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MOVIE REVIEW : ‘Evil Eyes’: Scream Team Returns

TIMES STAFF WRITER

“Two Evil Eyes” (citywide) prove to be better than one as veteran horror meisters George Romero and Dario Argento team up with a pair of free adaptations from Edgar Allan Poe in time for the Halloween season.

As is the case with virtually every film either director has made, “Two Evil Eyes” could give youngsters nightmares and is absolutely not for the squeamish--special effects maestro Tom Savini supplies the grisliness--but Romero and Argento fans are not likely to be disappointed by these tales of the supernatural.

Romero goes first with his “The Facts in the Case of M. Valdemar,” a 55-minute episode that recalls in certain aspects Romero’s classic “The Night of the Living Dead.”

Adrienne Barbeau stars as the much-younger wife of a dying tycoon (Bingo O’Malley), who has been hypnotized by his doctor (Ramy Zada)--he is also the wife’s lover--to sign documents liquidating his assets and turning them over to his wife.

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The most rewarding aspect of this segment is its study of the wife’s deeply conflicted character, which is exceptionally well-written and well-played by Barbeau. Barbeau, always adept at revealing the vulnerability of women who seemingly are as hard as nails, appeared in Romero’s “Creepshow,” as did E.G. Marshall, who plays the tycoon’s attorney.

It is amazing what Argento has been able to do in his 65-minute “The Black Cat,” which is the more ingenious--and gory--of the two parts. The title animal has recently been acquired by a violin teacher (Madeleine Potter), who lives in a restored Victorian townhouse with a photographer (Harvey Keitel) who specializes in crime scenes.

He’s not at all affected by dismembered corpses, but this cat gives him the creeps. “The Black Cat” reveals the full extent of Argento’s virtuoso mastery of the resources of the camera. Argento shows us some pretty gruesome stuff but in quick cuts; neither he nor Romero linger over the horrendous to the point of morbidity.

On camera throughout much of “The Black Cat,” Keitel displays terrific stamina as he plays a tough guy slowly becoming unhinged while Potter brings a creepy ethereal quality to the violinist. Sally Kirkland has a standout cameo as a sexy, insinuating bar waitress/witch whose opening remark to Keitel is, hilariously, “Ever read Dante’s ‘Inferno’?”

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Martin Balsam and Kim Hunter are a nice neighbor couple, regarded as snoops by Keitel. With its considerable violence, plus some sensuality and four-letter words, “Two Evil Eyes” has been aptly rated R; the film also bears an American Humane Assn. label assuring audiences that no cats were actually mistreated during the making of “The Black Cat.”

‘Two Evil Eyes’

Adrienne Barbeau Jessica Valdemar

Ramy Zada: Dr. Robert Hoffmann

Harvey Keitel: Rod Usher

Madeleine Potter: Annabel

Sally Kirkland: Eleanor

A Taurus Entertainment release of a Grupo Bema/ADC production. Directors George Romero, Dario Argento. Producers Achille Manzotti, Argento. Executive producer Claudio Argento. Screenplay by Romero (first episode), Dario Argento, Franco Ferrini (second episode). Cinematographer Peter Reniers. Editor Pasquale Buba. Costumes Barbara Anderson. Music Pino Donaggio. Production design Cletus Anderson. Set decorator Diana Stoughton. Sound Felipe Borrero. Running time: 2 hours.

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MPAA-rated R (for language, sensuality and strong violence).


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