Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Alan Parker|
|Produced by||Alan Marshall
|Screenplay by||Alan Parker|
|Story by||William Hjortsberg (Novel)|
Robert De Niro
|Music by||Trevor Jones
|Edited by||Gerry Hambling|
|Distributed by||TriStar Pictures|
|March 6, 1987|
|Box office||$17,185,632 (US only)|
Angel Heart is a 1987 American horror mystery film written and directed by Alan Parker, and starring Mickey Rourke, Robert De Niro, and Lisa Bonet. The film, adapted from the novel Falling Angel by William Hjortsberg, earned mostly positive critical reviews but was not a financial success.
||This section's plot summary may be too long or excessively detailed. (December 2014)|
The movie opens in New York City, in January 1955. Harry Angel (Rourke), a downtrodden private investigator, is contacted by an attorney named Herman Winesap (Dann Florek) and instructed to meet a client named Louis Cyphre (Robert De Niro) in a Harlem church. While a competent detective, Angel is notably unshaven, unkempt and slovenly; he avoids looking at himself in mirrors. Cyphre could not be more different, he is an elegant, mysterious man who affects a beard, long hair and nails, and carries a cane. He tells Angel about a popular pre-war crooner named John Liebling, known as Johnny Favorite, who suffered severe neurological trauma resulting from injuries he received in World War II. Favorite's incapacitation disrupted a contract with Cyphre regarding unspecified collateral, and Cyphre believes that a private upstate hospital where Favorite was receiving radical psychiatric treatment for shell shock has falsified records, deliberately preventing the contract from being fulfilled. He hires Angel to discover the truth and locate Favorite's true whereabouts.
Angel travels to the hospital and discovers that the records showing Favorite's transfer on December 31, 1943, were indeed falsified by a physician named Fowler (Michael Higgins). Discovering that he is a morphine addict, Angel withholds his fix until Fowler admits he was paid $25,000 by a wealthy friend of Favorite's and an unknown woman and that one night, years ago, they put Favorite, whose damaged face was heavily bandaged, in a car to be taken south. Angel still suspects that Fowler is still withholding information and locks him in his bedroom without a morphine fix, hoping to sweat him some more, but when he returns he finds the doctor murdered. Fearing he will be a suspect and anxious to quit the job, he meets Cyphre to apprise him of this literal dead-end. However, Cyphre pays him $5,000 to continue the search, so Angel uses a former journalist lover to research Favorite's background. Although Johnny had a wealthy southern society fiancée named Margaret Krusemark (Charlotte Rampling), he also had a secret love named Evangeline Proudfoot in addition to being involved with a Coney Island gypsy fortune teller, Madame Zora. Learning that voodoo practitioner Madame Zora was actually the debutante Krusemark, Angel travels to New Orleans to find her.
Displaying an aversion to chickens that parallels his avoidance of mirrors, Angel is at a disadvantage in New Orleans. Margaret divulges little information to him, telling him that Johnny is dead, and if he is not, he is dead to her. He then tracks down Johnny's former secret love and discovers she is dead, but her 17-year old daughter, Epiphany Proudfoot (Bonet), was conceived during her mother's relationship with Favorite. Epiphany is equally reluctant to speak, so Angel locates Toots Sweet (Brownie McGhee), a blues guitarist and former Favorite bandmate. After witnessing Toots and Epiphany at a voodoo ceremony that night, Angel uses force to try to extract details of Favorite's last known whereabouts from Toots, who refers him to Margaret and informs him that Epiphany, like her mother, is a voodoo priestess. The following morning, Angel awakes to find the New Orleans police in his hotel room; they inform him that Toots was murdered the night before, bleeding to death after being castrated, his penis stuffed down his own throat. Returning to Margaret's home, Angel later finds her murdered, her heart removed with a ceremonial knife. Angel is then attacked by agents of Ethan Krusemark, a powerful Louisiana patriarch and Margaret's father, and told to leave town. Epiphany then visits Angel's hotel where they have sex; during this time she reveals that Johnny Favorite was considered an extremely evil man who turned on everyone he knew. Angel suspects that Favorite is in hiding and is killing off his former friends to prevent his whereabouts being discovered.
