We celebrate the work of George A. Romero and scream queen Adrienne Barbeau in this overlooked classic that explores Edgar Allan Poe’s terrifying tales.
Throughout February, we here at Morbidly Beautiful will be paying homage to Women in Horror, and that extends to my Tubi Tuesday selections for the month! Each week, I’ll be highlighting a lesser known horror film featuring one of my favorite 80s Scream Queens.
We’re starting things off with a bit of an oddity, but it’s incredibly difficult to understand how a film with this much talent attached to it could be so overlooked and obscure. I picked this one, not only because it stars the amazing Adrienne Barbeau, but because it was directed by Dario Argento and George A. Romero, whose birthday is today.
Two Evil Eyes is a horror anthology that brings to life source material from Edgar Allan Poe, with special effects by the great Tom Savini. In addition to Barbeau, the film stars Harvey Keitel and Tom Atkins. With a roster like that, this film should be an essential horror classic. Instead, it’s been relegated to cult status.
The first entry in the anthology, which stars Barbeau, was directed by George A. Romero.
It’s based on the Poe story “The Facts in the Case of M. Valdemar”. Barbeau stars as Jessica Valdemar, the much younger wife of the dying Ernerst Valdemar who is trying to collect inheritance money upon his impending death. The family lawyer is suspicious of this much younger woman whom he thinks is just collecting on a rich old man.
His suspicions are correct, of course; Jessica has been having an affair with Mr. Valdemar’s doctor, who has been keeping Mr. Valdemar hypnotized in order to steal his fortune. One night, the old guy dies, but a bit too soon to make the money transfers not seem suspicious. So the pair hide his body in a basement freezer. A few days pass, and Mr. Valdemar starts speaking to them from beyond the grave.
Are they just losing their minds, or is this all happening because he died while he was under hypnosis?
Barbeau is fantastic in this role.
Sure, she plays a young, beautiful woman swindling an old man out of his money. But she isn’t nasty about it.The doctor/hypnotist/boyfriend really pushes the issue of killing the old man and making him suffer, but Barbeau is compassionate and wants his death to be painless.
In most of her other films, she plays a bit part: a villain’s girlfriend or a love interest, but never a true leading role. Even in Swamp Thing, she seemed second fiddle to the actual Swamp Thing. But in this film, she is front and center. It’s a shame, too, as this was one of her last major film roles.
The second segment of the film by Dario Argento covering “The Black Cat” truly pales in comparison to Romero’s entry.
It follows Rod Usher, played by Harvey Keitel, as a photographer who kills his wife’s cat, followed by his wife, the latter of which he buried in a wall. Although the film is very bizarre, I think it’s more due to Poe’s influence than Argento’s.
Usher spends a considerable amount of time trying to convince the neighbors that his wife is alive, including printing a picture of her face and putting it on a mannequin, then driving around the neighborhood with it in the front seat. It’s definitely out there, especially having first seen Barbeau and Romero work magic in the previous segment.
Overall, I give the film overall a 4. But it would have been a 5 if not for the Argento segment bringing the overall film down.
Two Evil Eyes is a fantastic entry into the filmography of both directors, and it boasts the last great horror performance from one of the great genre actors of the 80s, Adrienne Barbeau. I’d love to start seeing her in more roles, enjoying the career resurgence of talented genre actresses like Barbara Crampton and Felissa Rose.
If you’re looking for a film loaded with talent and inspired by classic horror literature to enjoy this Women in Horror Month, I urge you to check out Two Evil Eyes, now streaming on Tubi.