Cast a Deadly Spell
Lee Tergesen plays Larry Willis/Lilly Sirwar in this horror/mystery/oddball
film noir produced for HBO.
The movie is set in Los Angeles, 1948. Everybody's using magic.
It makes things easier -- like mixing cocktails, handling baggage,
filing papers, killing people...
About the only person not using magic is private detective
Harry Phillip Lovecraft -- part Phillip Marlowe, part H.P. Lovecraft
(appropriately enough in this homage to the works of both Raymond
Chandler and H.P. Lovecraft). Despite his aversion to magic, he has been thrust into the midst of the strongest magic around.
The wealthy and mysterious Amos Hackshaw hires Lovecraft to track
down a stolen book -- the "Necronomicon," a powerful book
of spells that can unlock immense evil and control of the universe.
(Hackshaw is played by David Warner, who was the equally wealthy and
mysterious Thomas Eckhardt in "Twin Peaks." Fred Ward
To find the book, Lovecraft must first find Larry Willis.
Willis was Hackshaw's chauffer, but he was fired because of the
attention he was paying to Hackshaw's virginal daughter. Before he
left, though, Willis stole the "Necronomicon" and a blank
Meanwhile, a small-time operator named Mickey Locksteader tries
to sell the book to a hood named David Bordon.
Enter Lee. In drag. (Albeit much better drag than his
famous "I've Got it Bad and That Ain't Good Scene" in Oz.)
About 15 minutes into the film, Lee-as-Lilly Sarwar is waiting for
Mickey so that they can make their getaway with the money. But when
Bordon discovers the book Mickey sold him was the fake, he has
Mickey killed -- death by a zillion paper cuts.
Lee appears again about an hour later in the movie. Lovecraft has
followed the trail of Mickey's girlfriend, Lilly, to a remote hotel.
By this time, Lovecraft has figured out that Lilly Sarwar is an
anagram for Larry Willis and the two people -- Hackshaw's chauffer
and Mickey's girlfriend -- are the same, uh, guy.
Lovecraft finds the "Necronomicon" in Lilly/Larry's
room, and Lilly/Larry explains the significance of it. He and Mickey
had stolen it to not only get some money to make a fresh start for
themselves, but also to keep evil at bay.
No such luck. Evil comes bursting in through the window in the
shape of a gargoyle. "Hold it right there, Lon Chaney,"
Lovecraft warns the creature. "Move away from the fairy and
keep those meat hooks where I can see them." The gargoyle pays
no heed and goes through Lilly/Larry (literally) to get at the book.
But Lovecraft kicks the gargoyle in the nuts and flees.
Much more drama and special effects ensue, but they don't involve
Lee/Lilly/Larry, so I'll wrap up this summary with an apt
description from a viewer's commentary at Amazon.com:
Take one part film noir Phillip Marlowe-style
detective, one part Lovecraft influence and one part
"Gremlins" campiness and you get "Cast a Deadly
Spell." ... Not remotely a credible picture, "Deadly
Spell" is an unfailingly entertaining one.