Found-Again Friday: Cast A Deadly Spell

Found-Again Friday is a feature for rediscovering things and, in many cases, giving another chance to movies/television/books I disliked the first time around. ‘Tis the season, however, so I’ll cheat a little and write about the 1991 HBO movie Cast A Deadly Spell, which I  hadn’t watched since my VHS tape stopped having a place to play.

Why Found-Again? It’s available on YouTube, the place I constantly forget to check for entire films. In that respect, it’s the media equivalent of the back seat of my car, which is the storing-things equivalent of Narnia.

Premise: Even living in an alternate universe where magic and the Necronomicon are real can’t stop the residents of 1948 Los Angeles from noiring up the place.

One of the problems with this movie is convincing other people to watch it, in part because the chief difference between fans and detractors talking about Cast A Deadly Spell is tone of voice. For example, try reading the following in tones of either joy or disgust:

“Fred Ward plays a detective named Lovecraft.”

“There’s an oatmeal demon!”

“And on a night when the stars are aligning…”

In other words, if you already love this movie, your best bet for convincing others to watch lies in heavy use of the phrase “early role for Julianne Moore.”


And I really do love this movie, which takes a number of things I like—noir, the Elder Gods, David Warner chewing scenery, torch songs, egregious literary riffs, villains played by Clancy Brown—and combines them into an interesting stew. I’ve spent the past year listening to a lot of old-time radio mystery podcasts, and hearing the source material has only given me more respect for Cast A Deadly Spell’s handling of noir tropes. (It also had me persistently hearing Ward’s lines in the voice of Pat Novak-era Jack Webb, but even that isn’t the deterrent you’d imagine.)

The Verdict? As I said, I’m cheating with this one. I’ve always loved this movie, though you do need a high tolerance for silliness. There will be gremlins.

Might go well with: The Haunted Palace; The Maltese Falcon; the Great Detectives of Old Time Radio or Mean Streets OTR podcasts.


Next Time: Down and dirty with a weirdly classic movie?


J. A.

It reads. It writes. It watches. It researches. It overdoes many of those things!

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