Angel Heart

Angel Heart

Overview
Angel Heart is a 1987 North American/British mystery
Mystery film
Mystery film is a sub-genre of the more general category of crime film and at times the thriller genre. It focuses on the efforts of the detective, private investigator or amateur sleuth to solve the mysterious circumstances of a crime by means of clues, investigation, and clever deduction.The...

-thriller film written and directed by Alan Parker
Alan Parker
Sir Alan William Parker, CBE is an English film director, producer, writer and actor. He has been active in both the British cinema and American cinema and was a founding member of the Directors Guild of Great Britain.-Life and career:...

, and starring Mickey Rourke
Mickey Rourke
Philip Andre "Mickey" Rourke, Jr. is an American actor, screenwriter and retired boxer, who has appeared primarily as a leading man in action, drama, and thriller films....

, Robert De Niro
Robert De Niro
Robert De Niro, Jr. is an American actor, director and producer. His first major film roles were in Bang the Drum Slowly and Mean Streets, both in 1973...

, and Lisa Bonet
Lisa Bonet
Lisa Bonet , also known as Lilakoi Moon, is an American actress. She is best known for her role as Denise Huxtable Kendall on the long-running NBC sitcom The Cosby Show, and originally starring in its spinoff A Different World.-Early life:Bonet was born in San Francisco, California...

. The film is adapted from the novel Falling Angel
Falling Angel
Falling Angel is a 1978 horror novel by William Hjortsberg. Written in a "hardboiled" detective style with supernatural themes, it was adapted into the 1987 film Angel Heart.-Plot summary:...

by William Hjortsberg
William Hjortsberg
William "Gatz" Hjortsberg is a novelist and screenwriter best known for writing the screenplays of the movies Legend and Angel Heart....

, and is generally faithful to the novel with the exceptions being the introduction of a child of Epiphany Proudfoot conceived at a voodoo
Louisiana Voodoo
Louisiana Voodoo, also known as New Orleans Voodoo, describes a set of underground religious practices which originated from the traditions of the African diaspora. It is a cultural form of the Afro-American religions which developed within the French, Spanish, and Creole speaking African American...

 ceremony by "a devil", and that the novel never leaves New York City
New York City
New York is the most populous city in the United States and the center of the New York Metropolitan Area, one of the most populous metropolitan areas in the world. New York exerts a significant impact upon global commerce, finance, media, art, fashion, research, technology, education, and...

, whereas much of the action of the film occurs in New Orleans.

A highly atmospheric film, Angel Heart combines elements of film noir
Film noir
Film noir is a cinematic term used primarily to describe stylish Hollywood crime dramas, particularly those that emphasize cynical attitudes and sexual motivations. Hollywood's classic film noir period is generally regarded as extending from the early 1940s to the late 1950s...

, hard-boiled detective
Hardboiled
Hardboiled crime fiction is a literary style, most commonly associated with detective stories, distinguished by the unsentimental portrayal of violence and sex. The style was pioneered by Carroll John Daly in the mid-1920s, popularized by Dashiell Hammett over the course of the decade, and refined...

 stories and horror
Horror film
Horror films seek to elicit a negative emotional reaction from viewers by playing on the audience's most primal fears. They often feature scenes that startle the viewer through the means of macabre and the supernatural, thus frequently overlapping with the fantasy and science fiction genres...

.

The movie opens in New York City
New York City
New York is the most populous city in the United States and the center of the New York Metropolitan Area, one of the most populous metropolitan areas in the world. New York exerts a significant impact upon global commerce, finance, media, art, fashion, research, technology, education, and...

, in January 1955.
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Quotations

I gotta thing about chickens. [repeated line]

You come straight with me, you slime bag, or I swear, I'll save this state an execution!

I know who I am!

Alas... how terrible is wisdom when it brings no profit to the wise, Johnny?

You know what they say about slugs. They always leave slime in their tracks.

The flesh is weak, Johnny. Only the soul is immortal. [darkly] And yours belongs to ME [eyes chillingly shine yellow].

They say there's just enough religion in the world to make men hate one another, but not enough to make them love.

No matter how cleverly you sneak up on a mirror, your reflection always looks you straight in the eye.

I have old-fashioned ideas about honour. An eye for an eye... stuff like that.

