Cast a Deadly Spell (TV Movie 1991) Poster

(1991 TV Movie)

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If Ever A Movie Could Be Called "Unique," This Is It!
ccthemovieman-122 March 2006
I wonder why this isn't a movie that people know? After all, it is definitely unique and fun to watch, and how many films do you know that are a combination 1940s film noir and horror? Man, this is a real "curiosity piece."

It's Los Angeles and 1948 and everyone, except the hero (Fred Ward) is using magic, occult witchcraft-type stuff (which this reviewer hardly endorses). Ludicrous, yes, but fascinating and funny in parts.

Too bad this isn't out on DVD because the colors and atmosphere just ooze 1940s. It's also simply great entertainment. Juliane Moore looks gorgeous and Ward is likable in the lead role. He has the authentic look of a private eye, and I like the idea that he has more morals than all the other characters in the movie combined.

If any story can be called truly "unique," this is one of them.
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Greatest movie that's never seen
Hokum-25 October 1998
This is such a fun movie, everyone I've shown it to has tried to swipe my rather beat up copy... If you're a fan of hardboiled detectives, the works of H.P. Lovecraft, horror mixed with comedy, Fred Ward, or watching movies in slow motion to find all sorts of cool stuff going on in the background, then this film is for you...

Sadly, you CAN NOT PURCHASE this film, unless you find it used. HBO only released it to video rental stores, even though it's lesser sequel is available just about anywhere. To make matters worse, all tapes come with a Macrovision copy block. Bummer...

So, if you can find it, grab it quick, before someone else does!
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arioch-315 April 2004
Wonderfully written and acted movie of an alternate 1948 Los Angeles where ALMOST everyone uses magic. Picture if you will, our founding fathers being sorcerers and alchemists rather than scientists and engineers! Fred Ward, Clancy Brown and the rest have (pardon the pun) made magic with this movie. David Warner shows his range as Mr. Hackshaw and Ms. Moore is just plain sultry.

Of particular interest for the Lovecraft fans, trying to catch all of the covert and overt references to the realm that H.P. created before passing away well before his time.

Definitely worth your time and effort to find this gem. Movies this fun is difficult to find.
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Cthulhu rises again!!
Randolf Carter12 January 2007
This movie was excellent! The combination of old gangster, comedy, and horror was a great idea. The acting was excellent (Fred Ward rocks, as usual), and for an 80s film, it was really good (I'm not a big fan of the mall hair, brat pack, and Modonna crap that was hashed out in the big 80s).

This film, quite the opposite was very entertaining and an absolute MUST HAVE for HPL fans.

The entire movie was Lovecraft inspired and not a murder of his writings, like most of them are.

Most definitely, check it out. You won't regret it. it's a great tongue-in-cheeck, campy horror schlock that is actually well done.

If you like it, there's a sequel called "With Hunt" with Dennis Hopper as the lead. Not as good, but still entertaining.

