George Romero and Dario Argento tag-team the works of Edgar Allen Poe, attempting the alchemical equation of turning Gothic prose into Modern macabre, which results in a plodding, tedious, and trite narrative.
Romero’s hypnotic THE FACTS IN THE CASE OF M. VALDEMAR is mesmerizing in that fact it is drowsy and boorish. The power of Poe’s story is in its documentary presentation, the supernatural made natural, its narrator describing with medical precision (and in gruesome detail) the impossibility of delaying the death process: Poe’s ultimate de-composition. But Romero takes this skeletal plot and superimposes a static boilerplate tale of greed and adultery, harkening back once again to the classic pre-code E.C. comics. The result is a series of mundane visual composition, too much dialogue, and stock characters: this plays like a overdrawn episode of TALES FROM THE DARKSIDE, more made for TV than the big screen.
Argento imbues his experiment THE BLACK CAT with a ripe visual flair that is texturally interesting, utilizing low angle camera placements, POV, tracking shots, and an abundance of Tom Savini’s bloody handiwork. The fault lies mostly with the structure as the story is too well known to create much tension, and Harvey Keitel has only one speed...maniacal. The story results in a police procedural that just would never happen: do filmmakers ever research their damn stories? Technically brilliant at times, once again the tale wags the dog; that is, the ending moves the corpus and the denouement becomes a real hang-up.
Use you two good eyes to watch other films by these masterful directors and skip this anthology. Then open your collected tales of Edgar Allen Poe and enjoy.
Final Grade: (D)