Monday, May 16, 2016

The Carolco Files Part II: 1985-1987

1985 saw the beginning of a long, successful relationship between Carolco and Tri-Star Pictures. While the success of First Blood put the company in pretty good shape, the release of the sequel made them even more so. While they only did three movies* between 1982 and 1987, all of them could be considered some of the best put out by them. They also expanded into the home video market, snagging International Video Entertainment and merging it with another company to form Live Home Video.

*I did full reviews for Rambo: First Blood Part II and Extreme Prejudice a while back which can be found here and here. Hence the shorter remarks on them.

One of the iconic films of the 80's, Rambo: First Blood Part II is a boisterously over the top, endlessly silly action movie that takes the fairly down to earth and restrained character from the first film and more or less turn him into Superman so he can re-do the Vietnam War. Terrific when it comes to action, shaky when it comes to just about everything else, this one brought in a ton of cash and even spawned a brief cartoon series.

It was the 80's, Mr. T had a cartoon too. An awesomely insane, gut-bustingly hilarious for all the wrong reasons cartoon.

Equally solid is this underrated character driven action western from Walter Hill. Nick Nolte is fine as the Texas Ranger good guy and Powers Boothe is equally good as his former best friend gone bad the the real fun comes from the B-plot which features a bunch of notable 80's character actors as a special forces team connected with Boothe. It's a fun, bloody, entertaining romp.

And now the main event. While Carolco did action films quite well, as my gushing above probably lets on, they also could deliver a solid horror movie.

Angel Heart is a fantastic noir horror movie about a private detective in 1955 New York named Harry Angel (Mickey Rourke) who is hired to find a missing person by Louis Cyphre (Robert DeNiro in a very creepy role). Starting off as a reasonably straightforward yet sort of creepy detective story, the film takes us to New Orleans where it becomes a full throated psychological horror film complete with voodoo imagery, gruesome murders and a few creepy twists thrown in for flavor.

 Based on a novel by William Hjortsberg (he also wrote the screenplay) and directed by Alan Parker, the film unfolds at a leisurely, nicely creepy pace with a fine cast and some deft storytelling that makes repeat viewings quite rewarding. Rourke is at the top of his game as Angel, giving a sardonic, mellow performance that gradually descends into confusion and terror. He also manages the tricky feat of keeping the man sympathetic even after we learn his true nature (he is the repulsively evil man DeNiro is paying him to look for) while also allowing the viewer to feel a natural sense of revulsion towards him.

DeNiro is equally good as the mysterious client, though honestly with a name like that it would be a bigger twist if he turned out not to be Satan. Still, Bobby steals every scene he's in whether its eating an egg in as menacing a manner as possible or simply talking to Rourke. 1987 was a good year for DeNiro and this film is an easy highlight as he seems to having a hell of a good time with the role. Pun intended in the most sincere way possible.

Lisa Bonet is also good in the third central role in the film as a young voodoo priestess Rourke falls for and has the most notorious scene in the film with, an unnerving sex scene that involves blood and chickens. The fact that she was able to get through that scene is more than enough for me to give her all the credit in the world. Rourke too, for that matter. The final twist involving here is one of the more queasy, messed up things I've seen in a film... And I watch a lot of movies, mind you.

The best thing the film has going for it is atmosphere and with the New York and New Orleans settings, it has more than its fair share. The film is beautifully shot with messy New York streets, moody blues clubs and the overall creepiness of the story helps that atmosphere seep into the movie.

Angel Heart is a fascinating, creepy, disturbing horror film that does a good job of getting under the skin of the viewer. Just a damn fine movie.

Carolco had good success with these three films and it would only get better.

Stay tuned...

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About Me

I've been a huge fan of action, horror and comedy for as long as I can remember.