This film rates 7 tentacles and a star shaped protrusion all the way up, on the elder god-o-meter
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The best...?
Gislef19 August 1998
Damn near close. The idea of a private eye going it alone in world where magic reigns supreme is probably the ultimate extension of film noir and the hero-as-outsider. This movie captures all the charm of the Bogart 40's detective flicks and 80's type supernatural/horror F/X. It also adroitly mixes humor, horror, hard-boiled detecting, and mystery, with great performances from Fred Ward, David Warner, Clancy Brown, Alexandra Powers, Raymond O'Connor, and Julianne Moore.
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Great film!
HumanoidOfFlesh15 January 2002
The other reviewers are right!"Cast a Deadly Spell" is great!I usually don't watch made for television horror movies,because I think they are all crap.This one beats every other TV-horror I have seen.The story is very intriguing,the acting is excellent(Fred Ward steals the show as a detective Howard Phillip Lovecraft,who tries to find Necronomicon!)and there are some cool monsters featured here.Check out this very humorous and vital mix of horror,noir and comedy.Great fun!
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Fantastic mesh of hard-boiled noir, and Lovecraftian mythos.
timeras2 July 2006
I first saw this when it premiered on HBO in '91. With a Who's Who cast of character-actors, this first-rate production by Gale Anne Hurd (of James Cameron/Terminator fame) and directed by Martin Campbell (soon to direct Goldeneye and Mask of Zorro)is a brilliant mesh tribute to the works of HP Lovecraft. With a firm tongue-in-cheek, the viewer is taken along on the latest case of H. Phil Lovecraft, private detective in a 1948 Los Angeles where "everybody does magic". A relatively new happening, magic is real...everyone uses it, except Lovecraft. Fred Ward turns in one of his best performances to date as the hard-boiled detective, wise-cracking his way through every situation. Julianne Moore is spot-on as Phil's ex-girl, the sultry songbird in his former partner(Clancy Brown)'s club. David Warner is perfect as Lovecraft's effete client, Amos Hackshaw. It's a sharply-written noir tale with more than a few Cthulhu references, and adds some more generalized fantasy for spice. Pay attention to the details, this is where the picture really shines- from the everyday applications of magic, to the snappy banter between Lovecraft and pretty-much everyone, it's an enjoyable escape from reality-TV. The creatures are passable, not the best by today's CGI standards, but certainly not the worst seen in some straight-to-video bombs. The writing is stylish and inventive, with some really ingenious scenes/situations. Martin Cambell's direction takes you right along with Lovecraft, with some brilliant cinematography. The casting is terrific as well. I was never bored. One of my top-20 favorite films. I can't wait for a DVD version, if it ever appears. A terribly disappointing, not-so-great sequel called "Witch Hunt" was done in '94 with a completely different cast & director.
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Blend of tension and humour
Junkill27 January 2000
It is rare to find a film that can actually be funny and still mount very real tension (Ghostbusters and Galaxy Quest are two examples that have succeeded). This film does so in very good noir-ish style. Rife with inside jokes that should appeal to any fan of the hard-boiled detectives, horror movies, Lovecraft and film noir. Fred Ward and David Warner are perfectly suited in this film.
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AlabamaWorley197127 May 2000
Totally fun idea: H.P. "Phil" Lovecraft is a gumshoe and seemingly the only guy in post-war L.A. who doesn't use witchcraft. One of HBO's best comedy films. I love the lady who plays Lovecraft's landlady. "The omens are bad. Me, I'm going to Florida!"
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Film Noir meets Stephen King
Brett Walter22 April 2002
Excellent blend of classic noir picture and supernatural tale. Story is interesting. It starts out as a Maltease Falcon kind of film, but it is clearly not the same 1940's Los Angeles that has been seen in many noir films before. Thats because everyone, except the main character) use magic. LA is awash with wizards, unicorns, zombies, and still the private investigator. The makeup and effects are wonderful. Actors are good, especially Ward and Moore.
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LexaSuperStar4 August 2008
What inspired this particular story/genre treatment? I've seen since a few other stabs at the same type of story, but few (if any) can reach your achievement. Did you have much say in the overall production? If not Fred Ward, then who would've been your first choice to play Lovecraft? Connie? Borden? In any case, I just wanted to reiterate how much a fan of "Cast A Deadly Spell" I am. It was one of those pictures that stick out in my mind as a grade-A classic. Great movie . Fred really funny in this role . Unique movie ever. Can some one tall me similar movie ... I don't think so. In so small Someone have the subtitles for this movie ? Really need one . Because in Ukraine I cant buy this movie .
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Wonderful! A film noir styled fantasy/horror/comedy/mystery!
olknight11 May 2005
This is a FABULOUS movie! It is done in the film-noir style or the 40's and stars Fred Ward, David Warner, and Julianna Moore!

Fred Ward plays Det. Harry Philip Lovecraft (the names of the characters in this film are homages to writers of the fantasy/horror genre), who is an honest cop who has quit to become a private detective. In world where magic is both common and easy, Lovecraft refuses to use magic. ANY magic.

David Warner is Amos Hackshaw, and Amos hires Lovecraft to find a book that was stolen from him; a little tome on esoteric magic called The Necronomicon.

It's fun, funny, impressive, well acted and a blast to watch! Two thumbs way, waaaay up; 5 stars! What else can I say?
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great way to blow 90 minutes
cortese-22 March 2000
Terribly cute movie! This was recommended to me by a co-worker, and I've got to say despite not being a movie or fiction fan, this was a really fun way to spend an hour and a half. I just wish it weren't priced for the rental market. I hope I can find it used, because $80 is hard to part with.

