Angel Heart (1987)

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Released 27-Jul-2004

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Thriller Main Menu Introduction
Main Menu Audio & Animation
Scene Selection Anim & Audio
Rating Rated R
Year Of Production 1987
Running Time 108:20
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (69:23) Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Alan Parker
Studio
Distributor

Universal Pictures Home Video
Starring Mickey Rourke
Robert De Niro
Lisa Bonet
Charlotte Rampling
Stocker Fontelieu
Brownie McGhee
Michael Higgins
Elizabeth Whitcraft
Eliott Keener
Charles Gordone
Dann Florek
Kathleen Wilhoite
George Buck
Case ?
RPI $19.95 Music Trevor Jones


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.85:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.85:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles None Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement Yes
Action In or After Credits Yes, you must watch until the very, very end!

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

 
Harry Angel is searching for the truth...Pray He doesn't find it"

   Harry Angel is a fairly simple man; a gumshoe just trying to make a living in Brooklyn. Following his discharge from the army after being wounded during W.W.II, he took up a job as a private eye and has since been the man to see in regards to divorce cases, missing persons and the like. So when he gets a call from a Mr. Winesap acting on behalf of Louis Cyphre in terms of a missing person, he thinks it's just another routine case. It isn't.

    Meeting with Winesap and the odd Mr. Cyphre, Harry is asked to locate the whereabouts of a once well known singer, Johnny Favourite, who disappeared near the end of the war. Favourite had entered into a contract with Cyphre and his associates, but disappeared without a trace without repaying Cyphre. As this is a clear case of breach of contract, all Harry has to do is find the elusive Johnny Favourite. Simple to say, but it's been almost 10 years since Johnny disappeared and the longer a person is missing, the harder it is to locate their trail. When $5000 is offered to find the long lost singer, Harry is in the hunt. Making some enquiries around the New York area, he finds bits and pieces about the lost singer, but the more he looks, the more he is lead to the belief that if he is really going to get to the bottom of the case, New Orleans will probably be the place to look, as all the clues lead there.

    Like a fish out of water, so is it with Harry in the tropical heat of Louisiana. The Brooklyn boy doesn't exactly fit into the local scene, but he does begin to make some headway in the hunt for Favourite. Also becoming apparent is Favourite's association with those involved in many of the area's Voodoo cults. The more Harry discovers about the missing singer, the more unsettling it becomes. Things get more complicated when he becomes involved with a local black girl who is involved in the Voodoo cults, and he is also followed by persons unknown. When people whom Harry has spoken to about the missing singer begin to be murdered, Harry comes under instant scrutiny by the local law, and he tells Cyphre that the case might not be worth the hassle. However, he is finding himself ever closer to the truth, and this drives him to finish the case. Little does he know what it will mean to find the missing Johnny Favourite, or the danger that it will put him in.

    This is one of those films that you either know about and have seen, or have never seen but vaguely heard about. I've written the synopsis as if you are the latter. If you are the former, then you don't need any introduction to this classic and influential film. Based on the 1978 novel Fallen Angel by William Hjortsberg, this film was directed by Alan Parker, who's known for films such as Midnight Express, Pink Floyd: The Wall, Mississippi Burning and Evita amongst others. A good choice for director, as Parker has an eye for detail and is able to capture mood, tone and emotion with the camera and his performers. I found this to be very much similar to the style of Neil Jordan, who is also very capable of capturing mood and tone in the same fashion.

    At the time of its release, this film was the subject of a great deal of controversy. Firstly, one of the film's stars, Lisa Bonet, found herself on the outer with her network (NBC) and her full time role as Denise Huxtable, daughter of Bill Cosby's character in the popular 80s sitcom The Cosby Show. Bonet's nudity and racy sex scenes were not in keeping with the studio's image for the family programme and this saw Bonet leave the show as a full time actor. Similarly, the censors had some issues with some of the sex scenes in the film, and the studio was forced to re-edit some scenes to avoid an X rating.

