Studio: Lions Gate
Film Length: 113 minutes
Aspect Ratio: Anamorphic Widescreen (1.85:1)
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1 , Dolby Surround
Subtitles: English, Spanish
Retail Price: $19.95
Harry Angel (Mickey Rourke) is a down on his luck private eye who usually plays it safe by not accepting any case that could get him in trouble or force him to spend too much energy. One day he receives a call from an attorney who has a client wanting to speak with him. Harry travels to a broken down church where he meets a strange man calling himself Louis Cyphre (Robert DeNiro). Mr. Cyphre isn’t willing to share too many details about what he wants done but it deals with an old business contract.
Apparently Mr. Cyphre bought the rights to a musician who eventually made it big and decided to back out of his deal. Many years have passed but Harry is asked to find out if this man is still alive and if he is, Cyphre wants to know where he is. Harry sets out thinking this is your typical missing persons case and at first it appears to be just that. However, the mystery soon goes to Louisiana and a small community, which practices voodoo and apparently had a hand in the disappearance. Soon bodies begin to pile up and Harry is no closer to solving the mystery but he finds himself being drawn into the mix when he meets a young voodoo goddess (Lisa Bonet) who seems to hold the key to the myster.
Angel Heart was one of the most controversial movies of the 1980’s thanks to a graphic sex scene as well as various grisly murders but the film remains one that people either love or hate. I’ve seen this film countless times over the years and my opinion of it changes with each viewing. At some points the film is highly entertaining and its strangeness certainly works throughout but at the same time director Alan Parker really brings the film down. In the end the film remains something very interesting but I can’t help but feel it could have been a lot better with a better director.
The film is the private eye genre mixed with horror elements and these horror elements are the films strong point. When Rourke is in New York trying to gather clues the film really drags because everything going on is something we’ve seen in countless films of this type. We see the hero going from one cliché scene to the next and naturally he soon finds himself a suspect in a murder case. The film really takes off when Rourke heads to Louisiana and the backdrops of voodoo enters the picture. Voodoo has had a strong part in horror history yet something new is offered here, which is something we haven’t seen before.
In most movies about voodoo or any unusual religion we are always given reasons and explanations about what’s going on. If a certain ritual dance is being shown then someone is always there to let us know what the dance means and why they are doing it. In this film however the screenplay is smart enough to keep the voodoo as something unknown and this gives the film a creepier atmosphere. We are discovering the voodoo and seeing it the same way as Rouke, which helps draw the viewer into the film and the mystery that is unraveling.
The key point of the film is Mickey Rourke who is one of the most underrated actors whose career sadly didn’t go where it should have due to his tough guy image. Everyone from Humphrey Bogart to Jack Nicholson has played private eyes and in many ways Rourke’s performance here is a homage to the older days of the genre. When we first see him the guy looks like a bum off the street with his unshaven face, dirty clothes and depressed nature. By the end of the film he still looks the same way but his inner soul is now showing and hanging out for us all to see. His performance here is deep and mysterious, which is the perfect note for the revolutions that will follow at the end. There isn’t a false moment anywhere for Rourke, which just goes to show how well of an actor he is. Robert DeNiro must have had a blast playing his role and adds good support to the film. Former Cosby Show girl Lisa Bonet also fairs well in her film debut.
The biggest problem with Angel Heart is some of the direction by Parker. The first half of the film drags in spots due to us seeing it in countless other movies and a few others scenes at the end should have been trimmed a bit. Parker does a nice job keeping the mystery a secret even though we should have caught on at the very beginning. This is the type of film that may leave you not knowing what’s going on and you’ll probably find yourself thinking about what the ending means but when you start putting the pieces together you’ll notice that while the film is a bit confusing it’s also very well laid out in detail. The ending doesn’t come as a cheat and after replaying the clues you’ll certainly have a smile on your face.
