'The Black Cat' is the tale of a man who faces madness and obsession, evidently channeling it through the black cat owned by his girlfriend. Like most Poe characters, he goes mad and bad things happen. So what does Argento add to the story?
* Keitel's character is a crime scene photographer who shows up at crime scenes based on Poe tales. For example, the first murder is a person killed by a swinging pendulum. Is this part of some larger plot? No.
* His wife is a young cellist and owns a cat that is not too fond of the man. Maybe it's the photo-shoot where he puts a noose around it's neck...
* Keitel has a freaky dream where is in the 16th century and assaulted by a coven of Wiccans. They drag him up into the air and drop him onto a wooden rod. Yowza! Does this add anything to the plot? Nope.
* Another crime scene involves a dug-up corpse that was being molested by a crazy man. That man- Tom Savini! He makes a cameo in Two Evil Eyes, but not in Romero's portion? What are the odds?
* Keitel's wife is having an affair with another person in the orchestra and plans to leave the man. He comes early one night to find her and, well, things end badly.
* To cover up his crime, he does a series of elaborate tricks to disguise her disappearance. He even cuts out a picture of her face and puts it on the passenger seat to trick people into thinking that they left together.
* He buries the body in a hole in the wall, which is then blocked by a bookcase. The cat actually makes a break for it, but is killed with a shovel head. Ouch.
* However, all of this is for naught as a student sees her cello case and realizes it. Really?!? It's that easy?
* Eventually, the police come around and actually leave without finding anything. Unfortunately, the guy forgot to get Keitel's photography signed by him. They hear the noise from a cat and find the bodies.
* Keitel kills them though and nearly escapes through the window, using Amos' body as an anchor. The man's belt gives way, however, and our killer/hero is hung to death in the window. Next time, try the door.
This story is good, but the pacing is a little weird. While both parts of Two Evil Eyes are about an hour long, Argento's feels a bit bottom-heavy. The wife is actually killed about twenty minutes or so into it & a good portion of the run-time is set aside for Keitel's deception and downfall. On top of that, the whole 'dream/flashback' bit is just, well, odd. It's not bad- it just feels like part of some other film. It is interesting foreshadowing for the work he would do in The Mother of Tears though. To his credit, Keitel does a great job with the role, really playing crazy and eccentric with the right amount of flair and subdued-rage. Of course, if this had been a Stuart Gordon film, we would have had Jeffrey Combs play the role. Mind you, he did do the phenomenal version of this same story for Showtime's Masters of Horror with Combs in it, but Jeffrey was playing Poe himself. Like Romero's portion- The Facts in the case of M. Valdemar- it has some key elements that identify it as Argento's own. In this case, it is the long tracking shots and weird gore. Which portion is better though? For my money, it's still this one, but I'm a biased Argento fan-boy. Suspiria and Phenomena have just spoiled me for other horror films.
Up next, I begin my five part look at the Ringu series. Why five parts? Because I like to both cheat and ignore the American stuff. First up, the last film, but actually the first chronologically. Confused yet? Stay tuned...