Two Evil Eyes (Italy-U.S., 1990):
(Due Occhi Diabolici)

A shout-out to Edgar Allan Poe by two contemporary spiritual stepchildren is the excuse for getting George A. Romero and Dario Argento in a movie together, though, as usual with omnibus efforts, the results speak more of the participants' own kinks than of any unifying thematic thread. Romero stages The Facts in the Case of Mr. Valdemar as macabre soap opera, closer to Dynasty than to Creepshow -- or would be, if not for Romero's feel for some otherworldy conscience bearing down on human avarice, betrayal and assorted depravity. Joan Collinesque harpy Adrienne Barbeau and shady-doctor lover Ramy Zada plan to use hypnosis as shortcut into the riches of expiring millionaire hubby Bingo O'Malley, only for the coot to end up a tranced-out corpse down in the basement, spectral wheezing ringing in from another reality. The limbo isn't just between consciousnesses, but between worlds and, more essentially, moralities, Romero stilling his camera as draining tool on the characters' anxieties, blood dripping onto the fake idol of the dollar bill. By contrast, Argento's camera mounts a swinging pendulum blade as it slices through a naked victim, later taking a feline point-of-view and leaping onto bookshelves. Like Scorsese's Life Lessons entry in New York Stories, Argento's version of The Black Cat is about artistry, although scented with death -- photographer Harvey Keitel and his compilation of morbid snapshots ("Metropolitan Horrors"), and the dark kitty whose gaze unspools a torrential of madness. "Perversity is one of the prime impulses of the heart," goes the narration, and Argento's gore-drenched expo more than subscribes to the notion, offering dreamy tableaux (one frozen moment -- lithe girlfriend Madeleine Potter's upraised palm carved up by Keitel's furious cleaver) before unveiling the gruesome piece d'resistance stashed behind the walls. With E.G. Marshall, John Amos, Sally Kirkland, Martin Balsam, and Kim Hunter.

--- Fernando F. Croce

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