Angel Heart

Angel Heart movie poster

Angel Heart, director Alan Parker's (The Life of David Gale, Evita) 1987 film version of William Hjortsberg's novel Falling Angel is a dark and sexy horror movie which deals with murder, Satanism, and deals with the Devil in a gritty 1950's Film Noir style. Starring Mickey Rourke, Robert DeNiro, and Lisa Bonet, it is an underappreciated movie that far too few people saw in its initial release.

The Plot Of Angel Heart

Angel Heart starts like many Mickey Spillane-style private eye stories. Harry Angel (Rourke), a New York private detective, is approached by the rather mysterious Mr. Louis Cypher (DeNiro) and offered what seems to be a run-of-the-mill snoop job. He's tasked with locating Johnny Favorite, a singer under contract to Cypher. It seems that Favorite disappeared amidst some mysterious circumstances, and Cypher simply wants to confirm whether the vocalist is alive and welshing on his end of the deal, or actually deceased.

The investigation leads Angel to a rehab center, Coney Island, and finally to Louisiana and the arms of young Epiphany Proudfoot (Bonet), who he learns may be Favorite's mulatto daughter. As he continues to dig into the mystery of the missing singer, Angel discovers that Favorite was into much more than singing. More and more evidence piles up to suggest that the vocalist was deeply involved with the occult. To complicate matters, everyone Angel questions regarding the case turns up murdered, and all the evidence points to him. It all comes to a climax as Angel realizes that no one he's been dealing with is who they seem to be, and he is more involved in the case than he could have ever guessed.

Behind The Scenes Of Angel Heart

Angel Heart publicity still

Angel Heart is a good horror movie with a good cast that received surprisingly little attention when first released. The performance of Robert DeNiro is particularly good, as brief as it was. Although pivotal to the plot and the surprise ending, DeNiro's role is a supporting one, and Alan Parker reportedly had to ask him repeatedly to do it. It's interesting to note that the manner in which DeNiro plays Cypher is a direct imitation of the personality and mannerisms of the actor's friend, director Martin Scorsese.

Angel Heart was also the first film in which actress Lisa Bonet appeared. Wishing to both be considered a serious actress and to shed her "Cosby Kid" image, Bonet appeared nude in the film and had a fairly intense sex scene with Rourke. The unedited version of the film has several shots of this scene which were cut from the theatrical release as they would have forced the MPAA to give the film an X rating.

Director Alan Parker already had an impressive list of credits before making Angel Heart; a list that included Pink Floyd: The Wall, Fame, and Midnight Express and which has since grown to include Mississippi Burning, Angela's Ashes, and Evita. Of all his films, Angel Heart may be one of the least remembered, but it is a moving and controversial film nonetheless and one that every film fan should make a point of seeing.

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