VIDEO---The film is shown widescreen (1.85:1) and is enhanced for 16x9 TVs. I haven’t seen the original DVD in many years and I wasn’t able to find a copy to rent so I could compare the two but from memory this here seems to be the same transfer. The colors are all very nice and the overly bright look of the film transports to DVD very well. Unlike previous VHS releases the dirt is now gone making the film a lot better to look at. Black levels are deep throughout without any noticeable edge enhancement. There are a couple problems however. During the scene at the beach where Rourke is interviewing a husband and wife, there’s some major grain that appears in the scene. There’s also a scratch on the print that lasts for less than a second but it’s still very noticeable. Another strange glitch happens at the end of the opening credits and right before the next scene starts. I’m not sure if this is player related but after “directed by” fades from the screen there’s a brief pause as well as a pop on the soundtrack. I tried this disc on three different players and the problem was featured on all three. This pause is shorter than a layer change.
AUDIO---We get the original Dolby 2.0 Surround track as well as a newly created Dolby Digital 5.1 mix. The 5.1 is the clear winner here because it brings a lot more atmosphere to the film. The wonderful jazz score sounds remarkably fresh and vibrant coming from the Surrounds. Another great feature is the constant rain that is featured during several scenes in the movie. Dialogue is clear throughout without any problems.
EXTRAS---This is where the new special edition is miles ahead of the previous release. Up first is a new introduction by director Alan Parker where he speaks about not seeing the film for many years and what it’s like going back to help on the DVD. Also included are trailers for recent films like Godsend and The Punisher.
New Interviews: Here we get two new interviews created for the DVD. Up first is an 8-minute interview with director Alan Parker, which is fairly interesting as he talks about the look of the film, his screenplay and the original book. Next is a 20-minute interview with Mickey Rourke, which is as strange as the film itself. Rourke starts off by lighting up a cigarette and then the camera pans back to show he’s holding a dog but then we get to the movie talk. This interview has Rourke talking about his entire career from the high points to the lows and up to his recent comeback. As to be expected with Rourke, he’s very honest and doesn’t mind bashing any of the director’s he worked with. The interview is rather nice, although it’s sometimes hard to know what the heck Rourke is talking about.
Commentaries: The first commentary track is with writer/director Alan Parker, which is a pretty good listen if you’re a fan of the film. I think the track will be more for die-hards than the casual fan but Parker keeps talking throughout the track and his memories of filming as well as his relationship with Rourke, DeNiro and Bonet. The second commentary track is with Mickey Rourke but it isn’t a full track. Instead Rourke is interviewed during several scenes and gives his thoughts about the film. It seems this was probably recorded at the same time as the interview including on the DVD. Rourke has some interesting things to say and tries to answer all the questions that the interviewer asks.
Behind the Scenes: This section is broken into seven pieces all of which are from 1987. Up first is a section called Making Of, which has two segments. The first is about the look of the film, which is fairly interesting as it deals with the cinematographer talking about his thoughts on how to film the movie. The next section deals with the filming of the voodoo rituals and again is fairly interesting. “Personality Profiles” takes a look at Lisa Bonet and Alan Parker. We get a few interviews in this promo piece, which is basically trying to sell the director and star. Next up are two interviews from the set of the film. Once again Parker and Bonet are asked the typical questions and give the typical answers. Finally we get a small feaeturette, which was also included on the previous release.
Vodoun Truths: This is a newly produced documentary, which was made for the DVD release. This is broken down into five sections with a running time just under an hour. The documentary tries to break down the truths of voodoo as well as the fictional side, which is often made by the media. We get new interviews with experts, scholars as well as those who actually practice voodoo. The second section, New Orleans Voodoo Connection is the best section and runs 20-minutes. The last section shows a real voodoo section doing two dances, which are rather interesting.
OVERALL---This is a rather unique film that mixes the horror genre with the private eye genre and manages to pull it off. I’m not 100% certain but I believe this is the same transfer as before but the new 5.1 mix is very good and the extras makes this a must have for fans of the film.
Release Date: May 18, 2004