Two Evil Eyes
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|Two Evil Eyes|
Italian theatrical release poster by Enzo Sciotti
|Directed by||Dario Argento|
George A. Romero
|Produced by||Claudio Argento|
|Written by||Dario Argento|
George A. Romero
Peter Koper (uncredited)
|Based on||The Facts in the Case of M. Valdemar and The Black Cat by Edgar Allan Poe|
|Music by||Pino Donaggio|
|Edited by||Pat Buba|
|Distributed by||Taurus Entertainment Company|
|25 January 1990|
25 October 1991 (USA)
Two Evil Eyes (Italian: Due occhi diabolici) is a 1990 Italian-American horror film written and directed by Dario Argento and George A. Romero. The two filmmakers had previously worked together on the immensely popular Dawn of the Dead in 1978.
The film is split into two separate tales, both based largely on the works of Edgar Allan Poe: "The Facts in the Case of M. Valdemar", directed by Romero and starring Adrienne Barbeau, showcases his traditional mix of horror with social commentary, especially capitalism; and "The Black Cat", directed by Argento and starring Harvey Keitel, which blends a number of Poe references into a new narrative. Both of the tales were filmed and take place in contemporary Pittsburgh.
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"The Facts in the Case of M. Valdemar"
Jessica Valdemar, an attractive 40-year-old woman, rides in a taxi to the downtown Pittsburgh office of Steven Pike, her elderly husband’s lawyer, with some paperwork for Mr. Pike's approval. Pike sees that Jessica’s 65-year-old husband named Ernest Valdemar, who is dying from an unnamed terminal illness, is liquidating a number of his assets for cash and suspects Jessica of having undue influence on him. Jessica denies the allegations that she is any negative influence over her husband, while Pike makes a phone call to the house to talk with Ernest Valdemar, who speaks over the phone in a weak but coherent voice explaining about his decision to let Jessica take control of his money and assets from his personal signature on the written documents that she has. Pike reluctantly agrees to let Jessica have access to the money, but warns her that if anything were to happen to Mr. Valdemar within the next three weeks before the transfer of his estate over to Jessica is finalized, she will be investigated by the authorities.
Jessica returns home to Ernest Valdemar’s large suburban mansion where she meets with Dr. Robert Hoffman where it is revealed that he and Jessica have been conspiring to cheat the terminally ill Mr. Valdemar out of his estate by hypnotizing him and having him do what they wish from his deathbed. Jessica doesn’t like the procedure, but Robert wants it done because he used to have a romance with Jessica and wants to run off with her after they acquire his $3 million assets. The next day, Jessica goes to a bank where she withdraws $300,000 and stores it in a safe. Robert sees this. But then, Mr. Valdemar goes into cardiac arrest and dies while under another hypnosis spell. Not wanting to reveal his death just yet, Robert and Jessica carry his body to the basement where they hide it in a freezer. But during the night, Jessica becomes frightened when she hears moaning coming from the basement, but when she tries to wake up Robert, he has put himself under a hypnotic-induced slumber to help him sleep.
The next morning, Jessica and Robert wake up and also hear the same noises coming from the basement. Upon checking the body, they hear Ernest Valdemar’s voice coming from the still body claiming that his soul is alive and trapped in a dark void between the living and the dead while under hypnosis. Valdemar tells them that he sees "others" in the dark void looking at him. While Jessica goes out to make sense of this situation, she returns to find Robert talking to Mr. Valdemar’s undead corpse who tells him that the "others" are vengeful spirits trapped in a realm and want to use him to enter our world. Valdemar tells Robert to wake him up and free him from his hypnotic state. In a panic, Jessica shoots Valdemar’s corpse and wants to bury the body and skip town with the money they have. While Robert heads outside to dig a hole to bury the body, Jessica goes back into the cellar only to find Valdemar’s body rising up out of the freezer and walking towards her saying that he is under control of "the others" to use him. Jessica shoots him, but he keeps on coming. Robert enters the house when he hears the gunshots and sees Jessica and Valdemar struggling on the balcony where the undead walking cadaver shoots Jessica in the head and she falls off the balcony, dead.
Robert finally tells Valdemar that he’s going to wake him and free him from his hypnosis. But after doing so by counting to five, Valdemar tells Robert that it's too late to wake him, for without his body as a conduit, the Others cannot return to their realm. "They're with you now!" exclaims Valdemar, who finally falls dead. Robert then steals all the cash that Jessica had stored in the safe and flees the house. Robert goes back to his apartment in downtown Pittsburgh, where he puts himself under a hypnotic sleep. Shortly after, the ghostly "Others" enter his apartment and kill him by shoving the hypnotic digital counter into his chest. The ghosts then form themselves into one large mass-like mist and enter Robert's dead body.
