Saturday, May 23, 2020

Movie Reviews: Cast A Deadly Spell

Cast A Deadly Spell
directed by Martin Campbell
Cast A Deadly Spell is an older HBO movie that I decided to rewatch. It is a rare example of a film that mixes two different genres and mostly gets things right. It's also interesting to see some people (Julianne Moore) just before they became superstars. Cast A Deadly Spell takes itself seriously but not too seriously. 

You can always see the tongue firmly planted in cheek. There is some humor but it's not usually slapstick. It's not everyone who can mix a hardboiled noir detective story with a bit of fantasy but Campbell did it here.  

This movie references the works of H.P. Lovecraft but not too much. Other than the name of the hero (slightly different than the author) and a few of the author's creations this story is not that much in Lovecraft's debt.

In 1948 Los Angeles, magic is real. Not only is magic real but almost everyone uses it for the most mundane tasks. All sorts of supernatural creatures exist and interact with humans, some more peacefully than others. Like the technology of our time that would be considered magic to a human living two thousand years ago, everyone in this world takes magic for granted. Someone who refuses to use magic is considered to be a Luddite. 

One man who refuses to use magic at all is private detective and former cop Harry Phillip Lovecraft (Fred Ward). As he explains to skeptics, his reasons for not using magic are personal and thus none of their ever loving business. Be that as it may, a detective who doesn't use magic in a world where everyone else does is at something of a competitive disadvantage. This means that Lovecraft's paying jobs are rare. 

The lack of jobs means that Harry is also routinely late on rent to his landlady, the extroverted Hypolite Kropotkin (Arnetia Walker). Hypolite is not only a landlord but also a licensed witch. 

Fortunately Hypolite likes Harry or otherwise he'd have real problems. All the same Hypolite wants her money.

Harry is hired by an eccentric rich collector Amos Hackshaw (David Warner-who is having fun chewing up the scenery) to find a stolen book, the Necronomicon. Amos will pay Harry a premium to find the book in two days. Amos specifically chose Harry because he heard that Harry doesn't use magic.

Initially unknown to Harry, his old partner on the police force Harry Bordon (Clancy Brown) is also looking for this book. What is known to Harry is that Bordon has gone bad. Bordon is the city's crime boss. Bordon uses magic. The two former partners have a polite and possible fatal dislike for each other, especially since Bordon stole Harry's girl, femme fatale singer Connie Stone (Julianne Moore). Connie thinks that Harry is still carrying a torch for her. And Harry's not sure he isn't. Connie isn't the sort of woman a man easily gets over.

This was a fun film. There is some violence but nothing too graphic. The special effects would today look dated but as I've mentioned before sometimes it's fun to watch what effects looked like when someone had to spent time building them as opposed to programming them. Ward carries the film as the dogged private eye who may be the only man with integrity left in the world. If you like forties style clothes and cars this film will be enjoyable eye candy.
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