This week we take a look Cast a Deadly Spell, a brilliantly funny and dark 1991 made-for-TV film that was produced by HBO.
Cast a Deadly Spell
First aired: September 7, 1991
Cast: Fred Ward, Julianne Moore, Clancy Brown, David Warner
Running time: 96 minutes
Mix Lovecraft Mythos with 1940s hard-boiled detective noir and a dash of wry humor and you have Cast a Deadly Spell, a 1991 made-for-TV movie on HBO. Despite being made for TV the film has an incredible pedigree including Director Martin Campbell (GoldenEye, Casino Royale, Edge of Darkness) and Producer Gale Anne Hurd (Terminator, Terminator 2, The Abyss, The Incredible Hulk, The Walking Dead).
While the film is not based on any particular Lovecraft story it is filled with Lovecraftian influences with references made to Necronomicon, the Great Old Ones, Cthulhu and Yog Sothoth throughout the film. The film is set in 1940s Los Angeles where everyone uses magic…everyone except private detective Harry Philip Lovecraft (Ward). It’s a world populated by witches, vampires, ghouls, werewolves and demons of all sort, and where zombies are used as the primary manual labor force. Lovecraft is hired to track down The Necronomicon for a wealthy client and having to keep it out of the hands of numerous others who want the Book of the Dead for their own.
The outstanding cast features gravelley voiced Clancy Brown as a former cop turned gangster/nightclub owner; Julianne Moore as a singer at the club and Lovecrafts ex-girlfriend, and the always outstanding David Warner as the villainous Amos Hackshaw. Fred Ward is one of the great underrated actors of the past 30 years and the role of a grizzled, wise-cracking detective is a perfect fit for him and similar in tone to his roles in Remo Williams and Termors.
The film is filled with brilliant tongue-in-cheek humor, inside Lovecraftian references, and a great mood setting musical score. Yes the creature effects are a little dated in this pre-CGI era but that’s a minor complaint. Cast A Deadly Spell probably arrived 20 years too soon…this would make a great TV series today at a time when genre shows have gained more fans and general acceptance.
Tim Janson is a columnist and reviewer for Mania Entertainment. He writes Level Up, the weekly look at videogames and the horror dedicated column, Tuesday Terrors. Tim has written for Fangoria, Newsarama, City Slab Magazine, Twitch Film, and Cinefantastique. He is a member of the Horror Writers Association (HWA). Be sure to follow him on Facebook and Twitter.