Friday, May 16, 2008


In 1990, long before GRINDHOUSE was a twinkle in Rodriguez and Tarantino's eyes, George Romero and Dario Argento teamed up to bring us TWO EVIL EYES, a fair-to-middling pair of Poe-inspired tales. (Originally it was intended that John Carpenter and Wes Craven were to both contribute stories, but were unable to come aboard; a shame, it would've been great to see four powerhouse directors riffing on the Bard of Baltimore.)

Of the two, Argento provides the more entertaining "The Black Cat," which makes up for a steadily implausible story with provocative camerawork, an unnerving Pino Donaggio score, and a gleefully unhinged performance by Harvey Keitel. It also has nothing to do with zombies, so let's turn our attention to Romero's segment, "The Facts in the Case of Mr. Valdemar."

Much less visceral than his DEAD trilogy, "Facts" feels more like a made-for-TV noir with its scheming, duplicitous leads and elements of greed and adultery. (Romero, who himself compared this to an episode of "Columbo," makes up for this relatively weak affair by reuniting CREEPSHOW cast members Adrienne Barbeau, E.G. Marshall, and Bingo O'Malley.) The story, about an adulterous wife (Barbeau) and her lover (Ramy Zada, who also popped up in the anthology film AFTER MIDNIGHT) who use hypnosis to bilk Barbeau's elderly millionaire husband out of his fortune until his ill-timed death complicates matters, is straightforward and routine, climaxing with a telegraphed ending right out of EC Comics. (The ever-reliable Tom Atkins turns up at the end as well, cementing his tale as an unofficial CREEPSHOW offshoot; all that's needed is a weed-choked Stephen King.)

The performances are believable, even if the do go through the paces of a watered-down James M. Cain copy, and the mysterious "Others" who dole out Zada's punishment are a suitably creepy touch, offering a glimmer of imagination that the overall story's missing.

Though not completely satisfying, "Facts" does mark the last time to date Romero's filmed in the metro Pittsburgh area (THE DARK HALF was shot in nearby Washington, PA--about half an hour from where I lived at the time) before moving on to the tax-friendly confines of Toronto, as well as his final dalliance with the living dead before the slick-styled mediocrity of LAND and DIARY OF THE DEAD, making it a somewhat important footnote in his career.

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