Picks and Pans Review: Cast a Deadly Spell

updated 09/09/1991 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 09/09/1991 AT 01:00 AM EDT

HBO (Sat., Sept. 7, 8 P.M. ET)


Double, double, toil and trouble." In this engrossing fantasy thriller, it's 1948, and Los Angeles is spellbound, awash in black magic. Everybody is a witch or a warlock, unless, of course, they happen to be a zombie or a gremlin. Everyone, that is, but a so-hardboiled-he's-petrified private eye named H. Phillip Lovecraft (a nod to the seminal horror writer). Love-craft—the type of guy who sidles up to the bar to order, "Bourbon. Show it some water, but be discreet"—is played to the nines by Fred (Miami Blues) Ward. He's hired by a wealthy man (David Warner) to recover an ancient book of incantations that could spell the end of the world.

Not since Ghostbusters has an impending apocalypse been so entertaining. Just as that film threw the paranormal together with the comedic, this movie intoxicatingly mixes the supernatural and the pulp detective genre. Prepare yourself for a healthy dose of Spade and sorcery.

The atmosphere and special effects are striking in this film, directed by Martin (Reilly: Ace of Spies) Campbell and produced by Gale Anne (Aliens) Hurd. Clancy Brown, Charles Hallahan, Julianne Moore and Arnetia Walker costar. One odd thing: In this exceptionally well done TV movie, the boom mike is visible in a surprising number of scenes. Must be poltergeists.

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