Anthology horrors usually have at least three segments, occasionally as many as five, but this film adapts only two stories by Edgar Allan Poe. The Facts In The Case Of Mr Valdemar (titled Two Evil Eyes by disc menu), is scripted by director Romero, and stars Adrienne Barbeau as Jessica - adulterous, conceited wife of bedridden and dying Earnest. Despite being apprehensive about outright murder, Jessica plots to dispose of her ailing hubby once her hypnotist and lover (Ramy Zada, who played the college psychology teacher in Jim and Ken Wheat's underrated 1989 scare fest, After Midnight) has tricked the wealthy old man into changing the terms of his last will, signing over a sizable fortune to treacherous Jess. No apprentice gold-digger, she! Hypnotism is used to nullify the old guy's terminal agonies, much to the disapproval of his nurse (Christine Forrest, Mrs Romero).
However, while in a hypnotic trance, Ernie croaks before a suspicious lawyer (veteran character actor E.G. Marshall, remember him as the deliciously vicious, rich recluse besieged by cockroaches in Romero's Creepshow, 1982?) clears the necessary financial transfer paperwork, so Jess reluctantly begins the subterfuge that her husband is still alive. With his body stashed away in a chest freezer down on the basement, the scene is set for admittedly tepid terrors as, still locked in his state of psychic trance, the victim's restless soul starts grumbling from beyond...
Argento helms The Black Cat, which stars Harvey Keitel as Rod Usher, a cold mannered and pretentious photographer with a taste for morbid crime scene pictures who is predestined to fail when he indulges his malicious curiosity. Usher appears to kill a black cat, which sneaks into his home-based darkroom (a clever representation of an evil spirit entering his subconscious). He flies into a rage when accused of torturing the cat to get images of horror for his book of arty grotesques, and then sulks alone after breaking up with his girlfriend Annabel (Madeleine Potter). But Usher's surly arrogance and inability to express love or compassion delivers him into a nightmare, brought on by a drunken stupor, during which he becomes the human sacrifice in a pagan festival. Later, Usher is impaled, metaphorically, on the investigative hook of two police detectives fishing for evidence that missing Annabel has been murdered. Of course, mewling offspring of the cat trapped with a rotting body is eventually discovered...
The really fun part about these two stories is not the special makeup effects (by Romero's frequent colleague Tom Savini) - which are, unfortunately, somewhat cheap-looking and far less convincing than usual - but the repeated joke, in both stories, of the unexpected doorbell ringing, which interrupts the killers' disposal of troublesome fresh corpse. In Usher's case, this is hilariously inconvenient, because he's handcuffed to a dead cop at the time!
DVD extras: Dolby digital 5.1 surround sound, biographies and filmographies of the directors, stills galleries for both short films, plus the excellent filmmaker profile documentary, Dario Argento: An Eye For Horror (70 minutes).