DirectorGeorge A. Romero, Dario Argento
Release Date(s)1990 (October 24, 2021)
Studio(s)Taurus Entertainment (Blue Underground)
- Film/Program Grade: C+
- Video Grade: A+
- Audio Grade: A-
- 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 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 disliking 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.
Two Evil Eyes was shot on 35 mm film using spherical lenses and was presented theatrically with an aspect ratio of 1.85:1. Blue Underground has given the original camera negative a new 16-bit 4K scan and a new color grade for high dynamic range as well (both Dolby Vision and HDR10 options are available). Each home video release over the years has improved the look the of the film significantly, and this new Ultra HD release is no exception. While each segment was shot by a different crew, there’s a consistency in the image, including moderate 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 here and there, but features clean, precise imagery. Previously, there wasn’t much variety in the color palette, but the new HDR pass widens the gamut to allow for richer shades of red, blue, and green, as well as deeper blacks with stronger shadow detail. But The Black Cat is the most improved over its previous incarnation. It’s much more consistent now (in line with the previous film), with more even contrast and improved levels of grain. The palette is lush, vibrant, and highly varied, with natural skin tones. Daytime and nighttime scenes alike are vibrant and saturated beautifully. What’s more, both segments are clean and pleasingly free of age-related defects. Blue Underground always delivers on UHD, but in this case, the bump in visual quality over their previous Blu-ray is particularly noteworthy. It’s a stunner.
Audio is provided in a new English Dolby Atmos track (7.1 Dolby TrueHD compatible), as well as English 2.0 and French 1.0 DTS-HD (the latter was Dolby Digital on the previous Blu-ray). Optional subtitles are included in English SDH, French, and Spanish. The previous 7.1 track opened up the sound effects and score, giving them more room to breathe in the surrounding speakers, but it was basically the same stereo layout with nothing added or tweaked. The new Atmos track is slightly more aggressive, particularly with sound effects, adding them occasionally to the height channels—most obviously during the M. Valdemar segment. The large house offers room for acoustics and echoes—from doors slamming to Valdemar’s ghostly calls from the basement. The dialogue is also boosted a bit more, whereas it was a little quieter in the previous mix. The stereo track is virtually the same as before, but it’s solid in its own right. Both audio options are clean and free of hiss, crackle, distortions, and dropouts.
In addition to the Ultra HD, this release also includes the bonus Blu-ray from the 2019 release of Two Evil Eyes, featuring extras only. Both discs are included in a black amaray case with reversible artwork featuring new artwork by Enzo Sciotti on the front and the original US theatrical one sheet artwork on the other. Everything is housed within an embossed slipcover featuring the same new artwork. The extras are as follows:
DISC ONE: THE FILM (UHD)
- Audio Commentary with author Troy Howarth
- US Theatrical Trailer (UHD – 1:30)
- Still Gallery (UHD – 104 in all – 56:03)
DISC TWO: EXTRAS (BD)
- Two Masters’ 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 – :46)
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. Both the trailer and still gallery are presented in UHD. 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 rest is a mix of material by Red Shirt Pictures and Freak-O-Rama Productions. Two Masters' 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 features 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 via camcorder. Adrienne Barbeau on George Romero is an interview outtake from Roy Frumkes’ personal archives. Following that is a series of interviews from 2019, including Before I Wake with actor Ramy Zada, Behind the Wall with actress Madeleine Potter, One Maestro and Two Masters with composer Pino Donaggio, Rewriting Poe with co-writer Franco Ferrini, The Cat Who Wouldn’t Die with assistant director Luigi Cozzi, Two Evil Brothers with special make-up assistant Everett Burrell, and Working with George with costume designer Barbara Anderson. The Easter egg can be accessed by clicking right when “Back” is selected on the second page of the menu, which highlights the left eye of Valdemar next to the menu selection. Selecting it will reveal a brief vintage interview outtake with Christine Forrest (formerly Romero).
It’s worth nothing that this set doesn’t carry over a few items from other releases, including the CD soundtrack and accompanying booklet featuring an essay by Michael Gingold from the 3-Disc Limited Edition Blu-ray; the Dario Argento: An Eye For Horror documentary from the Region 2 Anchor Bay DVD; 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; 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.
Blue Underground improves upon their 2019 restoration of Two Evil Eyes by providing a 4K presentation that dramatically outperforms its 1080p counterpart in terms of both color and depth. The carted over extras are still excellent as well, making this the finest home video release of the film to date. For genre fans and home video collectors alike, it comes highly recommended.
- Tim Salmons