This unfairly maligned collaboration between George A. Romero and Dario Argento may be a little uneven when considering the lofty standards set by the contributors, but it's still a treat to watch these filmmakers take a stab at the Edgar Allan Poe's classics, The Black Cat and The Facts In The Case of Mr Valdemar, even if one of the offerings almost completely outclasses the other.
Argento's Black Cat is a superbly twisted take on the Poe tale, featuring Harvey Keitel as a drunken mess of a crime scene photographer whose girlfriend's new pet feline threatens to expose a horrific misdeed. Anyone who's read the story knows where this one's going, but Argento's interpretation is original enough to deliver a few extra surprises, as well as heaping helpings of Savini-created gore. Oh, and just seeing Argento's "pendulum-cam" is enough to make fans of the maestro sit up and cheer.
Sadly, the same can't be said for Romero's Mr. Valdemar, which plays out like a deleted sequence from Creepshow, with Adrienne Barbeau as Jessica, the opportunistic trophy wife of the wealthy Valdemar (Bingo O'Malley) who, upon his death, realizes that his estate has not yet been placed in her name. Jessica hatches a plan to freeze the dead man's body in the basement until his lawyer can finalize the paperwork. Valdemar's spirit, however, lives on...
Romero's entry looks surprisingly flat and moves along at a rather plodding pace that belies the film's short running time. Originally, the plan was to have four directors each shoot a 30 minute version of a Poe tale, with invites sent out to the likes of John Carpenter and Stephen King. Were this the case, Romero's segment would have been a much tighter paced and effective short, however, Argento's segment would have to have been trimmed by thirty minutes, so, depending on who's camp you're in, the fact that this original idea didn't pan out is either a good (Argentophiles) or bad (Romero Zombies) thing.
While the film itself isn't the best example of the work of either director, Argento's The Black Cat is better than the bulk of his output from the 90's, and is worth the purchase alone. Consider Romero's offering a mildly entertaining bonus.
Blue Underground delivers Two Evil Eyes to Blu-ray with a very impressive transfer that sports a high level of detail, depth, and dimension. Grain is present throughout, but it's of the cinematic variety, and actually lends warmth to the image. Blacks are rich and consistent, and colors are extremely vibrant; much more so than I remember. Overall, the picture quality here is, quite simply, outstanding for a film that's nearly twenty years old. This is easily Blue Underground best looking offering thus far.
The audio isn't quite as impressive, but is solid nonetheless, with Blue Underground offering up two 7.1 mixes - Dolby TrueHD and Dolby DTS-HD Master Audio (as well as a 5.1 Dolby Digital mix). Dialogue is, for the most part, crisp and clear, and the surround mix is fairly lush and atmospheric, with some nicely immersive directional effects.
Blue Underground carries over the excellent extras from their two-disc DVD release, including a nice assortment of mini-documentaries and behind the scenes goodies. First up, there's Two Masters' Eyes, a short that features interviews with Argento, Romero, Tom Savini, and even a little on set chat with an Asia Argento too young to realize how hot she's gonna be. There's also some nifty video footage of a young, long-haired and wiry Argento trying to kick a football. Silly, silly Dario.
Also on the disc are a couple of treats for Tom Savini fans. First up, there's a short interview called Savini's EFX where Tom talks about animatronic cats and the like, interspersed with behind the scenes stuff and shots from the film. If that's not enough Tom for ya', At Home with Tom Savini should satisfy even the most slavish of Savini fans. Here we get to see the inside of the Savini pad, which is positively littered with props, masks, and severed bloody things. Perhaps not so strangely, there is no Mrs. Savini featured. Rounding out the extra stuff is an short interview with Adrienne Barbeau in which she reminisces about her work with Romero on Creepshow and Two Evil Eyes, and the trailer for the film.
Blue Underground continue to bring their excellent catalog to Blu-ray, and, while this isn't the best of the lot , Argento fans will no doubt consider this a must-buy as this is only the second film of his available on the format. The supplements, while presented in standard definition, are comprehensive and entertaining, and offer a nice amount of extra bang for your Blu-ray buck, while the quality transfer and myriad audio options make this a solid addition to any horror fan's collection.