’s that.

The third disc is a CD with the movie’s soundtrack. Composed by Pino Donaggio, it’s a mix of orchestral and slightly Goblin-esque electronic rock. The tracks are in the same order as the movie, so there’s a ton of orchestral music before the synthesizers kick in on track 10. It’s a pretty weird contrast, but it’s certainly worth a listen or two.Despite the Romero section being just a tad disappointing and the disjointed tone of the film as a whole, Two Evil Eyes is very good. I’d go as far as to say that the “Black Cat” segment is essential Argento. If I do go back to the film, it will be the Argento section that will motivate me to stick it in the Blu-ray player. Two Evil Eyes is definitely more than a curiosity, though the first section keeps it from being close to a masterpiece.

Special Features:


  • NEW! Audio Commentary with Troy Howarth, Author of Murder By Design: The Unsane Cinema of Dario Argento
  • Theatrical Trailer
  • Poster & Still Gallery


  • Two Masters’ Eyes – Interviews with Directors Dario Argento & George Romero, Special Make-Up Effects Supervisor Tom Savini, Executive Producer Claudio Argento, and Asia Argento
  • Savini’s EFX – A Behind-the-Scenes look at the film’s Special Make-Up Effects
  • At Home With Tom Savini – A personal tour of Tom Savini’s home
  • Adrienne Barbeau on George Romero
  • NEW! Before I Wake – Interview with Star Ramy Zada
  • NEW! Behind The Wall – Interview with Star Madeleine Potter
  • NEW! One Maestro And Two Masters – Interview with Composer Pino Donaggio
  • NEW! Rewriting Poe – Interview with Co-Writer Franco Ferrini
  • NEW! The Cat Who Wouldn’t Die – Interview with Assistant Director Luigi Cozzi
  • NEW! Two Evil Brothers – Interview with Special Make-Up Assistant Everett Burrell
  • NEW! Working With George – Interview with Costume Designer Barbara Anderson

  • Two Evil Eyes
  • Special Features


Disjointed and held together by a flimsy concept, Two Evil Eyes is definitely worth watching for the Argento segment. Romero’s segment is pretty average, but average Romero is still very good. Blue Underground has gone all out for this release, with a host of new featurettes and a new commentary track. This is a set that’s definitely worth checking out.



Sign up for The Harbinger a Dread Central Newsletter