NIGHT ANGEL (1990) Blu-ray
Director: Dominique Othenin-Girard
Kino Lorber Studio Classics

Forget Angela when the "harlot of demons and enemy of love" crashes the party in NIGHT ANGEL, on Blu-ray from Kino Lorber.

On the first night of the six-day cycle of the Black Moon, Lilith (THE WRONG GUYS' Isa Jank, billed as "Isa Anderson") is reborn from the bowels of the Earth and goes in search of a fresh prey. She seduces Siren glamour magazine owner Crenshaw (Sam Hennings, SEEDPEOPLE) but murders him, his wife (casting director Tedra Gabriel), and child when he blows off her request of putting her on the cover of the next issue. Forced to proceed with a party for party for the sake of the investors in Siren's international expansion, the entire staff of the magazine have their heads turned by the dramatic entrance of bewitching Lilith with the exception of art director Craig (Linden Ashby, MORTAL KOMBAT) who has quickly become captivated by Kirstie (Debra Feuer, TO LIVE AND DIE IN L.A.), the sister of magazine editor Rita (Karen Black, TRILOGY OF TERROR). Business manager Rod (Gary Hudson, CAMERON'S CLOSET) and mailroom geek Ken (Doug Jones, PAN'S LABYRINTH) come to blows over Lilith and are the next victims of a pair of inexplicable freak accidents while Lilith turns her powers of seduction to newly-appointed magazine owner Rita to get herself on the cover. Despite the ranting warnings of religious taxi driver Sadie (227's Helen Martin), Craig and Kirstie are initially too busy falling in love to notice Rita's erratic behavior and the magazine staff's seeming determination to work themselves to death to please Lilith until she turns her lustful gaze on literally capturing Craig's heart.

The third film from Paragon Arts International after the limited theatrical and home video successes of WITCHBOARD and NIGHT OF THE DEMONS, the producers – including co-writers Joe Augustyn (HARD ROCK ZOMBIES) and Walter Josten (LEPRECHAUN 3) – put more money into NIGHT ANGEL in terms of production value sets and at-the-time hip but now godawful fashions as well as even more effects from Steve Johnson and his X.F.X. crew (with additional work by K.N.B. Efx Group) but lighting did not strike thrice and the film was consigned to the video shelves to be lost among a ton of softcore erotic thrillers with less creative ambitions. While the film does offer plenty of eye-catching latex and mechanical effects work along with the MTV-whiplash editing and slick photography of David Lewis (THE HILLS HAVE EYES PART II), its somewhat muddled story and uneven performances may prove even more distracting from some interesting subtext about female sexuality (with Lilith noting during her seduction of Rita that "these are wonderful times, a woman can have power and not be afraid to use it") with the script and the direction at odds as to whether Kirstie is conscious of her positive influence, and Craig acknowledging Lilith's beauty while being put off by her (during the party sequence, she actually has to fellate a froth bottle of beer to get his attention, and even then it seems more awkward than arousing). Besides future creature actor Jones, the supporting cast also includes comedienne Twink Caplan (BLOODSPELL) as the magazine's receptionist, TROLL's Phil Fondacaro, and black character actor Rosco Lee Browne (LOGAN'S RUN) providing the opening narration that plays over a CAT PEOPLE-esque shot of sand dunes that unearth a statue of Lilith. Although HALLOWEEN 5 was released first, NIGHT ANGEL was the actual American genre debut of French director Dominique Othenin-Girard after a pair of films in the U.K. including the psycho-thriller AFTER DARKNESS.