I want you to show right now how much you love God! I want you to show as your tithe! I want you to open up your hearts! And open up your wallets! And open up your purses! And give it up! Praise the Lord! Somebody's been talking about me, talking about I've been riding around in a Cadillac! If you love me, and you wanna give to me, then I should be in a Rolls Royce!

Encyclopedia
Angel Heart is a 1987 North American/British mystery
Mystery film
Mystery film is a sub-genre of the more general category of crime film and at times the thriller genre. It focuses on the efforts of the detective, private investigator or amateur sleuth to solve the mysterious circumstances of a crime by means of clues, investigation, and clever deduction.The...

-thriller film written and directed by Alan Parker
Alan Parker
Sir Alan William Parker, CBE is an English film director, producer, writer and actor. He has been active in both the British cinema and American cinema and was a founding member of the Directors Guild of Great Britain.-Life and career:...

, and starring Mickey Rourke
Mickey Rourke
Philip Andre "Mickey" Rourke, Jr. is an American actor, screenwriter and retired boxer, who has appeared primarily as a leading man in action, drama, and thriller films....

, Robert De Niro
Robert De Niro
Robert De Niro, Jr. is an American actor, director and producer. His first major film roles were in Bang the Drum Slowly and Mean Streets, both in 1973...

, and Lisa Bonet
Lisa Bonet
Lisa Bonet , also known as Lilakoi Moon, is an American actress. She is best known for her role as Denise Huxtable Kendall on the long-running NBC sitcom The Cosby Show, and originally starring in its spinoff A Different World.-Early life:Bonet was born in San Francisco, California...

. The film is adapted from the novel Falling Angel
Falling Angel
Falling Angel is a 1978 horror novel by William Hjortsberg. Written in a "hardboiled" detective style with supernatural themes, it was adapted into the 1987 film Angel Heart.-Plot summary:...

by William Hjortsberg
William Hjortsberg
William "Gatz" Hjortsberg is a novelist and screenwriter best known for writing the screenplays of the movies Legend and Angel Heart....

, and is generally faithful to the novel with the exceptions being the introduction of a child of Epiphany Proudfoot conceived at a voodoo
Louisiana Voodoo
Louisiana Voodoo, also known as New Orleans Voodoo, describes a set of underground religious practices which originated from the traditions of the African diaspora. It is a cultural form of the Afro-American religions which developed within the French, Spanish, and Creole speaking African American...

 ceremony by "a devil", and that the novel never leaves New York City
New York City
New York is the most populous city in the United States and the center of the New York Metropolitan Area, one of the most populous metropolitan areas in the world. New York exerts a significant impact upon global commerce, finance, media, art, fashion, research, technology, education, and...

, whereas much of the action of the film occurs in New Orleans.

A highly atmospheric film, Angel Heart combines elements of film noir
Film noir
Film noir is a cinematic term used primarily to describe stylish Hollywood crime dramas, particularly those that emphasize cynical attitudes and sexual motivations. Hollywood's classic film noir period is generally regarded as extending from the early 1940s to the late 1950s...

, hard-boiled detective
Hardboiled
Hardboiled crime fiction is a literary style, most commonly associated with detective stories, distinguished by the unsentimental portrayal of violence and sex. The style was pioneered by Carroll John Daly in the mid-1920s, popularized by Dashiell Hammett over the course of the decade, and refined...

 stories and horror
Horror film
Horror films seek to elicit a negative emotional reaction from viewers by playing on the audience's most primal fears. They often feature scenes that startle the viewer through the means of macabre and the supernatural, thus frequently overlapping with the fantasy and science fiction genres...

.

Plot


The movie opens in New York City
New York City
New York is the most populous city in the United States and the center of the New York Metropolitan Area, one of the most populous metropolitan areas in the world. New York exerts a significant impact upon global commerce, finance, media, art, fashion, research, technology, education, and...

, in January 1955. Harry Angel (Mickey Rourke
Mickey Rourke
Philip Andre "Mickey" Rourke, Jr. is an American actor, screenwriter and retired boxer, who has appeared primarily as a leading man in action, drama, and thriller films....

), a downtrodden but competent private investigator is contacted by an attorney named Herman Winesap (Dann Florek
Dann Florek
Ezekial Dann Florek , professional name Dann Florek, is an American actor and director.-Early life:Florek was born in Flat Rock, Michigan. He attended Eastern Michigan University, but never graduated...

