Seen via: Blue Underground DVD (R1)Rating: 6/10 (for "The Black Cat")
To kick off Argento-thon, I started with the earliest film I hadn't seen: 1990's Two Evil Eyes. To be fair though, Argento is only really responsible for *half* of the film, which is a two-part Edgar Allen Poe-themed collaboration with U.S. horror legend George Romero. (Initial plans to make it a four-parter with John Carpenter and Wes Craven didn't pan out.) Romero's film is an updated version of the story "Facts in the Case of M. Valdemar," which focuses on a couple attempting to swindle a dying man out of his fortune. Little do they know that his ghost won't be quite so happy to see what they've done. I won't really talk much about Romero's film, mostly because it's not very good. Overlong and overly dramatic, it's really sort of a drag, albeit with a couple of creepy moments toward the end.
Argento's half of the film is much more entertaining, and doesn't take its inspiration from a single Poe story. Instead it mashes up themes from several. Playing "spot the references" is pretty fun during this one, although you don't need to be familiar with Poe's work to enjoy it.
The film opens with a particularly grisly gore setpiece, in which the aftermath of a pit-and-the-pendulum style murder is being investigated by Roderick Usher, played by a questionably sober Harvey Keitel. Usher shows up in a beret, which is how you know he has artistic leanings. Rather than being sort of an obvious move, it's perhaps a clue that he's not the most subtle when it comes to displaying his feelings. Most of the rest of the film involves Keitel wearing his frustrations and anger on his sleeve.
|There is lots of this in "The Black Cat"|
I'm not sure as to what degree Keitel adopted method acting for this film, but it's worth noting that he seems legitimately drunk in quite a few scenes. Maybe he's acting really well, but those bags under your eyes are hard to fake.
|The crime scene photos alone wouldn't sell the book, |
but kill a cat or two, and it takes off? What's wrong with you, Pittsburgh?
The elaborate kill sequences and POV shots from older Argento are mostly absent. There are still little bits of creativity though, including one absolutely brutal stab that involves a knife to the hand. (Very similar to the stab to the jaw in Opera.) One thing that Dario has clearly maintained is his ability to craft cringe-worthy kill scenes. The gore is amped up a little bit as well... a trend that I've noticed continues throughout Argento's career. This film (not being a giallo) eschews more of the giallo tropes that Dario did well, but it also leaves out a lot of the style. There are thematic nods to Deep Red and Tenebre, but they're just that - little nods. Since we don't have an antagonist whose identity is secret, there isn't really a need for many POV kills, but instead there are an abundance of cat POV shots!
Overall, this is an entertaining little film if you ignore Romero's contribution. Aregento-thon is off to a good start! Next up is Trauma - stay tuned!