    Though largely faded from today's film screens, actor Mickey Rourke is perfectly cast here as a rough but likeable private d*** who's found himself in way over his head. Rourke had featured in some great films previous to this. 1982 saw him in Diner with Paul Reiser, Kevin Bacon and Daniel Stern and he had subsequent roles in films such as Rumble Fish, The Pope of Greenwich Village and Year of the Dragon. With the 1986 film Nine 1/2 Weeks Rourke began to be cast in roles as a sexy leading man, which would not only become one of his trademarks, but perhaps lead to his downfall. Angel Heart was an opportunity to make a real name for himself. With accomplished director Parker at the helm, a good script and support from quality actors including Robert De Niro, this film should have been a launching pad. Instead, many will look at this film as the pinnacle of Rourke's career. Apart from Barfly later in 1987, many of Rourke's subsequent films failed to spark. In 1990 he made the infamous Wild Orchid (or as one reviewer called it, Wilting Weed), which marked the end of his tenure as a leading man. Mickey has found some work as a supporting actor in some recent films such as Once Upon a Time in Mexico and Man On Fire, but his days as a leading man are well and truly over. Sad, but at least we have him at his best here in a fantastic performance.

    This film is a real treat, and is one of those that I wish I'd never seen so that I could watch it again for the first time. If you are a fan of the film, it's good to see it again after all these years. If you haven't seen the film, well then you are in for a surprise. Don't let anyone tell you too much about this film, just plonk it into the player and watch. A great film.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    We get a watchable video transfer here, but this is a disc that one might want to rent rather than buy if having the film  presented in its best light is important to you (see the R4 vs R1 section of this review).

    This disc presents the film in its original aspect ratio of 1.85:1 with 16x9 enhancement.

    The image presented on this disc is watchable, but there are a few things that hamper its overall quality. In regards to sharpness, the image is reasonable. There is a fair amount of grain, but this is understandable due to the age of the film and the film stock used. Focus is also an issue at times, such as the image seen at 76:33. I'm unable to determine whether it is the fault of the transfer or the original print, but it isn't a terrible problem, just noticeable. Shadow detail is reasonable considering the film stock used and the age of the film. I'd have liked a pristine print, but considering what we have here, the level of shadow detail is as good as could be expected. I didn't have any problems with low level noise.

    Colour's use in the film is very natural, although it is mostly of an earthy tone (browns, tans, and so forth), which seems intended by the filmmaker. Colour's committal to disc is reasonable.

    This film is transferred to disc at a very stable average bitrate of 6.85 Mb/s. This is enough to convey the transfer print well enough to disc to show both its good and bad points. The first thing that I noticed was the huge amount of telecine wobble. This is usually noticeable during the credits at the start, but if it isn't too bad it becomes almost invisible during the actual film. Not here. This film shakes all over the place from the word go and doesn't stop. I checked this on my computer player just to make sure it wasn't display specific (how that could be I don't know, but I had to check). It wasn't and no matter what display I used, the wobble was there. I also thought that it could have been the old shakey-cam technique that began to find itself in film and television in the mid to late 80s, but after careful inspection of the film and the shots I came to the conclusion that this had to be the worst case of plain ol' telecine wobble that I'd seen on a major title (a prime example is at 34:53). It is quite distracting at times. The print used for the transfer isn't squeaky clean either, with some quite noticeable nicks and flecks visible throughout (examples are at 37:33 and 64:32). There is just the slightest edge enhancement, so it seems that my Voodoo incantation at least did something to enhance the picture on this disc. Aliasing isn't a huge problem, although there is the odd occurrence of shimmer from time to time.

    There are no subtitle options on this disc.

    This disc is formatted RSDL with the layer change taking place at 69:23. It is in a space between scenes and is quite unnoticeable.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    The audio here is adequate...just.

