Alan Parker (director)
14 October 2019 (released)
13 October 2019
Alan Parker’s occult-noir thriller has been given a glorious facelift thanks to this new 4K restoration. Filmed in 1987 – at a time when main star Mickey Rourke still had a recognisable face – the story focuses on the investigations of a private detective whose search for a missing jazz crooner leads him on a journey of self-discovery… and what he discovers is rather disturbing, to put it mildly.
It’s New York in the mid-fifties. Private Eye Harry Angel (M. Rourke) has a new job on offer: the mysterious Louis Cyphre (the clue is in the name) wants Angel to track down a certain John Liebling, better known as Johnny Favorite among jazz musicians. Apparently Favorite signed a contract with Cyphre (Robert De Niro), which he then failed to honour due to neurological trauma and facial injuries he sustained during WW2. Now it’s Angel’s mission to find Favorite come what may, and the first port of call is a visit to a psychiatric clinic specialising in the treatment of shell shocked patients – posttraumatic stress disorder in modern terms. Arriving at the clinic Angel soon discovers that Favorite has apparently been transferred and records falsified by his physician Dr. Albert Fowler (Michael Higgins). But who transferred the patient and why? When Angel breaks into his private home, Fowler doesn’t exactly reveal a lot, only that a man and a women bribed him into faking some notes before they took Favorite away. Still suspicious that the morphine-dependent doctor doesn’t spill out the entire truth, Angel locks him in his bedroom in the hope that cold turkey withdrawal symptoms will loosen his tongue. Unfortunately Angel’s plan doesn’t work out as hoped and the following morning he finds Dr. Fowler dead in his bed… though Angel is quick enough to realize that the apparent suicide doesn’t quite gel.
Now that it dawns on Harry Angel that this is anything but a straightforward case (and a highly dangerous one at that) he wants out! But the mighty Mr. Cyphre isn’t prepared to let Angel off the hook – instead he offers him an obscene amount of money, something the seemingly broke detective can’t refuse. Further investigations, at that point still taking place in NY, reveal that Favorite was involved in a secret affair with one Evangeline Proudfoot while at the same time having been engaged to a woman named Margaret Krusemark (Charlotte Rampling) – a psychic medium now living in New Orleans. The rather cold Margaret isn’t exactly willing to talk either, however, Angel finds out that Evangeline has died years ago though her seventeen-year old daughter Epiphany (Lisa Bonet) lives in a ramshackle farm on the outskirts of town with her young son. Not much luck with her either, though at least Epiphany doesn’t seem to mind Angel asking her question after question and already we know where this might lead to, yep! Next up is New Orleans blues guitarist Toots Sweet (blues legend Brownie McGhee) with whom the missing jazz crooner had a particularly strong bond. Toots, however, points the finger of investigation back to Margaret Krusemark. Returning to the medium’s apartment Angel finds Krusemark has been murdered with her heart cut out, a short time later two local police detectives, suspicious of Angel, inform him that Toots had been found murdered too.
Things then get a little convoluted and with an increasing body count. We also witness Lisa Bonet performing her famous semi-naked dance during a voodoo ritual – a scene that particularly shocked fans of the ‘wholesome’ and family-friendly Cosby Show in which she played daughter Denise Huxtable-Kendall over several seasons. Mind you, the voodoo dance sequence is mild stuff compared to the sex scene between her and Rourke. As gory visions, supernatural omens and the gradual revelation that things are not what they seem take its toll on Harry Angel, a gleeful Louis Cyphre stands waiting in the wings…
With its moody and deliberately feverish jazz soundtrack - courtesy of Trevor Jones, and Michael Seresin’s brooding cinematography to match, ANGEL HEART is among the best when it comes to occult thrillers. It is easily also one of the best performances by Mickey Rourke, who practically appears in every scene.
This brand-new release is available in various formats (4K UHD, Blu-ray, DVD and Digital) with some very interesting Special Features, including New Orleans History of Voodoo (don’t try this at home).