Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Romero Week: Two Evil Eyes (Part 1)

It's been about twenty years since this movie was made and it is still more obscure than I could possibly imagine.  I mean, look at this thing on paper for a minute.  It's a horror anthology film based on the work of Edgar Allen Poe.  On top of that, it is made up of two segments: one directed by George A. Romero and the other by Dario Argento.  Why is this not one of the most famous horror films of all time?  Is the idea too simple to work?  Is it not good?  What on Earth is stopping this movie from being a genre-defining film?  Let's find out in my review of...
The first tale is that of The Facts in the Case of M. Valdemar.  The tale is a pretty straight-forward one in Edgar Allen Poe's original text.  An unnamed doctor does an experiment with a dying man: hypnotize him into a deep sleep.  When the man dies, he somehow stays under the spell.  That can't be good, can it?  In the end of that tale, the man finally snaps Valdemar out of the spell and he melts.  For a normal- albeit gooey- version of that tale, check out 1962's Tale of Terror.  Romero is at the helm here, so let's see what he adds to the mix...
* Valdemar now has a sultry, younger wife (Adrianne Barbeau) & the doctor is the former-lover of her.

* Valdemar is being bilked out of his money by the woman, who plans to run off with the man.
 * The man actually dies before the money can all be taken, so they hide his body in the ice chest.

* They discover that the man is still alive and- in a major twist on the story- is being used as a channeling vessel for the other spirits in Heaven and Hell.  You know what that means- zombies!
* They try to kill the body, but it's too late for that.  They finally figure out that they must un-hypnotize him...but don't do that in time other.  The wife is killed, but our doctor gets away.  How is freedom treating you?
* The police show up in the final act, but only find a zombie killer with a pyramid in his chest.  Man, who hasn't been there?

-For those looking for Argento's part of the film, wait until Sunday.  I don't want to step on Romero's Week now.

This movie is good & really works in this shortened format.  Despite being a Poe tale, you can see the influence of Romero here.  For starters, it is an indictment of people seeking monetary gain at the cost of their soul.  It also has the subtle characterizations (money-grubbing bitch, lecherous doctor, etc) that you expect from Romero.  Oh yeah, there's also zombies here.  It is a curious take on the tale and does more with it than you might expect.  Fortunately, this tale is not deeply-rooted in its 19th Century setting and is easily adapted into any time.  As long as we have rich people and watches on chains, we're good.  I would like to see someone try to turn this into a full-length tale, but I'm not sure how that would work.  Someone prove me wrong!
Next up, Romero's love story involving a man and his spider monkey.  It turns ugly, people!  Stay tuned...

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