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  Directed by
  Starring
  Specs
  • Widescreen 1.85:1
  • 16:9 Enhanced
  • Dual Layer (RSDL 69:22)
  Languages
  • English: Dolby Digital Stereo
  Subtitles
  • None
  Extras

    Angel Heart

    Universal/Universal . R4 . COLOR . 108 mins . R . PAL

      Feature
    Contract

    When the final credits rolled for Angel Heart I didn’t know whether to feel happy that I hadn’t worked out what was going on and enjoyed the surprise ending or feel pissed off for the same reason. It is sort of like The Crying Game or, to a greater extent, The Sixth Sense; once the obvious is revealed you wonder how in hell you missed the obvious clues. Then again, it’s a mark of how enjoyable the film was as a whole when the characters and story prevent you from analysing every detail.

    Set in 1955, Angel Heart is the story of Harry Angel (Mickey Rourke), a small time private investigator, tracing missing persons, trailing unfaithful husbands and the like. He takes on a job for an enigmatic New York lawyer, the immaculately groomed Louis Cypher (Robert De Niro), seeking the whereabouts of a former nightclub crooner, Johnny Favourite. Favourite owes Cypher and has supposedly been in care at The Sarah Dodds Harvest Memorial Home since the end of the Second World War. Harry’s early attempts to find anything about Favourite fail, but he agrees to stay on the case when Cypher offers more money.

    Angel learns that Favourite has not been in care at The Sarah Dodds Harvest Memorial Home since the war after all, and the Home’s books have been fiddled. After some snooping around, he learns that Favourite was whisked away in the middle of the night many years ago by a mysterious couple who paid the Home’s chief doctor to falsify records. When Angel puts some heat on Dr. Fowler (Michael Higgins), he confesses what he knows before taking his own life.

    The trail leads to Louisiana, a state of voodoo, mambo princesses, black magic, jazz and blues. Harry Angel slowly uncovers a line of deceit and deception, leaving behind a trail of dead people who all meet a gruesome demise shortly after talking to him. The local police suspect Harry has been committing the murders and he feels under a constant and unidentifiable threat. As the mystery unravels, more questions without answers arise, until the last few moments when everything is revealed to Harry in a moment of extreme enlightenment.

    As said, the ending will come as a surprise to many, although it really shouldn’t if you pay close enough attention to the clues. Of course, you don’t even know that most of the clues actually are clues until it’s all over.

    Highlights of the film are the dark, seedy underbelly of Louisiana life involving jazz clubs, voodoo and a mambo princess (Lisa Bonet with breasts out), the performance of Mickey Rourke and the level of mystery that pervades most of the film. The only downside is the final few seconds of the film which almost ruins everything, looking like a cheap, low-budget, B-grade horror addendum. Ghastly. It is a great shame as the rest of Angel Heart offers plenty to think about, using a combination of intrigue, confusion and contradiction.

      Video
    Contract

    Released in 1987, Angel Heart scrubs up OK on DVD, but generally has that ‘80s VHS look, only better and sharper. The aspect ratio is 1.85:1 and it's 16:9 enhanced. The image is slightly soft overall, and quite dark. The film deals with the dark arts, some eerie Louisiana swamps and run-down shacks and back roads, all of which actually add to the atmosphere. Thankfully, shadow detail is mostly good and you are never left wondering who is doing what to whom. Black levels are likewise good.

    Colours are also generally on the dark side, and while there are only a very few examples of aliasing, there are numerous film artefacts in the way of white specks and black dirt and marks. None are particularly shocking, but if you care to look too closely you will see they are numerous. There is a layer change placed at 69:22 which is a little on the clunky side, but acceptable.

      Audio
    Contract

    The audio is a little bit of a disappointment and not because of any fidelity problems as it is quite good, but because this DVD would have benefited greatly from a full 5.1 mix. As it is, the Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo has a great sound range with crisp highs and solid and deep lows, but a 5.1 mix would have added greater ambience and drawn the viewer even more into the intrigue. Use of Dolby Prologic is a recommendation in this case.

    The volume is good, the synchronisation is faultless, all dialogue is clear and audible, and there is some noticeable separation and panning across the front channels. There are no discernable problems.

      Extras
    Contract

    Ixnay on the extras, folks.

      Overall  
    Contract

    It is fair to say I am not a fan of the horror genre per se. Most of them rely too heavily on blood and guts and characters doing totally dumb things like leaving a loaded gun on the table when there is a psycho loose in the house, or creeping around barns on stormy nights when several teenagers have been recently hacked to death in the area. Angel Heart relies more on not preparing you for shocks, and not playing all the cards early. In fact, it is fair to say that for 95% of the film there are no real answers provided, and it is the last few minutes that tie everything into a neat little bundle.


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      And I quote...
    "A well-constructed mystery/horror film with a surprise ending... "
    - Terry Kemp
      Review Equipment
    • DVD Player:
          Akai
    • TV:
          TEAC CT-F803 80cm Super Flat Screen
    • Receiver:
          Pioneer VSX-D409
    • Speakers:
          Wellings
    • Centre Speaker:
          Wellings
    • Surrounds:
          Wellings
    • Subwoofer:
          Sherwood SP 210W
    • Audio Cables:
          Standard RCA
    • Video Cables:
          standard s-video
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