‘Angel Heart’ Revisited

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By: H.B.G.

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Angel Heart Poster artwork by Renato Casaro (detail).

Note: ‘Angel Heart’ is a difficult film to discuss without giving away key points of the story and spoiling the plot. This is a film to be relished, so we will simply laud the film here, give our Occult Purport, and hopefully not divulge too much. It’s darkly delicious.

Amongst our many favorite Satanic or Occult themed Horror Films ‘Angel Heart’ (1987), which was released 31 years ago this month, still stands among the best. It’s excellent cast and production and it’s sinister, occult-noir atmosphere – deftly blended with a haunting soundtrack – separates this masterpiece of Diabolical Cinema from the many ham-handed attempts at the Diabolical Horror subgenre. The production is pure movie magic of the highest calibre in our opinion. With a Faustian premise set in 1955’s New York City, and a story that takes us to steamy New Orleans, Angel Heart unsettles us from the very start and then proceeds to take us on a journey into the heart of one man’s personal Darkness and, finally, the discovery of an impending evil carrying a one way ticket to Hell.

The film was adapted from William Hjortsberg’s novel Falling Angel. Hjortsberg also wrote the screenplay for Legend (1985), in which Tim Curry so adeptly brought Darkness to life…

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Tim Curry as Darkness in Legend, 1985.

Like our beloved Rosemary’s Baby’ (1968), there are no overt supernatural occurrences taking place in the story (at least, not perhaps until the very end – and even that is subtle and may be up for interpretation), placing the narrative firmly in reality and from the point of view of an unsuspecting protagonist. Our protagonist is one Harold Angel (wink), a gumshoe detective hired by a Mr Louis Cyphere (wink, wink) – an unusual client with some unsettled business. Harold Angel is sent on a manhunt for ‘Johnny Favorite,’ a famous crooner who’s gone missing since the War (WWII). As our Harry Angel falls deeper into a Black Magic Mystery peopled by corruptible characters of dubious interests and backgrounds, we find ourselves intrigued by the suspicious strands of destiny and danger which draw ever tighter around our detective.

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When Harry met Louis. Curious to know whose portrait that is above De Niro.

Occult Purport

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One traditional French title for this Key is: Force majeure,

Every significant relationship our detective discovers about the missing singer – be it physician, lover, or friend – is tainted with unwholesome or diabolical elements, linking the baneful Johnny Favorite and everyone involved with him to Evil Forces.

This strongly reminds us of The Devil XV Arcana in the Tarot. Johnny Favorite and each of his accomplices are bound to Evil. The chains that bind the demons to the black half-cube (unbalanced energy) pedestal of The Devil are of their own making. They choose to remain at the feet of The Devil (notice how loose the chains are about the demon’s necks in the Tarot card shown – they could choose to leave The Devil if they were not so  enjoying being held under His power). Every “evil” act perpetrated – whether out of addiction (Dr. Fowler), Fear, Greed, Anger, Lust, Vanity or Pride – inflicts another  karmic link in the chains binding these characters to Johnny Favorite (and towards an inevitable and sticky end). Johnny Favorite binds himself to Evil and does what he does out of his own self interests without giving any thought to how it effects those around him (who are likewise bound by their choices to involve themselves with such an unsavory character), or for when it comes time for his own eventual atonement.

eac79530007a85c007c0b6ee764f9d9fInteresting to note here is that a traditional French title for The Devil Tarot key is Force majeure, meaning “superior force”, also known as cas fortuit (French) or casus fortuitus (Latin) “chance occurrence, unavoidable accident”, which is a common clause in contracts that essentially frees both parties from liability or obligation when an extraordinary event or circumstance beyond the control of the parties, such as a war, strike, riot, crime, or an event described by the legal term act of God (hurricane, flood, earthquake, volcanic eruption, etc.), prevents one or both parties from fulfilling their obligations under the contract.

Force Majeure, The Devil tarot card (coloured engraving) Above: Two Devil cards from two different Etteilla style French Tarot decks explicitly state Force Majeure. Silly Mr Etteilla felt the need to renumber this key 14 (among other changes made by the demented wigmaker).

In practice, most force majeure clauses do not excuse a party’s non-performance entirely, but only suspend it for the duration of the force majeure. Hmmm…

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Charlotte Rampling as Madame Krusemark spreads the Tarot in a promo shot.

Read our article: The Details In the Devil – Tarot

Did you know???

