H.P. "Philip" Lovecraft
Created by Joseph Dougherty
Raymond Chandler's mean streets were never like this! A pleasant surprise was Cast a Deadly Spell, a pulpy 1991 HBO offering that took the world of the hard-boiled detective sale and populates it with werewolves, witches, demons, vampires, crooked cops and other denizens of the netherworld.
It's 1948, and everyone in Los Angeles uses magic to make life a little easier. Everyone but private dick H.P. "PHILIP" LOVECRAFT, that is. Philip rejects black magic and all it stands for. He prefers to be his own man, even if it means working out of a rundown office in Hollywood while the rest of the world looks down on him as some kind of sap. He just may be the last honest man in town.
A rumpled Fred Ward played Lovecraft to perfection, in a suitably deadpan style that showed a lot of affection for the character. The scenes with his highstrung landlady (Hypolite Kropotkin, Licenced Witch, according to her business card) are particularly fun. But the whole thing has a sense of fun about it, from the cop called Bradbury (where do they get these names?) to the jail scene where the cops are rounding up that night's herd of vagrant werewolves, drunken gargoyles and vampire hookers. The made for TV flick garnered enough positive response that HBO sprung for a sequel.
Witch Hunt, while not quite up to the original, replacing Ward with Dennis Hopper, still had some good bits, invoking the communist hysteria of early fifties Hollywood, as an ambitious congressman (Eric Bogosian of Talk Radio) tries to purge Hollywood of magic ("Have you now or ever performed a card trick?").
By the way, in case you missed it, Lovecraft's name is meant to conjure up images of both Chandler's famous knight errant and 1930's horror writer H.P. Lovecraft. The name-dropping may get a little too cute at times, but this flick is a nicely done little diversion worth digging up.
Respectfully submitted by Kevin Burton Smith.
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