) and instructed to meet a client named Louis Cyphre (Robert DeNiro) in a Harlem
Harlem
Harlem is a neighborhood in the New York City borough of Manhattan, which since the 1920s has been a major African-American residential, cultural and business center. Originally a Dutch village, formally organized in 1658, it is named after the city of Haarlem in the Netherlands...

 church. Cyphre, an elegant but mysterious man with long, manicured fingernails, tells Angel about a once-popular big band
Big band
A big band is a type of musical ensemble associated with jazz and the Swing Era typically consisting of rhythm, brass, and woodwind instruments totaling approximately twelve to twenty-five musicians...

 crooner
Crooner
Crooner is an American epithet given to male singers of pop standards, mostly from the Great American Songbook, either backed by a full orchestra, a big band or by a piano. Originally it was an ironic term denoting an emphatically sentimental, often emotional singing style made possible by the use...

 named Johnny Favorite who was drafted during World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

 and suffered severe neurological trauma in action. Favorite's incapacitation disrupted a contract with Cyphre regarding unknown collateral, and Cyphre believes that the hospital has falsified records, preventing the contract from being fulfilled. He hires Angel to discover the truth, and in the process, locate Favorite.

Angel travels to the hospital and discerns that the records were altered by a morphine-addicted veteran physician named Fowler (Michael Higgins
Michael Higgins (actor)
Michael Patrick Higgins was an American actor who appeared in film and on stage, and was best known for his role in the original Broadway production of Equus.-Early life:...

) who admits he was paid $25,000 by a wealthy friend of Favorite's and a woman to do so; Fowler turns up dead shortly thereafter and Angel fears being suspected. He meets Cyphre to update him and end the job, but Cyphre pays him $5,000 to continue his search. Angel uses a journalist lover to find out most of Favorite's background, including his pre-war friendship with a Coney Island
Coney Island
Coney Island is a peninsula and beach on the Atlantic Ocean in southern Brooklyn, New York, United States. The site was formerly an outer barrier island, but became partially connected to the mainland by landfill....

 fortune teller. He learns that her name is Margaret Krusemark (Charlotte Rampling
Charlotte Rampling
Charlotte Rampling, OBE is an English actress. Her career spans four decades in English-language as well as French and Italian cinema.- Early life :...

), now a prominent figure in voodoo
Louisiana Voodoo
Louisiana Voodoo, also known as New Orleans Voodoo, describes a set of underground religious practices which originated from the traditions of the African diaspora. It is a cultural form of the Afro-American religions which developed within the French, Spanish, and Creole speaking African American...

 and travels to New Orleans to find her.

Margaret refuses to divulge much information to Angel and tells him that Johnny is dead to her. To circumvent her obstruction, he tracks down Johnny's former secret love and discovers her daughter Epiphany Proudfoot (Lisa Bonet
Lisa Bonet
Lisa Bonet , also known as Lilakoi Moon, is an American actress. She is best known for her role as Denise Huxtable Kendall on the long-running NBC sitcom The Cosby Show, and originally starring in its spinoff A Different World.-Early life:Bonet was born in San Francisco, California...

), who was conceived during her relationship with Favorite. Epiphany is equally reluctant to speak, and so Angel locates Toots Sweet (Brownie McGhee
Brownie McGhee
Walter Brown McGhee was a Piedmont blues singer and guitarist, best known for his collaborations with the harmonica player Sonny Terry.-Life and career:...

), a blues guitarist and former Favorite bandmate. After witnessing Toots at a voodoo ceremony attended by Epiphany, Angel uses force to extract details of Favorite's last known whereabouts from Toots. In the morning, the New Orleans police inform Angel that Toots was murdered after he left; Angel later finds Margaret murdered in her home and her heart removed with a sacrificial knife. Epiphany stops by Angel's hotel and 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 killing off his former friends to prevent his discovery.