When Louis (Robert De Niro) blows salt from his egg onto the restaurant table, Harry Angel (Mickey Rourke) takes a pinch and throws it over his left shoulder. The superstition is that by doing so you blind the devil (or your evil angel). The Left being the “sinister” side where the demon sits.Angel-Heart-Unsung-Films

And… The law firm Winesap and Mackintosh are two types of apples, traditional agents of the Devil tempting mankind. (Even though the fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil is not identified as an apple in any Bible translation.)

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Mickey Rourke as Harold Angel with Charlotte Rampling as Margaret Krusemark. Angel Heart, 1987.

Angel-Heart-Ascensore-per-linferno-di-Alan-Parker-con-Mickey-Rourke-Robert-De-Niro-Lisa-Bonet-Charlotte-Rampling-Brownie-McGhee-streaming-2-300x161Edward Kelley (the fake name used by Mr Krusemark when he bailed Johnny Favorite out of the “nut-hatch” in upstate New York) is also the name of a famous sixteenth century English alchemist and magician (1555-1597/8).

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Robert De Niro as the deliciously diabolical Mr Cyphere reminds us of a sober and well-dressed satyr who’s just had a manicure.

The poem about Evangeline and her lover, to which everyone refers, is “Evangeline, A Tale of Acadie” (Link: Evangeline) by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.

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Lisa Bonet is bewitching in Angel Heart.

The line “How terrible is wisdom when it brings no profit to the wise” is drawn from Sophocles“Oedipus The King”. The quote is appropriate as the “final horrific revelation” trope in the story of Oedipus somewhat parallels that in Angel Heart.

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Have one in memory of Toots Sweet…

Two Sisters Cocktail Recipe: Ingredients: 

  • 1 1/2 ounces Dolin Blanc Vermouth
  • 1 1/2 ounces Dolin Rouge Vermouth
  • 1/4 ounce Tenneyson Absinthe Royale
  • Garnish: orange twist

Add the vermouths and absinthe into a mixing glass. Fill with ice and stir until cold, 15 to 20 seconds. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with orange twist and serve straight up.

Not to be confused with the Twin Sisters cocktail! Thank you Iris for the correction!

Twin Sisters Cocktail: Ingredients: 1/2 oz Light Rum; 1/2 oz Spiced Rum; 1 dash Coca Cola; 1 dash Rose’s Sweetened Lime Juice.  Shake with ice and strain into shot glass.

 

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Sinister Blessings of the limp left hand.

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The original skeleton Key: The Hand of Glory.

Satanic Cinema Sommelier; Our Favorite Devilish Films

An Interview with Ernest Harada: Celebrating 50 years of ‘Rosemary’s Baby’

SUSPIRIA: Dario, De Quincey and the Dark Goddess; Part 1

Women From Hell: Cinema’s Greatest Ladies from Hades

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By: H.B.G.

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The Devil Is A Woman – Hollywood seems to have known this for some time. Perhaps it is our Western Judeo-Christian heritage with it’s misogynistic imprinting that has left us with a pre-formed suspicion of the Woman-with-the-Serpent.

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Lilith (1892) by John Collier in Southport Atkinson Art Gallery. The Tree of Knowledge ever bears forbidden fruit.

Seductress, Temptress, Witch, Murderess, Madwoman, Child-Snatcher… what causes this particular archetype to rise with such horrific force – like a primitive shadow from the collective unconscious – into our cinematic plays of shadow and light? Women have often been among the most numerous and the most devoted of the Devil’s servants. Though we would’ve enjoyed seeing Marlene Dietrich celebrate a Black Mass in a devilish thriller directed by Hitchcock, that remains a lost fantasy. It has really only been since the 1960’s that we’ve seen some celluloid Femme Fatales with a true sulphuric sense.

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Hollywood has always known: The Devil Is A Woman (1935)

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Marlene would’ve made a marvelous Madame de Montespan

We have constructed a list (in vaguely chronological order and by no means exhaustive) of Cinematic Diabolical Dames deserving of recognition for the characters they brought to wicked life. They can both delight and disturb us, and they often have some of the best lines in films. These women are really in touch with their dark sides. Let’s celebrate Our Ladies In Hades.

Note: We were unsure whether to include the Possessed to our list as, while they may be human, they are not entirely themselves, so to speak. Therefore we decided not to include the notoriously infamous  Regan MacNeil / Pazuzu character from ‘The Exorcist,’ but we did include the less widely known Sister Jeanne from ‘The Devils.’ ‘Carrie’ White’s mother could be added because her extreme Christian religiosity makes her act evil… but let’s just accept that she is a psycho. We’ll try not to get complicated. Enjoy!

