Julie Dunaway dun runaway with the heart of an angel into our contest!

(deviled eggs, anyone?)

OK…This is the second post for this evening and I may have to call it quits for tonight.  It is bloody cold here! This is # 18 of the 26(?) to be posted before this weekend, so that I can announce the finalists in The First Annual Peggy Dobbs Write-of-Passage contest. I have only settled on one sure finalist, but with eight stories still be opened, read, and posted, there may still be discovery?  Got your own favorites?  Now would be a good time to start influencing the judge?  (Moi at least to pick the finalists.)

Julie is exercising her prerogative and her entry is in the form of a movie review.  Nice change-up! The only requirement is that in your 750 to 1,000 words you use the phrase “I swear, it’s not too late.”

I see she neglected to give her piece a title, so let me snatch one out of the ether:  Hmnnn…OK…Got it!

My review of that terrific 80’s movie that starred Mickey Rourk before he disappeared from the scene only to re-emerge as The Wrestler because he swore it was not too late to make a comeback even after years of mistreating himself and nine and a half weeks with Kim Bassinger


Julie Dunaway

I finally saw the infamous “Angel Heart” movie from the 1980s.

All I remember is a big fuss when it came out, when I was still a kid. Fortunately my parents cared enough to make sure I wasn’t watching films controversial for their explicit sex scenes and gore. I guess some part of me agreed and thought I should wait before seeing it, if at all, since no other significant qualities were being touted about it. When I finally caught it, about 26 years had gone by. And I should say I didn’t use Netflix, or Hulu, or try to catch it in sequential ten-minute segments via YouTube. Channel-surfing late at night in my usual insomniac way, I saw one brief and relatively bland part; “oh yeah, there’s that Mickey Rourke film from the ‘80s…” Yes, curiosity got the better of me. And yes, because it was a seemingly innocuous and peaceful moment in the film, I decided to keep watching.

Didn’t watch all of it that night. But in the grand addictive nature of late-night cable, it was on again a number of times in the following weeks. Being inquisitive about the rest, I eventually saw the film in its entirety, albeit in segments here and there.

I can say the gore was ridiculous…if you’re really, really, really into that kind of thing, you really need to get some help. And none of the characters that I can remember were terribly admirable, which made it less tempting to cheer them on or sympathize with them rather than instinctively backing away and taking a long shower (or yes, just changing the channel). Or with my new shuddering perspective, be grateful for all the problems currently in my own life.

But I can say the art direction and cinematography (filmed on location in New York and New Orleans) were phenomenal. Talk about an intense creep out factor…yikes. Every cold shiver a visual medium could create ran down my spine, from the kind of icky realization that a scaly, many-legged creature is crawling up a bare arm to the horrifying bone-chill of some incomprehensible spiritual degradation. Some kind of matted decay hung over so many and so much in this film, like a feeling of damp Spanish moss hanging all over old oak trees; it feels strange to try to finish an essay on this movie in time for a cheerful Thanksgiving holiday deadline. It is definitely a film to consider and reflect on for another occasion…like Halloween. Beyond an ice-cold shadow of a doubt. Creeeeeeeee-py.

So why am I writing about it?

Because in all the unimaginable horror and downward descent of the protagonist (or sideways slither, considering the final revelation), there’s still something inspirational to pull from that entire mess the character of Harry Angel finds himself in.

Before seeing the film to its conclusion, I decided to read part of the plot online – which is cheating. Thank goodness there’s no amber-eyed “film devil” waiting in the cinematic darkness to whisk away those of us who do this…because I remained curious, even while not being sure I wanted to see any more. But I’m glad I did, for the inspirational and optimistic point I mentioned above, however buried alive it might have been.

