Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Film Review: TWO EVIL EYES (1990, George A. Romero & Dario Argento)

Stars: 4.5 of 5.
Running Time: 120 minutes.
Notable Cast or Crew: Adrienne Barbeau (THE FOG, CREEPSHOW), Ramy Zada (DALLAS, DARK JUSTICE), E.G. Marshall (CREEPSHOW, 12 ANGRY MEN), Tom Atkins (HALLOWEEN III, NIGHT OF THE CREEPS, CREEPSHOW), Bingo O'Malley (CREEPSHOW, KNIGHTRIDERS), Harvey Keitel (BAD LIEUTENANT, MEAN STREETS), Martin Balsam (DEATH WISH 3, PSYCHO), Tom Savini (PLANET TERROR, MARTIN), John Amos (GOOD TIMES, DIE HARD 2), Julie Benz (DEXTER, RAMBO IV), Madeleine Potter (THE BOSTONIANS, THE GOLDEN BOWL), Christine Forrest (MARTIN, MONKEY SHINES). Special Makeup Effects by Tom Savini. Based on works by Edgar Allan Poe.
Tag-line: "When I Wake You...You'll Be Dead."
Best one-liner: "Christ! Rich people... Sick stuff always turns out to be rich people."

Originally conceived as a George Romero-produced, Poe-based cable television series (with Michele Soavi directing "The Masque of the Red Death," Richard Stanley directing "The Casque of Amontillado," and with John Carpenter & Wes Craven involved as well), it failed to receive the final green-light and instead we ended up with a full-length horror-omnibus twofer entitled TWO EVIL EYES. I've heard a fair amount of bellyaching about this film, ranging from Poe purists who're upset that the settings are contemporary to disdainful viewers who inexplicably cite the complete incompetence of Romero and Argento (!). I must say that these criticisms are unfounded– I see TWO EVIL EYES as one of the stronger horror omnibii, fusing outrageous Savini gore, virtuoso camera-work, audacious performances (including an entire host of CREEPSHOW alumni), and original expansions to the Poe stories together into a result that's occasionally hilarious and occasionally terrifying.

So without further ado– since Poe was a poet, after all– I'll express my love for TWO EVIL EYES in the form of verse:

THE FACTS IN THE CASE OF M. VALDEMAR (in the mode of "The Raven")

Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered zombie theory,
I felt a hankering for some Romero,
seized the disc and gave it a go,

Open here I flung the shutter, when, with many a flirt and flutter,
In there stepped a stately raven though he sorta looked a crow.
Not the least obeisance made he; not a minute stopped or stayed he,
But, with mien of lord or lady, perched by the one-sheet of CREEPSHOW--
Perched upon a bust of Carpy above the one-sheet of CREEPSHOW--
Perched, and sat... like in the Poe!

Then the ebony bird beguiling my sad fancy into smiling,
By the grave and stern decorum of neon electric glow,
"Though thy crest be shorn and shaven, thou," I said, "art sure no Wes Craven,
Ghastly grim and ancient Raven wandering from your nightly sorrow--
Tell me what thy lordly name is upon this night's horror-show!"
And quoth the raven... "Adrienne Barbeau."

It wasn't Father's Day, but Bingo O'Malley still wandered around, dead (ish)

You see, he died while hypnotized, so he can't sleep with the fish

This causes unease to his trophy wife
Who realllllly doesn't want his eternal life
Adrienne's performance is pretty sympathetic
Which after CREEPSHOW's "Billie" is no small trick
Gold-diggers got souls sometimes, too
(and you'll never hear me say that in another review)
The conspiring lovers wear yuppie pinstripes

and E.G. Marshall delivers some nice "old man gripes"

There's twists and turns and how the plot does grow!
Quoth the raven, "Adrienne Barbeau."

Hey lookit, it's Tom Atkins as a hard-boiled detective!
One of these days, I'll do a full-blown retrospective

And we hear about The Others, from the opposing side of the mortal gate
And while I won't reveal what they look like, I'll say that they're well worth the wait!

And Carpy's ex-gal shares a scene with (Christine Forrest) she of Romero,
Ya don't see that every day, I'll have you know
I'll bet they had some tales to tell in the midst of that tableau
It's not the kind of thing ya see in a film by Truffaut

So quoth the Raven, "Adrienne Barbeau."