Angel forces one of the men who attacked him to take him to Krusemark, who confronts Angel in a shed at his racetrack and reveals the horrible news: Favorite was actually a powerful magician who sold his soul to Satan in exchange for stardom, but then sought to renege on the bargain. With the help of Toots and the Krusemarks, Favorite kidnapped a soldier on New Year's Eve and, using an obscure rite, murdered him and ate his still-beating heart in order to steal his soul and assume his identity. Favorite planned to drop out of the contract and resurface as the soldier, but the boy was drafted due to the sudden outbreak of the war and Favorite's subsequent amnesia from his injuries ruined the plan. Hoping to jog Johnny's memory, the Krusemarks later sneaked an unresposive Favorite out of the hospital on the last day of 1943 and released him in Times Square during the celebrations that night. Demanding to know who the hapless victim was, Angel has a panic attack and runs into the bathroom; he emerges to find Krusemark drowned in a cauldron of boiling gumbo. Fleeing to Margaret's home to find the sealed vase containing the clue to the soldier's identity Favorite gave her years ago, Angel breaks it open, revealing a set of dog tags with the name "ANGEL, HAROLD" stamped on them. Angel was, and has been, Johnny Favorite all along.
Louis Cyphre, a homophone for Lucifer, appears in Margaret's living room and tells Angel that despite his attempt to break the contract, he has known his true identity since the beginning. Angel refuses to believe him, insisting that he knows his own identity and will tell Winesap that Cyphre is trying to frame him for murders he himself has committed. Cyphre then reveals that Winesap is also dead, and proceeds to unleash Angel's repressed memories: in a fugue state that Cyphre induced, Angel did indeed murder Fowler, Toots, and the Krusemarks. Finding himself alone, Angel then flees to his hotel where he finds the police in his bedroom. The body of Epiphany, wearing his dog tags, is in his bed, killed with a gunshot from his pistol stuffed into her vagina. Angel finally accepts the truth of who he really is. The New Orleans police detective tells Angel that he'll burn for his murders, to which he replies "I know". He will be executed for his own daughter's murder, as well as the other killings, and Cyphre can at long last claim what is his: Favorite's immortal soul.
Over the end credits, there is a lengthy sequence of Angel inside an iron Otis elevator cage, which is interminably descending, presumably to hell. (Short clips of this sequence have been seen in Angel's dream sequences throughout the film.) As the screen fades to black, Cyphre can be heard whispering, "Harry" and "Johnny," announcing his dominion over both their [shared] souls.
Novel vs. Film
Angel Heart is generally faithful to the novel it was adapted from, with the following major exceptions: the introduction of Epiphany Proudfoot's child which she claims was conceived by "a devil" during a voodoo ceremony, and much of the film occurs in New Orleans while the novel is set entirely within New York City.
- Mickey Rourke as Harry Angel
- Robert De Niro as Louis Cyphre
- Lisa Bonet as Epiphany Proudfoot
- Charlotte Rampling as Margaret Krusemark
- Stocker Fontelieu as Ethan Krusemark
- Brownie McGhee as Toots Sweet
- Michael Higgins as Dr. Albert Fowler
- Elizabeth Whitcraft as Connie
- Charles Gordone as Spider Simpson, bandleader
- Dann Florek as Herman Winesap
- Kathleen Wilhoite as Nurse
- Eliott Keener as Detective Sterne
- George Buck as Izzy
- Deacon John Moore as Toots Sweet Band - Lead Guitar
Angel Heart gained attention and controversy even before its release. Bonet, then 19, was previously known for her role on the family-oriented sitcom The Cosby Show, and at least ten seconds of her topless, extended, graphic sex scene with Rourke (then 35) while blood drips from the walls, had to be trimmed in order to secure the film an "R" rating on initial release in the USA, though later an uncut "X" rated version was released. In Australia the film was released uncut from first release.
Roger Ebert gave the film three and a half stars. He said: "Angel Heart is a thriller and a horror movie, but most of all it's an exuberant exercise in style, in which Parker and his actors have fun taking it to the limit".
- "Appeals Board Upholds 'Angel Heart' X Rating". The New York Times. 1987-02-21.
- Angel Heart at RottenTomatoes.com
- Angel Heart business at the Internet Movie Database
- Roger Ebert (March 6, 1987). "Angel Heart". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved 2010-07-29.
- "DetectiveMosley comments on "I am Jane Jensen, creator of Gabriel Knight, Gray Matter and Pinkerton Road game studio. Ask me anything."". www.reddit.com. Retrieved 2013-10-20.
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