Elderly Jew Morris Mishkin (Zero Mostel) is understandably skeptical when a black guardian angel, Alexander Levine (Harry Belafonte), appears to him after a long run of bad luck. Adapted from the Bernard Malamud story by Bill Gunn (The Landlord) at an unusual moment for studios, this first American film by Czech director Ján Kadár explores racial tensions and faith in an imperfect world, viewed from either side of the afterlife. In addition to Mostel and Belafonte, the touching cast includes Yiddish theater legend Ida Kaminska as Mishkin’s ailing wife.
“Bill Gunn’s adaptation hones the edge of Bernard Malamud’s melancholy parable about race relations in ’60s New York, and newly emigrated Czech director Jan Kadar contributes a sense of dilapidated magic realism. The cast is sensational, with Zero Mostel and Ida Kaminska playing an impoverished Jewish couple, and Harry Belafonte as their heavenly visitor.”