Angel forces an attacker to take him to his employer, who is actually Ethan Krusemark, a very wealthy and powerful Louisiana patriarch and father of Margaret. Krusemark invites Angel into a shed at his racetrack and in a heated conversation, reveals the final horrible news to him about Favorite: Favorite was a very powerful magician who, with the assistance of the Krusemarks, conjured and sold his soul to Lucifer in exchange for stardom, but afterward sought to renege on the bargain. Using an obscure rite and the help of his now-dead friends, Favorite kidnapped a soldier, murdered and cannibalized him in a ritual killing to steal his soul and assume the man's identity, but his sudden conscription and the amnesia
Amnesia
Amnesia is a condition in which one's memory is lost. The causes of amnesia have traditionally been divided into categories. Memory appears to be stored in several parts of the limbic system of the brain, and any condition that interferes with the function of this system can cause amnesia...

 from his injuries ruined the plan's fruition. The Krusemarks released him into Times Square
Times Square
Times Square is a major commercial intersection in the borough of Manhattan in New York City, at the junction of Broadway and Seventh Avenue and stretching from West 42nd to West 47th Streets...

 after sneaking him out of the hospital and hoped for the best. Angel has a panic attack upon hearing this and ducks into the bathroom, wanting to know who the soldier was; he emerges to find Krusemark's body in a boiling gumbo
Gumbo
Gumbo is a stew or soup that originated in southern Louisiana during the 18th century. It consists primarily of a strongly-flavored stock, meat or shellfish, a thickener, and the vegetable holy trinity of celery, bell peppers, and onions...

 cauldron and flees to Margaret's home to search for the soldier's personal effects. Angel finds a vase and breaks it open, revealing a set of dog tags with the name "HAROLD ANGEL" stamped on them; Angel was and has been Johnny Favorite the whole time.

Louis Cyphre, a pseudonym for Lucifer, appears in Margaret's living room and tells him that Winesap is dead, and that he has known Angel's true identity since the beginning; he has come to collect because of Favorite's attempt to break the contract. Angel refuses to believe him and is convinced that Cyphre is merely posing as the devil and trying to frame him for the murders. Cyphre exposes his true self and unleashes Angel's repressed memories of killing Fowler, Toots, and the Krusemarks in a fugue state induced by Cyphre. When Cyphre disappears, Angel runs back to his hotel and finds the police in his bedroom, looking over the body of Epiphany, who was killed with his pistol (by Angel or Cyphre is unknown) and is wearing his dog tags. With Johnny finally remembering the truth, and since he will be executed for the murders, Cyphre can at last claim what is his: Favorite's immortal soul.

Over the end credits, there is a lengthy sequence of a silhouetted Angel descending in an ancient iron Otis elevator
Otis Elevator Company
The Otis Elevator Company is the world's largest manufacturer of vertical transportation systems today, principally focusing on elevators and escalators...

 cage, apparently on his way to Hell
Hell
In many religious traditions, a hell is a place of suffering and punishment in the afterlife. Religions with a linear divine history often depict hells as endless. Religions with a cyclic history often depict a hell as an intermediary period between incarnations...

.

Cast

  • Mickey Rourke
    Mickey Rourke
    Philip Andre "Mickey" Rourke, Jr. is an American actor, screenwriter and retired boxer, who has appeared primarily as a leading man in action, drama, and thriller films....

     as Harry Angel
  • Robert De Niro
    Robert De Niro
    Robert De Niro, Jr. is an American actor, director and producer. His first major film roles were in Bang the Drum Slowly and Mean Streets, both in 1973...

     as Louis Cyphre
  • Lisa Bonet
    Lisa Bonet
    Lisa Bonet , also known as Lilakoi Moon, is an American actress. She is best known for her role as Denise Huxtable Kendall on the long-running NBC sitcom The Cosby Show, and originally starring in its spinoff A Different World.-Early life:Bonet was born in San Francisco, California...

     as Epiphany Proudfoot
  • Charlotte Rampling
    Charlotte Rampling
    Charlotte Rampling, OBE is an English actress. Her career spans four decades in English-language as well as French and Italian cinema.- Early life :...

     as Margaret Krusemark
  • Stocker Fontelieu
    Stocker Fontelieu
    Stocker Fontelieu Fontelieu was an American actor. He was a great force in the local theatre in New Orleans for over 60 years being the executive director of Le Petit Theatre du Vieux Carre from 1961 to 1985.He appeared in several feature and TV films...

     as Ethan Krusemark
  • Brownie McGhee
    Brownie McGhee
    Walter Brown McGhee was a Piedmont blues singer and guitarist, best known for his collaborations with the harmonica player Sonny Terry.-Life and career:...

     as Toots Sweet
  • Michael Higgins
    Michael Higgins (actor)
    Michael Patrick Higgins was an American actor who appeared in film and on stage, and was best known for his role in the original Broadway production of Equus.-Early life:...