As an actress, Barbara Steele deserves special mention because of her bewitching presence amongst Horror Cinema’s tortured and lost souls. Her dark beauty still provides a template for gothic divas today. We certainly include her as the vampire witch princess Katia Vajda/Princess Asa Vajda from the influential ‘Black Sunday’ aka ‘Mask of Satan’ (1960) directed by Mario Bava, which is saturated with Gothic atmosphere and creepy effects which are still, well… effective!

In Curse of the Crimson Altar’ aka ‘The Crimson Cult’ (1968), which also features Christopher Lee and Boris Karloff, Barbara Steele plays Lavinia Morley who leads a witchcraft cult. She also appeared with Vincent Price in ‘The Pit and the Pendulum.’ We could go on listing her devilish films and her appearances in Dark Shadows but we hope you will discover her magic for yourself if you haven’t already had the pleasure.

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Barbara Steele in ‘Black Sunday’

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Barbara Steele in ‘Curse of the Crimson Altar’ (1968)

Sister Jeanne of the Angels in Ken Russell’s THE DEVILS as played by Vanessa Redgrave      An excellent performance in an excellent film. Sister Jeanne is a hunchbacked  Ursuline nun with a beautiful face in 17th century France. We watch in horror as the good nun and her repressed sisters – tormented by both fear and desire – become possessed by some really sinister Devils, namely the Church and State.

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The Evil One is always tempting us… Vanessa Redgrave discovers some dirty habits in Ken Russell’s ‘THE DEVILS’

Mrs. Blaylock from ‘THE OMEN’ (Billie Whitelaw – original [1976] & Mia Farrow – remake [2006])  When Mrs Blaylock arrives to be the nanny for young Damian Thorn we feel certain there is something a little bit off about her, though nothing obvious at first. Is she human? Is she a demon sent from Hell? What is certain is her devotion to her young charge. Those feral eyes that appear through a sheer layer of gossamer nightgown as Katherine Thorn attempts to dress herself in the hospital, like a shark steadily approaching a drowning swimmer… Heaven help us!

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Billie Whitelaw as Mrs Blaylock

Although we don’t care much for flawed remakes or sequels, we must give the Devil Her due. Mia Farrow accepted the stunt casting for The Omen 2006 reboot which, in a deft marketing ploy, opened in America on 6-6-’06. We were present for the event at a packed theater in Orlando when, at the opening of the film just as the opening credits were starting to roll, the celluloid burned in the projector – causing a sizzling psychedelic suppuration to spill across the movie screen. One nervous young woman of color exclaimed that this film was evil and possessed by the Devil’s power and quickly exited the theater with an amused and peeved date following her out. They never returned. It was a clever move to have Mme Farrow play the Antichrist’s guardian as she is so well known for ‘Rosemary’s Baby’. Her sweet portrayal of Mrs Blaylock truly makes the remake darkly-delightfully watchable.

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Mia Farrow in The Omen reboot.

Mrs. Ann Thorn in ‘DAMIEN: OMEN II ‘     Lee Grant is believable as a devoted stepmother to two young men. Her reactions to the drama around her feel genuine so we must admit she shocked the hell out of us the first time we saw this film. Her final treacherous move just before delivering her lines – which are legendary in Satanic Cinema – (“Here’s your daggers!! ….I’ve always belonged to Him!”) left more than one pair of jaws agape. Nobody saw this ending coming until it was too late.

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Lee Grant as Ann Thorn prepares to skewer and barbecue.

Charlotte Rampling as Margaret Krusemark in ‘ANGEL HEART’    Sophisticated,  tasteful  and dignified, Margaret Krusemark is one classy dame, but her unusual profession and her taste in jewelry and home decor let us know that she is, in no uncertain terms, into more than just star-gazing and black magic. Tis pity she has a criminal connection with old heart-throb Johnny Favorite, though a special kind of Valentine will see them reunited.

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“I don’t think you’d like what I see in your future.”

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Mickey Rourke and Charlotte Rampling star in Angel Heart

Hellraiser’ & ‘Hellbound: Hellraiser II’   Clare Higgins as Julia Cotton & Female Cenobite    There is no mistaking Julia Cotton for a sweet hausfrau. This icy woman is frigid with her dull husband but fiery-hot and passionate with his brother Frank! In the first film she is the Wicked Stepmother, in Hellbound she emerges as The Evil Queen. No doubt she is on the highway to Hell. Her desires and cruelty should mark her high (or should we say Low?) on our list, ranking her one of the true Queens of the Damned! A woman who knows what she wants and will stop at nothing to get it!

