RE:View – Cast A Deadly SpellThe Dark Herald
The true gods of Earth existed long before our ancestors crawled mindless upon the shore: Yog-Sothoth, Shub-Niggurath, Nyarlathotep… insatiate, tenebrous monsters, whose ultimate throne is Chaos.
Greatest of all is he called Cthulhu. Only in ancient, blasphemous manuscripts can that name be found… and those who decipher it are left pale and numb, aware that in the very act of decipherment they have become both pawn and prey of an ultra-worldly power that renders human existence both tenuous and trite.
The Old Ones were, the Old Ones are, and the Old Ones shall remain… long after they have devoured us.
H.P. Lovecraft’s universe is one of the most influential in the genre of speculative fiction. The truly alien creatures whose very existence is mind shattering to those who try to comprehend them. It has been in everything from the pulps to comics.
Alan Moore’s graphic novels Courtyard and Neonomicon being two the recent best-known examples. The later work winning the Graphic Novel category of the Stoker awards for the first time.
Cthulu’s mythos has fared less well on the screen, however.
There was John Carpenter’s In the Mouth of Madness, which almost but doesn’t quite hit the spot.
There is HBO’s Lovecraft Country which made up my mind about not keeping HBOmax.
But I can think of one TV movie, that does hit the spot because it wasn’t really trying. You know what I mean if you’ve ever seen it.
From a time when HBO didn’t suck. Cast A Deadly Spell.
This film is a loving and clever tribute to Tinsel Town film noir, H.P Lovecraft (before he became a Thought Criminal) and The Maltese Falcon. This flick is China Town meets Big Trouble in Little China.
It’s a classic that never got a chance to be a classic.
Phil Lovecraft is a hard-boiled kind of PI, in a 1948 world where magic is real. Sure, magic comes with a price, but so does Social Security. Our great grandkids will figure something out when that bill comes due, so why worry about it now?
Phil Lovecraft was a cop who didn’t look the other way when he should’ve and now, he’s having to get by as private dick to pay his rent and his rent is overdue. And Phil Lovecraft NEVER uses magic.
His old boss Lieutenant Bradbury (I love every part of this movie) meets him at the scene of an arrest. Sadly, it’s his client, which means that Phil ain’t getting paid (see the aforementioned rent) but that turned out to be the least of ole Phil’s worries. Ya’ see something big was coming and that something was bad. It started that very night and it started with a dame. Cause it always starts with a dame…
If you aren’t interested, I pity you.
Phil Lovecraft easily meets Raymond Chandler’s description of the fictional detective from the Simple Art of Murder. Class is now in session.
“In everything that can be called art there is a quality of redemption. It may be pure tragedy, if it is high tragedy, and it may be pity and irony, and it may be the raucous laughter of the strong man. But down these mean streets a man must go who is not himself mean, who is neither tarnished nor afraid. The detective in this kind of story must be such a man. He is the hero, he is everything. He must be a complete man and a common man and yet an unusual man. He must be, to use a rather weathered phrase, a man of honor — by instinct, by inevitability, without thought of it, and certainly without saying it. He must be the best man in his world and a good enough man for any world. I do not care much about his private life; he is neither a eunuch nor a satyr; I think he might seduce a duchess and I am quite sure he would not spoil a virgin; if he is a man of honor in one thing, he is that in all things.
He is a relatively poor man, or he would not be a detective at all. He is a common man or he could not go among common people. He has a sense of character, or he would not know his job. He will take no man’s money dishonestly and no man’s insolence without a due and dispassionate revenge. He is a lonely man and his pride is that you will treat him as a proud man or be very sorry you ever saw him. He talks as the man of his age talks — that is, with a rude wit, a lively sense of the grotesque, a disgust for sham, and a contempt for pettiness.
The story is this man’s adventure in search of a hidden truth, and it would be no adventure if it did not happen to a man fit for adventure. He has a range of awareness that startles you, but it belongs to him by right, because it belongs to the world he lives in. If there were enough like him, the world would be a very safe place to live in, without becoming too dull to be worth living in.”
Phil gets a job just in time to pay the rent. A man named Amos Hackshaw has had an antique book stolen from him by his former chauffeur. He wants Phil to get it back. The reason Lovecraft got the job is that he doesn’t use magic.
As Phil sets out to find “the book” he discovers that just about everyone in L.A. wants the Necronomicon. Everybody from his former partner on the Force who is now living the high life as a petty crime lord, to the love of Phil’s life who left him because he “wouldn’t do what it takes to get ahead.” They all want The Book. And the further he digs, the more apparent it becomes that finding out what The Book is, is almost more important than finding it.
I will be frank with you. The action scenes don’t meet modern standards. And neither do the special effects but there is an old school charm to them as they were mostly live shots.
The cast is absolutely great. Fred Ward, Julianne Moore (when she was at her hottest), Clancy Brown and David Warner.
They all brought their A game.
When I first saw it. I was desperate for more.
Sadly, I got it.
There was a sequel to it that was just fucking awful in every way it could be. It went hard Left and all of the charm (as well as Fred Ward) was banished.
SJWism killed that franchise in its cradle. HBO buried the film; I am certain out of Lefty embarrassment.
However, if you have HBOmax (and who knows? You might),* it is now available there. Or you can always throw the dice on a YouTube upload, no guarantees there. If nothing else it’s pretty cheap to stream on Amazon.
The Dark Herald Recommends with Enthusiasm.
* Since 70% of HBOmax’s subscribers are unaware they are subscribers.