Indepth information about this horror, thriller starring Mickey Rourke, Robert DeNiro and Lisa Bonet.
Angel Heart is a 1987 mystery-thriller 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 the film opts for a New Orleans
ending, and has a more somber tone.
A highly atmospheric film,
Angel Heart combines elements of film noir, hard-boiled detective
stories and horror.
The movie opens in January 1955. Mickey Rourke plays Harry Angel, a seedy
private investigator in New York City. Louis Cyphre (De Niro) hires Angel to
locate Johnny Favorite, a popular big band crooner who was severely injured in
World War II and hospitalized with profound neurological trauma. Cyphre has
discovered that the hospital may have falsified Favorite's records and wants
Angel to find out what happened, as Favorite owed a debt to Cyphre.
But there's more to the case than initially appears, as the doctor who treated
Johnny at the hospital is soon found murdered after Harry questions him. The
detective also has some serious reservations about the enigmatic Mr. Cyphre, who
is vague about the "debt" that Favorite owes to him. At the same time Angel
begins to detect hints of bizarre religious underpinnings to the case. Despite
his misgivings, Harry accepts Cyphre's offer of $5,000 to continue with his
Angel travels to New Orleans as he digs deeper into the case, delving into a
world of voodoo and Satanism and growing increasingly worried for his own
safety. One informant after another that he speaks to turns up dead. Angel fears
becoming a suspect in their murders and he begins experiencing terrifying
dreams. One contact, Epiphany Proudfoot (Lisa Bonet), the beautiful 17-year-old
daughter of a deceased voodoo priestess and, she eventually admits, Favorite's
daughter, becomes his lover. In the film's infamous twist ending, Angel is faced
with the fact that he is Johnny Favorite himself, having attempted to escape the
selling of his soul to the Devil by taking the place and identity of the
original Harry Angel, a soldier returning from the war whom Favorite had
abducted, ritually killed, and cannibalized. Angel's conviction that he is
simply being framed for the bloody murders is shown to be wrong. It does not
help that he eventually realizes that Epiphany is not only his lover, but also
his daughter. Acting under the influence of Cyphre, who is ultimately revealed
to be the Devil himself (his name, Louis Cyphre, is a play on the name Lucifer),
he has committed and suppressed the memory of each of the murders, the last
being that of Epiphany, murdered with a pistol shot in her vagina. 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, apparently on his way to Hell.
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.
Some blamed the controversy for Bonet's departure from The Cosby Show, even
though she starred in another Cosby-produced program, 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.
There are repeated motifs in the film:
- The Girl of My Dreams: Harry is haunted by this tune during the
entire film, and the film score recycles it numerous times during the film. He
later learns from Epiphany, who was singing the lyrics in a bathtub, that it
was Johnny Favourite's best-known tune. Cyphre later plays a phonograph of it
when forcing Harry to remember his life as Favorite. The actual song was
written by Sunny Clapp in 1927, recorded by Glen Gray and the Casa Loma
Orchestra featuring the vocal by Kenny Sargent. The vocal in the film is sped
up from the original 78 rpm to 83 rpm to gain a higher, more warbling effect.
- Weapons: Harry can be seen finding the exact murder weapon, every
time that he visits a character, before their death, which foreshadows the act
that Harry carries out on all of the characters that end up being dead. For
example, while searching the Doctor's home for any pharmaceuticals, Harry
comes across a handgun hidden in a drawer, with a Holy Bible which later turns
out to contain the handgun's rounds.
- Backwards rotating fan: The theme of a backwards rotating fan is
present during every episode in which Harry commits a murder offscreen, which
Harry forgets about, thinking Favorite committed the murder (which turns out
to be true, in a way.) It is a reference to the fan that was present at the
demonic sacrifice of the original Harry Angel. The act of fanning in classic
middle eastern ritual also represents the act of separating the wheat from the
chaff, the good souls from the bad. The first fan seen in the movie has six
blades, and the total number of blades on all the fans that follow are
sixty-six, for a total of "666".
- The mirrors: Every time Harry looks into a mirror, he has
flashbacks to the sacrifice on New Year's Eve, though presented only as
obscure visual cues, accompanied by the sound of a heart beating. Cyphre
taunts, "That's it, Johnny. Take a good look. No matter how cleverly you sneak
up on a mirror, your reflection always looks you straight in the eye."
- Names: The character's have special meanings in the film:
- Harry Angel: derived from herald angel, though its meaning is more clear
when considering the novel on which the film is based, Falling Angel, which is
synonymous with Lucifer and losing faith with God.
- Johnny Favorite: Lucifer was known as God's favorite angel.
- Louis Cyphre: While obviously a pun on "Lucifer", the last name also can be
taken to mean cipher, a mystery.
- Evangeline Proudfoot: In the film, it is told that Evangeline is named after
the Henry Wadsworth Longfellow poem Evangeline, about a woman who searches for
her true love. (The film's characters incorrectly say that the woman
fruitlessly waited for her love to return.)
- Epiphany Proudfoot: Implies epiphany, or revelation of mysteries, as she is
the key to Harry realizing his true nature.
- Winesap and MacIntosh: The names of Louis Cyphre's lawyers are varieties of
apple. Apples symbolize temptation (Adam and Eve).
Edward Kelly (the fake name used by Ethan Krusemark): Was an occultist and
spirit medium circa the late 1500s who worked with John Dee in his magical
- Dogs: Any time that Harry encounters dogs throughout the film, their reaction
to him is of a violent nature. It is popular superstition that dogs possess a
sixth sense, and their reactions indicate that Harry's soul is deeply
- Chickens: Harry has a phobia about chickens, which may be explained by the
fact that they were probably used in the sacrificial ritual performed on him.
A set of dog tags bearing the Army service number "O-168042" can be seen in the
film as the service number of Harry Angel. According to U.S. Army records, no
officer was ever actually issued this number; the only person who ever held this
service number was an enlisted soldier named John W. Cunyus who served during
the First World War.
- 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
- Eliott Keener as Det. Sterne
- Charles Gordone as Spider Simpson, bandleader
- Dann Florek as Herman Winesap
- Kathleen Wilhoite as Nurse
- George Buck as Izzy
This article uses material from the Wikipedia
article "Angel Heart" and is licensed under the
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