Very nice archetypal characters, loved Fred Ward (always liked him since "The Right Stuff"; he seems to have that same weatherbeaten-sexy thing going on that Scott Glenn has), loved the sets and the costuming. If it weren't so engaging and fun, it would be cartoonish; as it is, it's just very enjoyable genre fun. Even the violence could have been a lot worse for a blow-`em-up fantasy movie -- I didn't cringe once while watching it. This is a great illustration of the fact that a movie doesn't have to be vapid cheese or safe pablum to provide you with a happy, fun good time.
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More satire than homage
Gregorso24 May 2012
As much as I like Fred Ward and David Warner and the noir detective genre, this film is just a bit too silly. Filled with references to the writings of H.P. Lovecraft, this film seems to be satirizing Lovecraft's work rather than paying homage to it. The ending is way too predictable.

There are lots of interesting concepts (zombie henchmen, etc.), but they just seem like individual characters/gimmicks made for a Role Playing Game.

Producer Gale Anne Hurd hooked up with Fred Ward after she split from James Cameron (who hooked up with Linda Hamilton after making Terminator 2). They worked together on films like "Tremors"which have credits for 4- Ward Productions, so I wonder if that's a company she created in honor of Fred Ward.
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Cast a Deadly Spell (1991)
jtwcosmos6 June 2011
Warning: Spoilers
"Suppose somewhere along the line I'd changed my drinking habits."

"I'd order you a sour anyway... just to watch you eat the fruit."

"Sweet old Phil, subtle as a flagpole."

This is the story of an unlikely hero. A man who doesn't use magic, even if everybody around him does. A man who knows it all, except how to select a tie.

The movie starts with a brisk introduction into a world where everybody uses magic. It is the year 1948 and the arts are everywhere: black, white and everything in between. Young and old, men and women alike, all use it to get ahead in life; to get an edge. This is a world where there is a solution for everything and magic is the high-tech of the day. Once the story establishes that, it moves slowly and brilliantly towards the end, taking it's sweet time, never in any rush to get anywhere. And it doesn't have to, because this is one of the few TV movies that have it all: a great cast, a fantastic story and script and above all, brilliant direction. It is funny, it is witty, it is charming, it is truly one of a kind.

The story is simple, with only a few characters, but all of them very well done. Fred Ward is great as detective H.P. Lovecraft, Julianne Moore is one incredible woman, Clancy Brown is great, Alexandra Powers is charming and David Warner is one class above everybody. They all have a part to play and all of them play their part brilliantly, under the masterful direction of Martin Campbell.

The camera work is simply brilliant. It alternates effortlessly between close-ups - short, intense and inquisitive - and wide establishing shots, or hard long stares at one character or another, giving them ample time to show their acting skills or emotional range.

The music is soft and ever present.The dialog is sharp and witty, somewhat cliché but beautifully done. There are lots of unexpected remarks and snappy comebacks and there is also one genre that is a dying breed nowadays: the monologue. A form of exposition which if done right proves to be very effective.

If there is one thing that I liked most about this movie, is the little things. The script and the director spare no effort in adding countless small touches that make the world of this movie very convincing, full of life and wonder. Or danger, as the case may be.

Cast a Deadly Spell. Proof that movie making is an art. 10/10.
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Where IS THIS MOVIE Languishing?!!
eastwood6726 May 2007
You hear before you realize the magic is really there.. The rendition of "Danny Boy" by the vagrant/tenor remains the most pure of all I have heard, and it has taken 16 years to rediscover this gem of a movie. If Fred don't mind I'll claim him as a local boy since my sister-in-law worked with him in a small theatre production years ago in S.F. I digress. Can we canvass HBO to release it in DVD? What would it take? It sits in their archives, we all know it., so anybody willing to cobble together a battle plan or offer some sage advice? It is a shame that this work is not able to be enjoyed by any audience since it is withheld from circulation. HHHHHMMMMM< (public domain?)
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A classic B movie
the_tevildo9 September 2005
Just watched this on the recommendation of a friend, and was very pleasantly surprised. It's not High Cinematic Art by any means, but it's entertaining and funny, the acting is very competent indeed, the effects, although not exactly convincing, work well with the overall theme of the piece, and the plot is coherent and credible (unusual both for mainstream comedy and mainstream horror).

