Descending Angel (1990) from Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski) and Tuna

Scoop's notes

Complete spoilers.

It's a Holocaust drama. It's a cuddly romance. It's a thriller. It's three {click} three {click} three films in one!

Eric Roberts and Diane Lane are just a happy young couple in love in Quebec, but pretending to be in New York, when Eric finds out that his father in law (George C. Scott) was a prison guard at a WW2 concentration camp, a Romanian collaborator with the Nazis, and a participant in some famous historical massacres. The first hints of this discovery kind of cool Eric's ardor and turn him into Mr. Junior G-Man Detective, and it really kind of pisses Diane off when Eric comes back from his investigation and starts crying and screaming like a girly man and shrieking, "Your father's a murderer. Nanny-nanny-boo-boo." But the young lovers do take a break every now and then to sneak off for some kissy-face before continuing the debate about dad's war crimes. No doubt about it, Descending Angel is the Citizen Kane of Holocaust Romantic Comedies.

You think that lacks subtlety? Well, Eric has the smooth cunning of Volpone compared to ol' Patton. Just to make the moral dilemma completely lopsided, and allow no shadings at all, the script dictates that George C. not only massacred women and children in the Romanian camps, but continues to order murders to this day when anyone comes close to discovering his secret. Eric even proves that Diane's own mother was locked away in an insane asylum because she found out the secret and was considered a risk of exposure. Since Eric knows the secret, his own life is in danger!

But, darn it, for all his high-pitched whining, Eric just can't convince Diane to believe her father is evil, so he seeks out some top-secret evidence files hidden away in some locked cabinets in a church basement. Hey, that makes sense. I know if I had committed war crimes, I would never destroy the evidence. I would keep everything around, just as a souvenir, so I could relive the good times. What the hell, no need to destroy the evidence as long as it's safely locked away in office-strength file cabinets! The silliest part of the whole thing is that Eric doesn't even know for sure that there is anything incriminating in those cabinets. He just breaks into the Church files on spec! There are many cabinets, and everything is written in Romanian, but since the files are all neatly arranged, Eric does find some important double-secret incriminating stuff in about 30 seconds.

As he flees from the Church, he is pursued by Patton and two of his toughest Romanian henchmen. Eric is on foot and the henchmen are in a vehicle, so of course our man chooses to make his escape in an open field, even though there is a dense growth of trees nearby that would be easily navigated by a running man, but would prevent a vehicle from passing.

Anyway, I suppose you can guess that by the time they get out of the car to gun Eric down, he is running back toward the church, and the bullet zips by him and hits Diane Lane, who has just emerged from the Church to ask her father what is going on. Since George C. did truly love his daughter, and she him, this is apparently enough cinematic justice to give him what he deserves for being the world's most evil man, and the film ends right there, with Diane badly wounded, Patton's hands covered with her blood (get the understated symbolism?), and police and ambulance sirens wailing toward the scene. Did she die? Dunno. Did George C come to trial for his crimes ancient and modern? Dunno. What happened to Eric Roberts? Dunno. That's it, Jack. End of story.

Not only is the plot a shameful exploitation of a historical tragedy to create a cheap genre film, but this film is just a confusing mess in many ways. It was made by HBO films in the days before they became the Masters of the Universe, and it's just plain sloppy. You already know about Eric's instant discovery of "important evidence" in unfamiliar files, and his escape through an open field.

In addition to such breaches of logic, there are big, obvious, confusing continuity errors that Ed Wood could have spotted. At one point, Eric Roberts goes for his morning run. As he leaves the house it is Winter and all the trees are barren. When we see him a little later, he's running through a tree-lined street, and the leaves have mysteriously returned to all the deciduous trees. (See below.) He is a Phys Ed teacher, so I guess he was in good enough shape to run from Quebec to South Carolina.

Eric sets off for the top of the hill ....

 ... where he finds a miracle has occurred!

Other scenes seem totally unnecessary. Patton and a henchman take Eric hunting. They wander through the woods. A pheasant is flushed. Shots are fired by Mr. Henchman. The action cuts away to something else, and we never find out why we were watching the hunting scene in the first place. WTF??

I was just watching this with my jaw slack, wondering how such an important theme with such an important and serious actor as George C Scott could possibly have devolved into an erotic thriller. It is not surprising that his film virtually disappeared from the face of the earth for ten years.



  • No features
  • no widescreen



Diane Lane shows her breasts in an apres-sex scene, as well as in a sex scene in the  opening credits.

Tuna's notes

Descending Angel is an HBO offering with a wonderful cast, and absolutely nothing else. Eric Roberts is newly engaged to Diane Lane, and the two travel to meet daddy, played by George C. Scott. Roberts knows daddy was old school Rumanian, but what he didn't know was that daddy was also a mass murderer in WW II, and not above a little recreational murder of troublesome wives, reporters and future sons-in-law who threaten to expose him. Seems daddy was the architect of the particularly gruesome slaughter of an entire village. He and some of his buddies relocated to the US after the war, and watch each other's backs.

Scoopy was pretty harsh in his review of this film. I also disliked it, but for different reasons.

  • First of all, it bored me, which is enough by itself.

  • Second, it didn't seem to have a point of view or a message. Many angles based on these characters could have been explored. They could have done a Roberts investigates and Scott squirms thing, or played it as a sinister Rumanian gang still as lethal as they were in the early 40s, or an expose of the atrocities in Romania, or as a "love conquers all" story.

Sometimes I have trouble deciding how to crop a photo, until I figure out what it is a photo of. Once I can answer that for myself, it is easy to find the right crop. Had they figured out what this movie was about, perhaps they could have made a good one.

The Critics Vote ...

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The People Vote ...

The meaning of the IMDb score: 7.5 usually indicates a level of excellence equivalent to about three and a half stars from the critics. 6.0 usually indicates lukewarm watchability, comparable to approximately two and a half stars from the critics. The fives are generally not worthwhile unless they are really your kind of material, equivalent to about a two star rating from the critics, or a C- from our system. Films rated below five are generally awful even if you like that kind of film - this score is roughly equivalent to one and a half stars from the critics or a D on our scale. (Possibly even less, depending on just how far below five the rating is.

My own guideline: A means the movie is so good it will appeal to you even if you hate the genre. B means the movie is not good enough to win you over if you hate the genre, but is good enough to do so if you have an open mind about this type of film. C means it will only appeal to genre addicts, and has no crossover appeal. (C+ means it has no crossover appeal, but will be considered excellent by genre fans, while C- indicates that it we found it to be a poor movie although genre addicts find it watchable). D means you'll hate it even if you like the genre. E means that you'll hate it even if you love the genre. F means that the film is not only unappealing across-the-board, but technically inept as well. Any film rated C- or better is recommended for fans of that type of film. Any film rated B- or better is recommended for just about anyone. We don't score films below C- that often, because we like movies and we think that most of them have at least a solid niche audience. Now that you know that, you should have serious reservations about any movie below C-.

Based on this description, this is a D. It's a waste of time and some talented performers.

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