Initially conceived to be super project ‘Two Evil Eyes’ (probably not going to the original title) intended to get the four greats of 80s horror, Carpenter, Argento, Cunningham and Romero together and pool resources to create one uber horror movie. Sadly but not surprisingly things never really fell into place and what was eventually produced is 2 separate stories, each written by Poe, with one directed by Romero the other by Argento. So, what we end up with is a ‘Masters of Horror’ type package with 2 separate 1 hour movies.
As the movies are genuinely separate despite being on the same disc I will give two separate reviews but with one overall summary for the whole disc.
First up... Romero’s ‘The Facts in the case of Mr Valdemar’
Romero once again plays his strong hand and directs another zombie movie; however this story is definitely a zombie movie with a twist as for once this zombie does not want brains to eat and actually wants to die.
The trophy wife of a terminally ill millionaire schemes with the doctor in charge to exploit the dying man’s condition, to change the will, and inherit all of his money. Owing to the condition of the man and the reliance on his medication and constant care the doctor uses hypnosis to manipulate the old mans actions. However disaster happens when he dies whilst hypnotised and gets caught between the worlds of the dead and the living. If a groaning corpse isn’t enough he keeps chatting about ‘The Others’ who want to use his body to cause harm.
Ok so the story isn’t complex, but don’t forget Romero’s only got an hour to fill and so it does the job nicely. What I especially like about this movie is that it isn’t a normal, get up eat your brains zombie flick. It’s a slow burner with some really good build up which creates some definitely eerie tension. Sound effects and music are put to excellent use to create an otherworldly atmosphere. The cast is kept to a minimum, but the acting is good and the characters are interesting with good dialogue to suit their personas.
Surprisingly for a zombie movie the gore is actually pretty low, but I got to say the zombie makeup looks class and there are some shots fired which bleed well, needless to say there’s are pretty decent headshot scene and an impaling as well to round off the package.
Overall, Romero fills his space well. Pretty simple story, but its eerie and tense enough to keep you interested.
Argento’s ‘The Black Cat’
Not the most original of Poe stories to turn to film I grant you, but as you would expect, Argento puts his own spin on it making it both more brutal and somehow more conceivable than other movie versions of this story.
Argento puts the black cat in a modern context involving a crime scene photographer and his rather ‘hippie-ish’, irritating wife and her new black cat. Stuck for inspiration the photographer kills the cat, photographing each stage of its death and publishing the pictures in a book. He tells his concerned wife that the cat has simply gone missing. In a dream he discovers that the cat may be more than your normal domestic, and as his life begins to violently spiral he begins to realise that the cat was an omen for things to come.
Argento does well and makes this story seem more credible and complex than it had to be, thus giving himself more angles with which to work from. The crime scene photography allows him to get in some trademark gore, all of which is shown in nice graphic goodness. That said the film itself is pretty gory in its own right, we see some decent impalement, some pretty cool stabbings as well as the gratuitously gruesome post mortem shots. The gore is all good quality, plenty of realistic looking blood and severed limbs.
The story probably has enough scope to have been a 90 minute movie so as its only 1 hour long the pace is lightning fast.
The characters also give the movie a more complex edge. The contrast between the slightly sadistic photographer and the whining, patience pushing wife is an interesting one, and as the story develops you can understand the emotions of both parties as events occur; this really pulls you into the story.
Overall, Argento manages to cram an awful lot into one movie. After you finish watching it you cannot help but be impressed. What you have just watched makes you feel like you’ve been on a roller coaster ride as the story twists and turns getting progressively grimmer as the time passes. As a direct comparison with the other movie on this disc (a sort of directorial showdown if you will) Argento really comes through with this rendition of the Black Cat making this my preferred film of the two.
All in all what we have are two class movies essentially for the price of one. I paid next to nothing for my Anchor Bay copy, but I got to be honest, even sold separately each of the movies would be worth buying. It’s an essential addition to any horror collection.