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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|
|Editing by||Gerry Hambling|
|Studio||Carolco International N.V.|
|Distributed by||TriStar Pictures|
|Release date(s)||March 6, 1987|
|Running time||113 minutes|
Angel Heart is a 1987 American mystery horror film written and directed by Alan Parker, and starring Mickey Rourke, Robert De Niro, and Lisa Bonet. The film is adapted from the novel Falling Angel by William Hjortsberg, and is generally faithful to the novel with the exceptions being the introduction of a child of Epiphany Proudfoot conceived at a voodoo ceremony by "a devil", and that the novel never leaves New York City, whereas much of the action of the film occurs in New Orleans.
The movie opens in New York City, in January 1955. Harry Angel (Mickey Rourke), a downtrodden but competent private investigator is contacted by an attorney named Herman Winesap (Dann Florek) and instructed to meet a client named Louis Cyphre (Robert DeNiro) in a Harlem church. Cyphre, an elegant but mysterious man with long, manicured fingernails, tells Angel about a once-popular big band crooner named Johnny Favorite who was drafted during World War II 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) 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 fortune teller. He learns that her name is Margaret Krusemark (Charlotte Rampling), now a prominent figure in voodoo, 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), who was conceived during her relationship with Favorite. Epiphany is equally reluctant to speak, and so Angel locates Toots Sweet (Brownie McGhee), 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 from his injuries ruined the plan's fruition. The Krusemarks released him into Times Square 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 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 "ANGEL, HAROLD" 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 cage, on his to way his execution, and ultimately, to Hell. As the screen fades to black, Cyphre can be heard saying, "Harry" and "Johnny," showing his dominion over their souls.
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, 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 on initial release, though later an uncut X rated version was released.
Some[who?] 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 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 with its budget of $17 million. After being released on home video it became something of a cult film, appreciated for its unsettling tone, bleak cinematography (by Michael Seresin), its sad and eerie score (by Trevor Jones), 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 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.
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