Picks and Pans Review: Witch Hunt

updated 12/12/1994 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 12/12/1994 AT 01:00 AM EST

HBO (Sat, Dec. 10, 8 p.m. ET)

A-

This is sort of a second-cousin sequel to HBO's 1991 movie Cast a Deadly Spell, which was a savory parfait of mystic fantasy and hard-boiled detective yarn, a shadow world where shaman meets shamus, where warlock meets Sherlock.

Though we've nudged up the clock a little to the 1950s, we're back in a Hollywood where magic is commonplace. There's still one guy in town who "works clean." That's private eye H. Phillip Lovecraft, who does things the old-fashioned way without spells and incantations. Now he's played by Dennis Hopper (replacing Fred Ward).

Lovecraft is hired by a glamorous starlet (Penelope Ann Miller) to follow her movie-mogul husband just before he meets a most unnatural end. There's also a sizable bi-plot about a demagogic senator (Eric Bogosian) who is conducting an anti-magic crusade in Los Angeles. Bogosian's Unnatural Activities Committee threatens the witch (Sheryl Lee Ralph) who is Lovecraft's office mate with a burning at the stake.

Despite a certain smugness in the script and in Hopper's acting, this is an enchanting movie with great special effects. Alan Rosenberg, Valerie Mahaffey and Julian Sands costar.

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