     as Dr. Albert Fowler
  • Elizabeth Whitcraft
    Elizabeth Whitcraft
    Elizabeth Whitcraft is an American actress who played small parts in some notable American films in the 1980s and 1990s. She was often credited as Liza Whitcraft or Liz Whitcraft....

     as Connie
  • Eliott Keener as Det. Sterne
  • Charles Gordone
    Charles Gordone
    Charles Edward Gordone was an American playwright, actor, director, and educator. He was the first African American to receive the Pulitzer Prize for Drama, and devoted much of his professional life to the pursuit of multi-racial American theater and racial unity.-Early years:Born Charles Edward...

     as Spider Simpson, bandleader
  • Dann Florek
    Dann Florek
    Ezekial Dann Florek , professional name Dann Florek, is an American actor and director.-Early life:Florek was born in Flat Rock, Michigan. He attended Eastern Michigan University, but never graduated...

     as Herman Winesap
  • Kathleen Wilhoite
    Kathleen Wilhoite
    Kathleen Wilhoite is an American film and television actress, as well as a singer-songwriter. She also voiced the title character in the animated series Pepper Ann...

     as Nurse
  • George Buck as Izzy

Reception


Angel Heart gained attention and controversy even before its release. Bonet was previously known for her role on the family-oriented sitcom The Cosby Show
The Cosby Show
The Cosby Show is an American television situation comedy starring Bill Cosby, which aired for eight seasons on NBC from September 20, 1984 until April 30, 1992...

, and several seconds of her extended, graphic and blood-drenched sex scene with Rourke had to be trimmed in order to secure the film an 'R' rating
MPAA film rating system
The Motion Picture Association of America's film-rating system is used in the U.S. and its territories to rate a film's thematic and content suitability for certain audiences. The MPAA system applies only to motion pictures that are submitted for rating. Other media may be rated by other entities...

 on initial release, though later an uncut X rated version was released.

Some blamed the controversial sex scene for Bonet's departure from The Cosby Show, which resulted in her starring on the Cosby-produced program spin-off, A Different World which premiered in 1987.

Rotten Tomatoes
Rotten Tomatoes
Rotten Tomatoes is a website devoted to reviews, information, and news of films—widely known as a film review aggregator. Its name derives from the cliché of audiences throwing tomatoes and other vegetables at a poor stage performance...

 counted 21 reviews with 76 percent of them being "fresh" or favorable; Average Rating: 7.2/10. Angel Heart broke even at the box office
Box office
A box office is a place where tickets are sold to the public for admission to an event. Patrons may perform the transaction at a countertop, through an unblocked hole through a wall or window, or at a wicket....

 with its budget of $17 million. After being released on home video it became something of a cult film
Cult film
A cult film, also commonly referred to as a cult classic, is a film that has acquired a highly devoted but specific group of fans. Often, cult movies have failed to achieve fame outside the small fanbases; however, there have been exceptions that have managed to gain fame among mainstream audiences...

, appreciated for its unsettling tone, bleak cinematography (by Michael Seresin), its sad and eerie score (by Trevor Jones
Trevor Jones (composer)
Trevor Alfred Charles Jones is a South African orchestral film score composer. Although not especially well known outside the film world, he has composed for numerous films and his music has been critically acclaimed for both its depth and emotion.-Career:At the age of five, Jones already had...

), and its blend of genres.

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".

Winesap's death was filmed but never included in the theatrical film, nor was it included in the deleted scenes on the DVD release. The only evidence of its existence is a fleeting shot during the love scene as well as an on-set photograph from a 1987 issue of Fangoria
Fangoria
Fangoria is an American magazine devoted to horror and exploitation films, which has a number of associated brands:* Fangoria Comics* Fangoria Films* Fangoria RadioFangoria may also refer to:* Fangoria , a Spanish electro pop band...

magazine which shows director Alan Parker crouching over the mannequin of Florek's character. From the photograph, it can be inferred that Winesap was decapitated by an industrial fan in an unknown building by an unknown party; because Winesap was alive in New York during Angel's stay in New Orleans, it is likely that Cyphre had him killed remotely. The shot during the love scene shows an unknown man grasping Winesap by the lapels of his jacket and is followed by a shot of an industrial fan in an unnamed location. It is also likely that some of the footage of veiled people cleaning blood off walls were also from this scene.