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Salient: Victoria University Students' Paper. Vol. 25, No. 4. 1962.


Despite its somewhat forbidding title and the fact that it is sneaking around the bug-houses on double release with a fifth rate war film, I would recommend Angel Baby as a film which, for all its faults, is always engrossing entertainment. Following the path broken by Elmer Gantry, this small budget film has as its background revivalism in backwoods America, but is different from that picture in that it also has faith healing as a prominent ingredient.

I can think of only one other film which seriously investigates this subject, Georges Roquier's Lourdes Et Ses Miracles, and that has never been released commercially, though a sixteen millimetre print is available. Angel Baby does not pretend to be a defence, a support or an expose, instead it uses faith healing as a background to a fairly conventional love story. I am not one of those local critics who believe that a plot summary is the same as a review, but in this case it will make description of the film a lot easier.

A young and obviously sincere evangelist, Paul, is married to Sarah, a much older woman, with whom he travels around the country side preaching. A dumb girl, Jenny, comes to one of his prayer meetings and through him regains her voice; the couple then accept her into their entourage as an assistant. Inevitably, attraction develops between Paul and Jenny, and so she decides to travel off on her own. Paul realises that his wife had married him for his own neurotic needs and so asks her for a divorce.

The Life and Lovers of Mozart

The Life and Lovers of Mozart

Meanwhile, an unscrupulous manager hoaxes Jenny into believing that she has the gift of healing by the laying on of hands. Disillusionment follows when a vengeful crowd (learning of the deception from Paul's wife, who is present) wrecks one of her meetings; in the confusion, Sarah is killed by a failing beam. Jenny runs away, but is confronted by the mother of a lame child who still insists that she can heal. Jenny prays with the boy and is surprised when he walks a few steps. By this time Paul has tracked her down and, realising he loves her, asks her to return with him.