I particularly like the way that it combines multiple B-movie themes most convincingly; the hard-drinking private detective (with suitably glamorous femmes fatales), the evil wizard/scientist who wants total world domination, and the well-timed slapstick comedy. The none-too-subtle references to several more serious films (Alien, Gremlins, Witness, to name but three) add a suitably post-modern touch of irony to the humour.

Just one thing. _Don't_ watch this if you're a Lovecraft fan. You'll have an apoplectic seizure. :)
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Strange, beautiful... unforgettable
flatline-113 November 2004
This is an unique film, an example of a poorly known film that strongly deserves more. It's taste on mixing a 40's detective story with the alternate past in which "everyone used magic" (as the initial screen says) is strange, tasty, and makes this film to be in its own classification. I've never seen other film like that.

Let's say that the plot is not an original one... an antihero fighting for the freedom of the world, and he hardly knows what he's doing. The most wonderful is the charm of the epoque, the constantly appearing "magic tricks" (like the pub with an entrance but no building), the songs singed by julianne moore... just unforgettable.
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hard-boiled delight
gulfcoasttusker5 March 2003
Cast a Deadly Spell isn't the most brilliant film ever made, but it passes my test on the most crucial question: i found it to be wonderfully entertaining. the world created for the film - a post-WW II Los Angeles infused with fantastical elements such as magic and demons - i found to be fascinating in and of itself. it is a curious but somehow fitting background for this sort of retro hard-boiled detective saga. Fred Ward, in the leading role, is absolutely terrific as a star-crossed, determined, and honest detective. he knows "the whole story," he tells us, and in the end, he's the only one qualified to tell the tale. my enjoyment of this film centred on Ward's performance, playing the gritty Chandleresque gumshoe to the hilt, complete with scortching one-liners and a sort of cynically altruistic outlook. the plot isn't much to write home about, but the performers make the thing go. Ward will make you feel like dawning a fedora and striking a match on your own jaw. The always-excellent David Warner is a terrific foil for Ward's seedy detective, and Clancy Brown is a somewhat over-the-top but nevertheless menacing presence as the local gangster. my enjoyment of the film is mostly about the atmosphere; enjoying Fred Ward belt out the cliche gumshoe one-liners, watching the thing come together as a predictable but faithfully melodramatic detective story. i would recommend the film to anyone who enjoys wise-cracking detectives and the late 40s/early 50s era of film noir. not remotely a credible picture, "Deadly Spell" is an unfailingly entertaining one.
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enjoyable comedy-horror
Dan-35926 September 1999
Almost a forerunner to Paul Schrader's Witch Hunt, involving some of the characters and settings, Campbell's film - while certainly less polished - ultimately has more charm. There is none of the political edge which Schrader shoe-horned into the later film, with Campbell content to make vague suggestions about codes of honour and conduct. Where Schrader used the milieu to comment on real life Campbell instead delivers pure fantasy, an approach which works better.

The film has a perfunctory plot involving some McGuffin and a save-the-world climax but it is the incidental details which provide the most amusement. The trip to the real-estate development provides some moments of zombie mirth, while Fred Ward's battle with a rubbery-looking gargoyle is great fun. However, there are also some unpleasant scenes: deaths at the railway station and the diner being among them. Overall though, the tone is comic as opposed to horrific, something that is helped by a terrific central performance from Ward and engaging turns from David Warner and Julianne Moore.
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Better than Hasselhoff by far...
Beerdrinking Dog10 May 2000
Okay, the night BEFOR this movie showed on Dutch TV, I watched David Hasselhoff fight some evil old Indian spirit in an episode of Baywatch Nights. I'm sure you'll understand I wasn't much up for watching a detective named Lovecraft (!!!)search for the Necronomicon a day after. Only other thing worth a watch on tv that night was Police Academy I, so I decided to watch Cast... anyway. AND WHAT A GOOD CHOICE!!!!! This movie has everything: your typical filmnoir Dick Tracy (smoking his lungs out, gushing down bourbon and constantly cracking cool oneliners), black magic, a unicorn, vampires, zombie slaves, a little gore, a guy killed by newspaper clippings, beautifull woman, a transvestite and that typical corny PI-film talk ("It all started with a woman...It always starts with a woman...)