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“Now everybody’s happy.”

While we are in Hell(raiser) we may as well pause to genuflect and offer an orison to the Female Cenobite. This creature is unique in Horror cinema. Though other female cenobites have followed since the first two films in the series, she causes us to cringe with her taste for flesh and pain. Two separate actresses portrayed the female cenobite in the first two films. In the first Hellraiser the Female Cenobite was played by Grace Kirby who also happens to be Clive Barker’s cousin. In Hellbound, the role is played by Barbie Wilde who has authored some fiction which you who are reading this should check out. The Hellraiser themed short story collection Hellbound Hearts (2009) contains a backstory she wrote for her Female Cenobite character titled Sister Cilice which we highly recommend.

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Barbie Wilde in Hellbound

You may also enjoy reading ‘The Venus Complex’ by Barbie Wilde

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“Perhaps you’re teasing us. Are you teasing us?”

‘The Ninth Gate’    Emmanuelle Seigner as “The Girl”, or as we prefer to call her The Mysterious Familiar Demoness. Part Succubus, part guardian daemon, this mysterious creature is ever unperturbed, has a great sense of timing, and is almost playful with Johnny Depp’s character… as a cat is with a mouse. She is fierce in the film’s ….umm, fiery climax.

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Ms Seigner is married to director Roman Polanski who directed The Ninth Gate and is famed for his contemporary Satanic masterpiece ‘Rosemary’s Baby’.

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‘Rosemary’s Baby’ How can we NOT mention lovable old Minnie Castevet ?- With a whiff of Tannis root perfume this crass character has a sense of style unsurpassed in Satanic Cinema. This nosey neighbor will creep you out even as she attempts to creep into your heart. Ruth Gordon‘s portrayal of a hip geriatric witch from Manhattan’s Upper West Side won her a well-deserved Oscar for Best Supporting Actress, winning perhaps the highest recognition of our sister Satanistas in Cinema – ever! Don’t be fooled by this harmless looking old lady!

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And the 2014 ‘Rosemary’s Baby’ TV remake with Carole Bouquet as Margeaux Castevet . Wiser heads must have prevailed at the studio – knowing the impossibility of even attempting to match Ruth Gordon’s flawless portrayal as Minnie Castevet – they instead took a more continental direction for the character with the sleek and sophisticated Carole Bouquet. We are certainly in praise of the older woman when speaking of the ladies Castevet.Unknown-17

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Unknown-18Mrs Ulman from ‘House of the Devil’  played by Mary Woronov    Creeps us out of all proportion to her time onscreen. Effectively evil in an understated way that is rarely accomplished in cinema these days. Hers is a throwback to those good old Omen days; as if Mrs Blaylock had survived and relocated to America in the 80’s. Mary Woronov has led a fascinating acting career through Warhol’s Factory, Punk, off-Broadway theater and numerous appearances in Cult and Horror and genre films and TV.

In Rob Zombie’s ‘The Lords of Salem’  (2013)     We get several witches worth their cinematic salt! Besides Sherri Moon Zombie as Heidi La Rock / Adelaide Hawthorne, we also get to savor Judy Geeson as Lacy Doyle, Meg Foster as Margaret Morgan, Patricia Quinn as Megan, and Dee Wallace as Sonny. A veritable coven of conniving women who usher an unsuspecting Heidi through a metaphysical mental metamorphosis to create a perfect vessel of demonic vengeance. We don’t view Heidi as demonically possessed, though she may certainly be classified as demonically obsessed.

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Sherri Moon Zombie as Heidi in The Lords of Salem

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You get your witches’ worth in this Rob Zombie flick! The Three Witches: L to R: Patricia Quinn, Judy Geeson and Dee Wallace.

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Meg Foster is perfect as Margaret Morgan

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The Assumption of Maria is Satanized into the Descent of Heidi

This great iconic image reminds us of one of our favorite paintings…

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‘Diana of Ephesus and the slaves’ (1893 – 1898),  by the severely under-appreciated Italian symbolist painter Giulio Aristide Sartorio.  Was Rob Zombie inspired by this painting?

Did you know?

The cult statues of the many-breasted Ephesian Artemis / Diana were often rigged as fountains in Her ancient temples. These fountains would spew forth milk from the nipples at the climax of the celebrations. These temples were vandalized and desecrated by Christian zealots centuries ago but some images remain. The Goddesses have been demonized since that time, but fortunately She is in recovery.

We could go on and on with this list, and perhaps we will add others as time permits. We can certainly include more. If you think of some we have missed that really deserve to be added in here please let us know.