Having read part of the plot, and (spoiler alert!) knowing it’s the devil who’s slowly, delectably wrapping his long fingernail-claws about the terrified Angel, I couldn’t help but feel like shouting the spiritual equivalents of “Don’t open the door!” “Don’t go into the basement!” “Look out, it’s behind you!” and other wonderfully helpful warnings as a viewer. In this case, I started to wonder if there wasn’t some way out of his terrifying fate, however well-deserved it might have been for who he used to be.

Because, considering certain spiritual doctrine, it wasn’t too late for him. There was a way he could have changed his fate. Just as I was realizing how, the character of Angel reveals (unbeknownst to him, to Lucifer directly) that he is an atheist. Which abruptly snapped the bones of my now much invested, bird wing-fragile hope of – recall I’d only read part of the plot! – somehow seeing an uplifting conclusion survive.

Had I the chance – being aware that we’re discussing a fictional story here – I would have told him, it’s not too late. I swear, it’s not too late. The devil doesn’t have any hold on you it can keep. The darkness of your past is not your master, nor mine. All the demons in the world, if they exist, would flee from a single extraordinary Light (though for Harry Angel and Johnny Favorite’s actions both, some serious prison time for him/them would still be in order – spiritual truth doesn’t hide a person from that).

The above thought might sound like chastisement. But it isn’t. It’s empowerment.

For this character, it could have been enlightenment, as in, a forever light. Lux aeterna, for any who change their mind, and ask.

Fortunately, thank goodness, not too many of us find ourselves in such severe crises, even metaphorically. But it’s comforting to believe – to know – it will never be too late to turn around spiritually. And on a much lighter note, I’m glad I changed my mind, and saw the rest of the movie. If all that time leading up to it gave me the perspective I have now, I guess it wasn’t too late for me either!

9 thoughts on “Julie Dunaway dun runaway with the heart of an angel into our contest!

  1. Parisianne Modert says:

    Welcome to the contest Julie and I wish you well. I really have nothing specific in mind to share about this story.

    • Julie says:

      Thank you, Parisianne! Same to you. Yes I figured this entry would be a bit of an odd bird, but I liked writing it. 🙂 Hope to read your story and others shortly!

      • Parisianne Modert says:

        My comments are my fault not yours, because I am unfamiliar with the movie which is the basis, subtext and emotional basis for your story. Overall, your story has a life’s tie to this movie much as mine does with the two “Parent Trap” movies, “Moonstruck” or “Just One of the Guys”. For many gentleman, the “Godfather” movies seem to be twined about their spines. In some plays, books, a painting, a poem or such are so associated with that they actually become part of us with thought provoking art which transforms us forever. In this way, they become our modern version of proverbs with life’s lessons given in a way which changes us forever.

  2. Salvatore Buttaci says:

    Thanks for showing us that spiritually it’s never too late while we’re here on this Earth. A very well written piece here!

  3. Mike Casper says:

    Drat. I was saving watching that ‘The Wrestler’ with Mickey Rourke movie for a rainy day…Just kidding, that was a nicely written movie critique.

  4. Kristy Webster says:

    I watched this say film during a very, very dark moment in my life, then again, during a happy time in my life. Needless to say then, I was hooked on your piece the moment you mentioned this movie that’s held some importance in my life.
    I really love how you turn this around, it’s more than just a movie review, much more. I think your commentary on Angel is rather brilliant actually, and this is a marvelously profound piece. Thanks for sharing.

  5. Diane Cresswell says:

    Julie what an incredible synopsis of a film I probably won’t watch now. Be that as it may…what i find most empowering is your POV of spirituality through the deeds of one Harry Angel. You have definitely a profound insight into this level. This writing is fabulous.

  6. elizabeth sloan says:

    You do a mighty fine job of drawing me in…in to something I’m not sure I want to be drawn into, but especially your cinematic descriptions and scene setting of New Orleans dripping with Spanish Moss makes me want to see this, in spite of the creep factor! (Okay, or maybe because of.) I hadn’t thought about Mickey Rourke for many years. Thanks for bringing him back on the radar with your witty review.

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