Several days later, the police led by Detective Grogan arrive at Robert’s apartment to answer complaints about a "strange smell" and constant moaning coming from the apartment. Grogan finds the apartment ransacked and the stolen cash scattered everywhere. But just then, the horribly decomposed body of Robert, under the control of the Others, appears and attacks Grogan, while telling him that there is nobody to wake him up and that he is trapped forever.
"The Black Cat"
Rod Usher makes his entrance in a building decorated with the abject remains of dismantled corpses. A naked woman lies bound to a table, sliced in two by a huge pendulum-like blade. Rod is a professional crime scene photographer for as he puts it: "still life’s my art," a talent which ensures that he is frequently called upon the local authorities—led by Detective LeGrand—to document the horrors of the baroque crime scenes which are apparently commonplace in Pittsburgh where Rod lives.
After arriving home at a semi-fancy row house, Rod works in his darkroom in the basement developing the photos when his work is interrupted by the appearance of a mysterious black cat, which has apparently been adopted by his live-in girlfriend Annabel. Rod and Annabel’s relationship is uncomfortably distant. Annabel is delicate, sensitive, and somewhat ethereal, while Rod is a rough, burly, brutish man who seem more at home with the gritty hyper-reality of crime scenes that he is with Annabel’s talk of witches and superstition. Annabel, in contrast to Rod, is a professional violinist who gives private lessons to local high school students who show up at the house after their school classes, and she even takes some of them on excursions to local opera houses to watch the arts of life.
Over the next several days, a strong antipathy grows between Rod and the mysterious cat, a situation worsened by Annabel’s excessive protection of it. Driven to distraction by the cat’s apparent hatred of him, Rod eventually strangles it during a photo shoot he has set up with the cat being the center of attention. Rod then uses the photos of him strangling the cat to post on the cover of his newest photography book, titled Metropolitan Horrors, a lurid collection of his most revolting pictures. As Annabel begins to guess the truth about what has happened to her pet, the couple embarks on a series of violent arguments, one of which ends with Rod falling into an alcohol-induced sleep where he has a nightmare about participating in a Medieval Pagan festival where he's executed for the murder of the cat.
One day, when Annabel finally spots his book in a shop window, with the strangled body of her much-loved cat on the front cover, she immediately goes home and makes plans to leave Rod. Meanwhile, Rod is drinking heavily at a local bar. He becomes unnerved when the barmaid, Eleanora, gives him a stray black cat, which is identical to Annabel’s own cat. Rod notices that the inky feline has an identical white marking on its chest (an obscure white patch which seems to resemble the shape of a gallows). Rod brings the cat home and sets about to kill the feline once and for all. But Annabel intervenes and comes to the cat's rescue, causing a confrontation which ends in her gruesome death when Rod hacks her with a meat cleaver. After shaking off his suspicious next door neighbor and landlord, Mr. Pym, who arrives after hearing the argument, Rod assures him that nothing is wrong.
Confident that he can escape detection, Rod conceals the body behind a wall in the house and invents a story to explain Annabel’s disappearance to her music students, Betty and Christian, when they show up the next day for their violin lessons. But after a confrontation with Christian, who expresses doubt and suspicion to Rod about his story of Annabel leaving him, she confides in Mr. and Mrs. Pym about her suspicions that Rod might have killed Annabel. When Annabel’s friend in New York keeps phoning the house to ask about her whereabouts, Rod becomes increasingly trapped by his own increasing elaborate web of lies. The situation is exacerbated by yet another appearance of the black cat from behind the wall. But this time, Rod ensures its death by slicing it in two with a saw, and disposes of it in a garbage dump.
The next day, Detective LeGrand arrives with his partner to question Rod about Annabel’s whereabouts. Despite their stern questioning, Rod isn't fazed by these questions. After looking around the house, the detectives leave, but immediately come back when an eerie, distorted mewing sound is heard echoing though one of the walls. Rod is handcuffed and the fake wall he put up is torn down and his crime scene is gruesomely revealed: the ever troublesome feline had given birth in Annabel’s tomb and its offspring are now feasting on the remains of their mistress. Not to be outdone, Rod grabs the pickaxe from LeGrand's partner and in seconds kills both policemen. Handcuffed and in panic, Rod tries to make his escape when his neighbors show up after hearing the commotion, pounding on the front door. Rod attempts to flee from his house by climbing out a second floor window by using a rope to tie around a tree in his backyard. But his plan fails when he gets tangled in the rope and slips, the rope tightening around his neck, asphyxiating and killing him. The black cat makes a final appearance, and stares at the fate Rod had coming for him.
It was Julie Benz's first acting role and the first feature film she starred in. Her role in the movie is small as a teenage violin student in a few scenes in "The Black Cat" episode. Benz's voice was dubbed in the Italian-language version of the film by Dario Argento's daughter, Asia.
The Facts in the Case of M. Valdemar
The Black Cat