This haunting and fantastic 25 minute film played before THE EMPIRE
STRIKES BACK during its initial release in England and Australia. Having
only recently resurfaced, BLACK ANGEL is an impressive work, boasting a
full-bodied medieval atmosphere and a teasingly enigmatic aura.
Presumed lost for over 30 years, 1980ís BLACK ANGEL has
been painstakingly restored, and in mid-2014 was finally released to the
public (through iTunes and Netflix) by its creator Roger Christian. The
film was financed by George Lucas (for whom Christian had worked as a
set decorator on STAR WARS), and shot in the Western Highlands of
With BLACK ANGEL Christian got the jump on the
Hollywood sword and sorcery craze of the eighties (the most prominent
example of which, EXCALIBUR, was heavily influenced by Christianís
film). Unfortunately Christianís subsequent directorial efforts (which
include THE SENDER, STARSHIP, NOSTRADAMUS, UNDERWORLD and the notorious BATTLEFIELD EARTH) havenít born out the promise of BLACK ANGEL.
The heroic knight Sir Maddox returns to his castle home
after a lengthy period spent fighting overseas. He finds most of the
castleís inhabitants dead, and the few survivors riddled with the Black
Plague. Continuing on through the countryside, Maddox falls into a river
and nearly drowns. Upon coming to the surface heís confronted with a
young maiden with whom heís immediately enraptured.
The maiden warns Maddox not follow her, but he canít
resist. She ends up leading him into a smoky vortex, at the end of which
is the titular angel, a horrific creature who takes on Maddox in an
all-out battle of swords and wills.
Extremely slow and contemplative in nature, BLACK ANGEL
is essentially an art film. As such it obviously doesnít jibe with the
sensibilities of modern-day Hollywood, much less those of its benefactor
George Lucas (I can only imagine how audiences who viewed it play before
THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK, to which BLACK ANGEL is stylistically opposed
in most every respect, must have reacted). Yet itís a visual stunner,
with a strongly atmospheric recreation of the middle ages and a
teasingly hallucinatory air (George Lucasí pal Steven Spielberg is said
to have called this one of the ďmost enigmaticĒ films heíd ever seen).
Credit must go to cinematographer Roger Pratt, whose
visuals are sumptuous and otherworldly; art director John Beard, whose
scenery is on a par with that of Roger Christianís own design work on
STAR WARS and ALIEN; and composer Trevor Jones, whose superbly evocative
score is integral to the overall effect of a film that may have been a
threadbare low budget affair but plays like a big screen spectacular.
Painted Lady Productions
Director: Roger Christian
Producers: Roger Christian, Leslie Dilley
Screenplay: Roger Christian
Cinematography: Roger Pratt
Editing: Alan Strachan
Cast: Tony Vogel, James Gibb, John Young, Patricia Christian, Colin
Booth, Yvonne Cameron, Ian Macmillan