Angel Heart  

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"Alan Parker's hybrid mystery/horror film, Angel Heart (1987), starring Mickey Rourke and Robert De Niro, fared poorly at the box office, only just breaking even. Despite this, the film became a hit once released on VHS, and has become a cult film since, known for its spooky tone, Michael Seresin's cinematography, the sad and spooky score by Trevor Jones, and an unusual but effective blend of genres. Two of the movie's producers, Andrew G. Vajna and Mario Kassar, also produced the cult film Jacob's Ladder which had a similar narrative structure, as well as a 'twist' ending."--Sholem Stein

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Angel Heart is a 1987 American neo-noir psychological horror film, and an adaptation of William Hjortsberg's 1978 novel Falling Angel. Written and directed by Alan Parker, the film stars Mickey Rourke, Robert De Niro and Lisa Bonet. The story follows Harry Angel (Rourke), a New York City private investigator hired to solve the disappearance of a man known as Johnny Favorite. Angel's investigation takes him to New Orleans, where he becomes embroiled in a series of brutal murders.

Following publication of the novel, Hjortsberg began developing a screenplay for a film adaptation, but found that no film studio was willing to produce his script. The project resurfaced in 1985, when producer Elliott Kastner brought the book to Parker's attention. Parker began work on a new script, and in doing so, made several changes from Hjortsberg's novel. The independent film studio Carolco Pictures produced Angel Heart with a budget of $18 million. Principal photography commenced in March 1986 and concluded in June of that year; filming took place on location in New York and New Orleans.

Before its release, Angel Heart faced censorship issues from the Motion Picture Association of America for one scene of sexual content. Parker was forced to remove ten seconds of footage to avoid an "X" rating and secure the "R" rating that the film's distributor Tri-Star Pictures wanted. An unrated version featuring the removed footage was later released on home video. Angel Heart received mixed reviews and underperformed at the North American box office, grossing $17 million during its theatrical run. It has since gained a cult following, with some reviewers calling it one of the best horror films ever made.


In 1955, Harry Angel, a New York City private investigator, is contracted by a man named Louis Cyphre to track down John Liebling, a crooner known as "Johnny Favorite" who suffered severe neurological trauma resulting from injuries he received in World War II. Favorite's incapacity disrupted a contract with Cyphre regarding unspecified collateral, and Cyphre believes that a private upstate hospital where Favorite was receiving radical psychiatric treatment for shell shock has falsified records. Angel goes to the hospital and discovers that the records showing Favorite's transfer were indeed falsified by a physician named Albert Fowler. After Angel breaks into his home, Fowler admits that years ago he was bribed by a man and woman, so that the two could abscond with the disfigured Favorite. Believing that Fowler is still withholding information, Angel locks him in his bedroom. The next morning, he finds the doctor murdered.

Angel tries to break his contract with Cyphre, but agrees to continue the search when Cyphre offers him a large sum of money. He soon discovers that Favorite had a wealthy fiancée named Margaret Krusemark but had also begun a secret love affair with a woman named Evangeline Proudfoot. Angel travels to New Orleans and meets with Margaret, who divulges little information, telling him that Favorite is dead. Angel then discovers that Evangeline is also dead, but is survived by her 17-year-old daughter, Epiphany Proudfoot, who was conceived during her mother's love affair with Favorite. When Epiphany is reluctant to speak, Angel tracks down Toots Sweet, a blues guitarist and former Favorite bandmate. After Angel uses force to try to extract details of Favorite's last-known whereabouts, Toots refers him back to Margaret. The following morning, police detectives inform Angel that Toots has been murdered. Angel returns to Margaret's home, where he finds her murdered, her heart removed with a ceremonial knife. He is later attacked by enforcers of Ethan Krusemark—a powerful Louisiana patriarch and Margaret's father—who tell him to leave town.

Angel returns to his hotel and finds Epiphany on his doorstep. He invites her into his room, where they have aggressive sexual intercourse, during which Angel has visions of blood dripping from the ceiling and splashing around the room. He later confronts Krusemark in a gumbo hut, where the latter reveals that he and Margaret were the ones who helped Favorite escape the hospital. He also explains that Favorite was actually a powerful magician who sold his soul to Satan in exchange for stardom, but then sought to renege on the bargain. In 1943, Favorite kidnapped a young soldier and performed a Satanic ritual on the boy, murdering him and eating his still-beating heart in order to inhabit his body and become immortal. Angel has a panic attack and runs into the bathroom. He returns to find Krusemark drowned in a cauldron of boiling gumbo.

Angel goes to Margaret's home, where he finds a vase containing a clue to the soldier's identity: a set of dog tags which reveals Angel's name stamped on them. Angel cries out as he realizes he and Johnny Favorite are, in fact, the same person. Cyphre then appears, and Angel deduces that "Louis Cyphre" is a homophone for Lucifer. Cyphre reveals his identity and proclaims that he can at long last claim what is his: Favorite's immortal soul. In a fugue state that Cyphre induces, it shows Angel killing Fowler, Toots, the Krusemarks, and Epiphany.

A frantic Angel returns to his hotel room, where the police have found Epiphany raped, brutally murdered and wearing Angel's dog tags on his bed. When Angel reveals that Epiphany was his daughter, a detective tells him that he will "burn" for what he has done to her, to which Angel replies, "I know. In Hell." During the end credits, Angel is seen standing inside an iron Otis elevator which is interminably descending, presumably to Hell. As the screen fades to black, Cyphre can be heard whispering, "Harry" and "Johnny", announcing his dominion over both their shared souls.


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