Shot in 1988 but not released until 1990 on videotape from Fries, NIGHT ANGEL was a fixture on the video shelves and never made it to DVD even when ownership passed to MGM. Kino Lorber's 1080p24 MPEG-4 AVC 1.85:1 widescreen Blu-ray utilizes MGM's HD master which restores some gore snipped by the MPAA, including a more indulgent view of a throat slashing, a knee cut down clear to the bone by shattered glass, an impalement by elevator spring, a face bitten by multiple snakes, and some extended views of claws sinking into a victim's chest. The widescreen image retains the intended darkness and 1980s-era diffusion while revealing more stable saturated colors and the more detailed textures of the era's "crimes of fashion" (including pretty much all of Ashby's wardrobe). The Ultra Stereo soundtrack is presented in DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 and has some nice directional effects highlighting the supernatural aspects of Lilith's character while also drawing attention to the synth score of Cory Lerios (CHILD'S PLAY 3) and the leitmotif that occurs whenever Kirstie's entrance into a scene distracts Craig from temptation. There are no subtitles or captioning options.

The film is accompanied by a pair of audio commentaries. On the first, director Othenin-Girard and moderate Heather Buckley discuss the film in China, with Othenin-Girard recalling his move to Los Angeles with his American wife, having no Hollywood connections apart from landlord Josten who recommended him to Paragon for the project. He confesses to having had no affinity for or experience with horror films, watching plenty during the project's long pre-production period and learning technique during production (he also admits to taking advice from Josten about generic convention with regard to pacing in the editing phase and moving some scenes and shots around). He also reveals that the producers initially did not want to shoot the "birth" scene that was not part of the script until he brought in Paul Verhoeven (THE FOURTH MAN) to look at the film, noting that Verhoeven paid homage to the opening sex-death scene (which was trimmed by the MPAA) with the opening murder of BASIC INSTINCT (which he confuses with FATAL ATTRACTION). A second audio commentary by Paul Corupe of and film historian Jason Pichonsky gets off to a rough start with the two admitting that they are not biblical scholars or experts on mythology while discussing longer than necessary the various legends of Lilith and how the script muddles and conflates several sources – although they do note that Augusten employed clinical psychologist Barbara Black Koltuv (author of "The Book of Lilith") on the film as script consultant and that she had positive reactions to the films but could not specify what if anything she actually contributed to the script and film as represented by the final product – before moving onto information about the production and personnel (including some more in-depth discussion about Othenin-Girard's career than the director himself conveyed in his commentary). While the second track is informative, it does seem as if Corupe is off his game compared to some of the tracks he has done for Canadian genre films (possibly because it is not a Canadian film and the track may have been a last minute addition for a release that was bound to play second fiddle to Kino's other October horror release RAWHEAD REX) and will probably not lend itself to revisits.

Jank appears in a new interview (19:49) in which she recalls working as a model in New York and taking acting classes before heading to Los Angeles. She was ignorant of the myth of Lilith when she auditioned for the film and her understanding of it seems informed by everything the script conflated together. She also discusses her costumes and make-up (including the prosthetic make-up) as well as getting over her debilitating fear of snakes. Augustyn starts off his interview (12:54) by quickly relating his original concept for the film which began in the Middle East but was primarily set in America before the concept was streamlined by Josten and then further changed by Othenin-Girard. In contrast to NIGHT OF THE DEMONS, he recalls the NIGHT ANGEL shooting and editing being very stressful and suffering from chronic fatigue syndrome in the aftermath which lead to a long recovery before returning to Hollywood. Effects artist Johnson (9:40) starts his interview by describing the film as "so bad it's almost good" and almost a lampoon of 1980s horror before providing a brief overview of the effects he worked on (going some way towards distinguishing his work from the KNB stuff). A trio of effects test footage videos starts with the "Night Angel Tests" (37:05) which do not focus on Lilith's creature form but on various KNB wounds with a lot of effort going into the tire jack through the leg effects, while the "Head Erosion Tests" (3:17) and "Chest Grab Tests" (1:26) are self-explanatory. Also included is an animated behind-the-scenes image gallery (1:39), a rather raggedly-edited theatrical trailer (1:58) that features plenty of effects and nudity while not really conveying what the film is about, and a trailer for RAWHEAD REX. The cover is reversible with the more familiar and eye-catching art on the front. (Eric Cotenas)