And the Raven, never flitting, still is sitting, still is sitting
On the pallid bust of Carpy above the one-sheet of CREEPSHOW;
And his eyes have all the seeming of a demon's that is dreaming
And the lamp-light o'er him streaming throws his shadow from his toe;
And my soul from out that shadow that lies floating on the row
Shall be lifted-- God bless George Romer-o!


THE BLACK CAT (in the mode of "The Bells")

See the suavitude of the Keitels
Bow-tied Keitels!

What a world of merriment
his beret fortells

He's a sort of Pittsburgh Weegee

What's this, who... me?

Oh that Keitels, tells, tells

Oh how we long to see
a shot of POV
on our old tube TV

So thank God for Signore Argento
The man puts on a goddamn show

There's things that he's got
and things that he ain't
of the latter, there's not
a great deal of restraint

Pendulum P-O-V
looks pretty good to me
(the gore's all Savini)

Cat P-O-V rears its feline head
and instills in Keitel a true sense of dread

He's a beret-wearin' artist livin' life in the city
He just wants to photograph the nice little kitty

He's shacked up with a sensitive l'il lady
her hair's as red as the beard of O'Grady

She's a music teacher to a young Julie Benz
And Argento captures all this with his wide-angle lens

Her violin music so beautifully wells
For the Keitels tells tells
The Keitels tells tells

Harvey hits up a ren-fair
But who knows if it's really there

It's probably only in his dream
But is there more to it than it would seem?

John Amos shows up, helpin' solve some crimes
But the plot's pretty fucken far from GOOD TIMES

Watch for Savini, blink and you'll miss 'im, gettin' arrested by the police
and if you're paying attention, his character's taken from Poe's Berenice

I don't mean to dwell
But this segment's all about Keitel
Oh the rapture it impels
of the Keitels tells tells

The cat begins driving dear Keitel mad
And so he resolves to do something bad

He begins choking the cat beyond hope of resurrection
(Yikes- I really hope Keitel didn't have an erection)

But what the hells who can really tells
After all, we're dealing with Keitels
(The Keitels tells tells)

At least it's set to smooth sax jazzytown
Nothin' set to that can ever make me frown

Amongst animal lovers, nausea it may induce

And check out this bar
I really hope it's not far

Sure, it ain't the Oak Room or the Ritz
But I'll bet you can pick up a cold sixer of Schlitz

Then Martin Balsam (from PSYCHO!) walks toward the stair
which'll give any true horror lover a nice fuzzy scare

Oh, how the danger sinks and swells
By the sinking or the swelling in the anger of Keitels

Of the Keitels
Of the Keitels tells tells tells
Tells tells tells
In the clamor and the clangor of the Keitels!

Tequila for breakfast– er make mine a Mezcal
It's merely a warm-up for Keitel's zany Grand Mal

For the Keitels tells tells
Oh how he tells tells tells



Keitel must have his say
We only do things his way

That Keitels tells tells
The Keitels tells tells

Oh the little lady's not too impressed, but how about now:




-Sean Gill


taio said...


J.D. said...

Yeah, this is a pretty good one but still doesn't hold a candle to CREEPSHOW, which featured Romero, Savini AND Stephen King. Still, TWO EVIL EYES certainly has its moments. Great cast, as you so rightly point out. And Keitel rockin' the bowtie. Fantastic...

Anonymous said...

I can't believe I haven't seen this omnibus. The directors are of course masters, but I love the cast. I shall netflix this immediately!

Anonymous said...

It's a worthy set, if only because it involves Romero and a zombie, which makes it mandatory viewing. Argento, however, just never hits the spot for me (unless it's Opera, because that just gets so weird you can't help but get sucked in).

Sean Gill said...


Thanks for stopping by!


You're right that it's not as good as CREEPSHOW, but I still find myself revisiting TWO EVIL EYES, sometimes just one story at a time. And a Keitel performance is always worth the price of admission (the present century notwithstanding).

You'll have to tell me what you think; I believe I'm one of the few out there who sing TWO EVIL EYES' praises!

Mike B.,

I do enjoy the Valdemar/Romero zombies line of thinking, which can additionally be applied to 'Father's Day' in CREEPSHOW. I'm very big on Argento myself, but I understand it's not everyone's cup of tea. Still, pendulum-POV should be hard to say no to!