|CAST A DEADLY SPELL (aka: LOVECRAFT) TV MOVIE (director: Martin Campbell; screenwriter: Joseph Dougherty; cinematographer: Alexander Gruszynski; editor: Dan Rae; music: Curt Sobel; cast: Fred Ward (Phil Lovecraft), David Warner (Amos Hackshaw), Julianne Moore (Connie), Clancy Brown (Harry Borden), Charles Hallahan (Det. Morris Bradbury), Alexandra Powers (Olivia Hackshaw), Peter Allas (Det. Otto Grimaldi), Lee Tergesen (Larry Willis / Lilly Sirwar), Raymond O'Connor (Tugwell), Arnetia Walker (Hypolite Kropotkin); Runtime: 92; MPAA Rating: R; producer: Gale Anne Hurd; HBO; 1991)|
|" It drowns in
its own shallowness."
by Dennis Schwartz
for cable blend of Raymond Chandler 1940's gumshoes and
H. P. Lovecraft 1930's ghouls, that cleverly turns
into a daffy pic that tries to bypass its
genre-bending story line with witty film references by
breaking movie conventions. When its innovative
premise finally gets carried out, it can't smoothly be
pulled off as it drowns in its own shallowness and
gets eaten alive by its cheesy special effects and its
harmless satire becomes a bore. Director Martin
Campbell ("Three For All"/"Criminal
Law"/"Golden Eye") is served with a far-reaching
script by Joseph Dougherty, and strains to get
as much comedy out of such a trying
horror/mystery concoction that he can. Ultimately, he
can't pull it off.
set in the fantasy world of 1948 Hollywood, a place
that's viewed as a postwar boom town filled with
magicians who make things happen for those who
practice the black arts. Every gangster and shyster in
town seems to be doing well, but the honest
Harry Phillip Lovecraft (Fred Ward), a Marlowesque
type of private dick who can't be corrupted despite
his lack of dough. Lovecraft's lone client
is the wealthy eccentric demonologist Amos Hackshaw (David
Warner), who aims to retrieve the legendary
"Necronomicon" (one of the keys works of the real H.P.
Lovecraft). We learn the priceless black magic book supposedly can show the
way to release the "Elder Gods" from their cosmic
confines and return them to Earth, and upon their
release Hackshaw believes he will rule the world.
The rival for the book is a low-life gangster named
Tugwell (Raymond O'Connor),
whose favorite nightclub singer is Connie ( (Julianne Moore). The
femme fatale was a former girlfriend of Lovecraft's
and again takes a romantic interest in the shamus
despite being linked to her venal nightclub owner Harry Bordon (Clancy
Brown). The greedy pig was Lovecraft's former police
partner, who went completely rotten and through Tugwell has
joined in the effort to secure the book.
We also learn that the
has been stolen by a chauffeur (Lee Tergesen) who was dismissed for
trying to seduce the man's beautiful 16-year-old
virgin daughter Olivia (Alexandra Powers).
urgency in keeping Olivia pure and in recovering the
book in time to do the Satanic ritual, as another
chance won't come
around again for 666 years.
Another character worth noting is the Haitian witch named Hypolite Kropotkin (Arnetia Walker), Lovecraft's protective landlady, who operates tap-and ballroom-dancing studios on the side.
REVIEWED ON 9/12/2013 GRADE: C+
Dennis Schwartz: "Ozus' World Movie Reviews"
© ALL RIGHTS RESERVED DENNIS SCHWARTZ