ANGEL ON MY SHOULDER (1980)
Directed by John Berry
Featuring Peter Strauss, Richard Kiley, Barbara Hershey
What it is: TV-Movie remake of forties classic
The devil recruits the soul of a gangster being punished in hell to possess the body of an look-alike incorruptible D.A. and ruin his reputation. However, things do not go as planned...
Two minutes into this movie I was ready to consign it to the dustbin. Why? Because the character of the gangster in the opening scene seemed to be such a compendium of old-movie gangster cliches (ESPECIALLY the lingo) that I found it impossible to take him or the movie seriously. The fact that the movie then manages to flub my favorite line from the original version certainly didn't help matters either. It's not until the gangster is in possession of the D.A. and begins to develop a conscience that the movie starts to right itself and begins to win me over. It never succeeds completely; though I don't object to them updating the movie to the present, I'd rather they did so with the beginning of the movie as well rather than setting it in the past and then piling on a series of ineffective jokes about a man from the past trying to adjust to the technologies and mores of the present. Peter Strauss's performance is fine once the movie starts to work, and though Richard Kiley is certainly no Claude Rains, he does well enough as Mephistopheles. No, this remake doesn't hold a candle to the original, but it's not totally worthless, either. I do, however, find myself wondering if one of the main characters ends up in heaven or Metaluna, though; you have to see the movie to know why I wonder this.