Cast a Deadly Spell
Written byJoseph Dougherty
Directed byMartin Campbell
StarringFred Ward
Julianne Moore
Clancy Brown
David Warner
Charles Hallahan
Alexandra Powers
Music byCurt Sobel
Country of originUnited States
Original languageEnglish
ProducersGale Anne Hurd
Ginny Nugent (line producer)
CinematographyAlexander Gruszynski
EditorDan Rae
Running time96 minutes
Production companiesHBO Pictures
Pacific Western
Budget$6 million
Original networkHBO
Original release
  • September 7, 1991 (1991-09-07)

Cast a Deadly Spell (1991) is a fantasy detective comedy television film with Fred Ward, Julianne Moore, David Warner and Clancy Brown.[1][2][3][4] It was directed by Martin Campbell, produced by Gale Anne Hurd, and written by Joseph Dougherty. The original music score was composed by Curt Sobel.

Cast a Deadly Spell combines two disparate genres – eldritch tales of H. P. Lovecraft's Cthulhu Mythos, and film noir mysteries.


Ward stars as 1948 hardboiled private detective H. Philip Lovecraft, in a fictional Los Angeles where magic is real, monsters and mythical beasts stalk the back alleys, zombies are used as cheap labor, and everyone — except Lovecraft — uses magic every day. Yet cars, telephones and other modern technology coexist with magic in this world.

Lovecraft is hired by wealthy Amos Hackshaw to find Hackshaw's former chauffeur, Larry Willis, who has stolen a mysterious grimoire called the Necronomicon and must recover the missing book within forty-eight hours. However, what seems like a simple "forty bucks a day and expenses" case turns out to be not so simple. Things take a chilling turn as he finds himself embroiled in a plot involving magical hitmen, pure damsels, old flames and enemies, and ancient evils, all connected by the Necronomicon, and possibly leading to the destruction of the world.

Critical reception

In The New York Times John J. O'Connor said, "... Cast a Deadly Spell, a new HBO Pictures production that can be seen tonight at 8 on the pay-cable service, gives the city a spin that should make even its most jaded observers sit up, chuckle and wince.... Mining familiar formulas, Mr. Dougherty's Cast a Deadly Spell is engagingly different and special."[1]

In the Chicago Tribune Rick Kogan said, "I've had some very strange times in Los Angeles, spotted some very strange people. But none of what I've done or seen in that town can compare with what happens to H. Phillip Lovecraft in a special effects-filled and wildly successful original Home Box Office movie called Cast a Deadly Spell... Casting its own spell, this movie invigorates."[2]


HBO produced a sequel, Witch Hunt with Dennis Hopper playing Lovecraft in place of Ward. Witch Hunt takes place in the 1950s during the Second Red Scare, with magic substituted for communism. Many characters reappear from Cast a Deadly Spell, although some have different backstories.




  1. ^ a b J. O'Connor, John (September 10, 1991). "A Detective and Sci-Fi in Los Angeles Magic". The New York Times. Retrieved April 11, 2021.
  2. ^ a b Kogan, Rick (September 6, 2011). "Magical Mayhem". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved April 11, 2021.
  3. ^ Fisher, Kieran (May 23, 2020). "H.P. Lovecraft Meets Raymond Chandler in 'Cast a Deadly Spell'". Film School Rejects. Retrieved April 11, 2021.
  4. ^ Griffin, Dominic (April 10, 2019). "Criminally Underrated: Cast a Deadly Spell". Spectrum Culture. Retrieved April 11, 2021.