    The audio on this disc is presented in English Dolby Digital 2.0 running at a basic 192 Kb/s. This is nothing spectacular but it's enough to convey the meaning and tone of the film to a reasonable extent.

    I found the dialogue quality to be reasonable with the spoken word understandable for the most part. There are some heavy accents to be heard at times, and more than once I reached for the remote to enable the subtitles, only to remember that this disc doesn't have any. This wasn't the norm, but I did have some problems with some characters a couple of times. I thought that the audio sync was reasonable.

    Music for this film comes from popular film scorer Trevor Jones. Originally from South Africa, Trevor has done a number of scores for many different films over the last 20 years, from Excalibur to Labyrinth to Mississippi Burning to more recent films like Dark City, Notting Hill and The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. Wherever Trevor decides to ply his trade, his music is always interesting and complementary. That is the case here, with the fear and spiritual mystery conveyed perfectly in his score.

    This 2 channel audio mix is able to provide a limited atmospheric ambient effect, but you won't hear much else coming from the rears.

    The LFE here is quite limited, and I found this distracting at times as I knew that there was some low frequency effect in the original soundtrack that was intended to bring a level of fear and anxiety to the viewer, but because of the basic 192 Kb/s audio mix we weren't getting the full effect. Disappointing.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

    Yeah...right. Nothin' here, folks. Sorry. Very, very sorry.

Menu

After the distributor's logo and the normal copyright warnings, we are taken to the disc's Main Menu which offers us the following:     These menus (count 'em, 2) are 16x9 enhanced with audio in Dolby Digital 2.0.

    That's all there is folks, there isn't any more.

Censorship

    There is censorship information available for this title. Click here to read it (a new window will open). WARNING: Often these entries contain MAJOR plot spoilers.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    There have been 2 versions of this film released on disc in Region 1. The first version was released on June 23, 1998 with the following features:     This disc featured the film in its original aspect ratio of 1.85:1, 16x9 enhanced. It had 36 chapter stops.

    The second version of this film on disc was released on May 18, 2004 in full Special Edition style. It featured as extras:

    The Region 2 (UK) Momentum disc features:     It looks as though many of the other Region 2 discs are the same or similar to that which is on offer in the UK. Any way you slice it, we in Region 4 get the shaft. We don't even get the same package as that afforded Region 1 almost 6 years ago!  There is no way in the world that I could ever recommend the Region 4 disc. Every version released elsewhere is better than ours. The UK disc is reported to have some cropping issues in regards to its image, and the Momentum disc is reported to have the same annoying telecine wobble problem as we have on the Region 4 disc, so I'd be heading for the Region 1 Special Edition. Region 4 misses out again. Why am I not surprised?

Summary

     This is a great film that marks a high point in the career of Mickey Rourke. Director Alan Parker takes us on a trip to points unknown, and what a trip! I can highly recommend this film to those who like a bit of a thrill, a mystery and a scare. Unfortunately I can't recommend the disc as presented here in Region 4. Look to Region 1 for a quality product, as you won't find it with this offering.

     The video is watchable, but is marred by a huge amount of telecine wobble and other film flaws.

     The audio is basic and limited in frequency, but is adequate...just.

     There are no extras at all.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Sean Bradford (There is no bio.)
Sunday, August 15, 2004
Review Equipment
DVDPanasonic DVD RP-82 with DVD-Audio on board, using S-Video output
DisplayBeko TRW 325 / 32 SFT 10 76cm (32") 16x9. Calibrated with Digital Video Essentials (PAL). This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderYamaha RX-V2300 Dolby Digital and dts. Calibrated with Digital Video Essentials (PAL).
AmplificationYamaha RX-V2300 110w X 6 connected via optical cable and shielded RCA (gold plated) connects for DVD-Audio
SpeakersVAF DC-X Fronts (bi-wired), VAF DC-6 Center, VAF DC-2 Rears, VAF LFE-07 Sub (Dual Amp. 80w x 2)

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