This movie is the ultimate crossover between a good PI-flick and (Say) Army of Darkness. Funny and Exciting!!! 8 outta 10!
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Hugely entertaining blend of Film Noir, horror and comedy. It shouldn't work but it does!
Infofreak23 June 2003
On paper this made for TV movie should stink. But it doesn't. A hugely entertaining blend of Film Noir, horror and comedy, 'Cast A Deadly Spell' is great fun. The movie is set in an alternate 1940s America full of witches, zombies, vampires and werewolves where everybody uses magic. Everybody that is except gumshoe H.P. Lovecraft (Fred Ward - 'Tremors', 'Henry And June', 'Miami Blues'). Ward was born to play this role, and his performance helps make this one a sheer delight. The supporting cast is also well above average, and includes cult favourite David Warner ('Straw Dogs', 'Time After Time) as a client who hires Lovecraft to get back a rare book stolen from his collection (yup, you guessed it, the Necronomicon!), Julianne Moore ('Safe', 'Boogie Nights') as a sexy nightclub chanteuse, Clancy Brown ('Buckaroo Banzai', 'The Highlander') as an ex-cop turned gangster, and 'The Thing's Charles Hallahan as a straight-shooting detective. I usually don't care for movies that mix horror and comedy, but this one really does it well, and the affectionate Noir touches make it incredibly enjoyable. Unfortunately the sequel ('Witch Hunt'), which has Dennis Hopper playing Lovecraft instead of Ward, is a huge disappointment, despite being directed by Paul Schrader of all people! 'Cast A Deadly Spell' is a highly recommended good time, especially if you are a fan of 1940s detective fiction/movies and Lovecraft's Cthulhu Mythos. I loved it!
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"Dark comedy" ... unique and entertaining ........
merklekranz16 August 2016
Fred Ward is excellent as the 1948 private eye hired to find a stolen witchcraft book, the "Necronomicon". It had to be a unique film that blends noir, monsters, virgins, zombies, and magic into a "black comedy", and that film is "Cast a Deadly Spell". There are at least a bunch of surprises along the way, as our hero tries to locate the book. The sharp tongued dialog is perfect, droll, and often hilarious, as Fred Ward, the only one who doesn't use magic, tries to survive witches spells, gangsters, and solve the case. This movie proves that you don't need CGI, if you have a creative mind behind the script, and some excellent makeup for the monsters. - MERK
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Los Angeles 1948. Everybody uses magic.
GertrudeStern8 August 2016
I knew this was going to be a very special made-for-TV movie when, inside the first 5 mins., the lead detective, H. Phillip Lovecraft, holds up a voodoo doll and says, "it's the murder weapon".

Watching Cast a Deadly Spell is kind of like watching The Maltese Falcon if it were produced by the people responsible for the Disney Channel original movie Halloweentown.

The magic is awesomely inventive. In a cat and mouse scene, a hardened henchman whose boss just got swindled out of a text has to figure out which bathroom stall the swindler is in. He puts water into his hands and blows on it. The water steams and then turns into a bolt of fire that he throws across a bathroom floor to burn out his mouse. When the swindler offers the henchman money, the henchman spells the cash into a flurry that lacerates his prey until he is unrecognizable.

Lovecraft, our Bogart who strikes a match on anything but his matchbook, is an anomaly -- he doesn't use magic for "personal reasons". Everyone is chasing after the Necronomicon, and Lovecraft is tasked with hunting it down the old fashioned way.

Next time you find yourself in the mood for cheesy noir fantasy, throw this on. It rains blood, virgins have special killing powers, gargoyles track people, prehistoric creatures rise from tomato sauce and zombies work in construction.

CW: there are some insensitivities to queer/trans culture; racial fetishism.
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Oh, man! Hilarious and original, this should be a cult classic!
siderite12 May 2015
Not easy to make a Lovecraft mythos film, basically because in his books there is little more than some guy terrified out of his wits by things that never really happen or are not actually described. That makes To Cast a Deadly Spell even cooler, as it combines Chtulhu with detective noir and manages to juggle successfully horror, comedy and detective stories.

Not that the film is perfect. The characters are all clichés, in case they are fleshed out at all, and the story makes little sense outside its main plot. But I still enjoyed the hell out of it. It is so strange to see this film almost absent from every distribution source. I only found it and watched it on YouTube...

Bottom line: this was very entertaining. If any movie deserves to be turned into a TV series, it is this one.
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