Monday, July 24, 2006

Handwritten Theatre: Summer Bonus Track #2

Summer simmers on, but we're nice and cool and climate controlled down here in the archives. Let the actors enjoy their vacations! They're just going to miss my favorite all time scene...of scenes I've written. It's from a movie I wrote called Cast a Deadly Spell, a film noir detective picture based on the premise that H.P. Lovecraft and Raymond Chandler once collaborated on a story set in an alternative 1948 where magic and witchcraft are commonplace.

This script was written in an un-air conditioned apartment in Jackson Heights, Queens while I was working as an office temp and couldn't get arrested as a writer. I wrote it for personal encouragement as much as I did in the hope of getting it made. I needed a hero, an example, a ragged knight who'd speak truth to I blended the worlds of two favorite authors and invented H. Phillip Lovecraft, private eye, then filled his personal mean streets with all manner of demons and amused myself through a hot summer of writing.

The film was made eight years after I wrote it, and this scene appears in the movie exactly as it did in the first draft. Remarkable.

Phil Lovecraft takes the case of a millionaire with a missing book and a misbehaving daughter. Things get personal when the clues lead him to a beautiful woman from his past, a night-club singer named Connie Stone. There's a lot of unfinished business between these two and plenty of residual heat when Connie shows up late one night in Phil's office.

Julianne Moore as femme fatale and nightclub canary, Connie Stone.

Fred Ward as the hard-boiled gumshoe, Phil Lovecraft

Handwritten Theatre: Summer Bonus Track #2
Performed by Fred Ward and Julianne Moore
Running Time: 6:36
All Audiences

Cast a Deadly Spell was made in the early 90s, and last year it was selected for screenings at The H.P. Lovecraft Film Festival in Portland, Oregon where I got to see the picture with an audience for the first time in more than a decade. The hard-boiled detective I invented to remind myself how important it is to keep the promises you make in hot Queens apartments is still out there, still fighting the good fight, cracking wise and taking a punch, and never giving up.

Cast a Deadly Spell hasn't been released on DVD, but there are still VHS copies hanging around out there.


PierreTheMime said...

It was by complete luck that I have stumbled upon your blog and I must say I am quite happy that I did. Cast a Deadly Spell is probably one of my favorite films (being both a fan of Lovecraftian mythos and noir) and it's good to hear that it still gets play (seeing as it has yet to see the DVD release it deserves). As soon as a get a hold of a PC with RealPlayer installed I shall give a listen to your Handwritten Theatre, as I much enjoy your writing style.

The reason I said my discovery was by luck was because I was scouring the internet for additional information regarding CaDS in an attempt to (follow me on this one) write up additional scenarios and stories for my own enjoyment. One might call this fan fiction and I suppose it qualifies, but I have a love of your fictional world and believe it and its characters could be expounded upon further.

Would it be at all possible that I could get a copy of the screenplay (should one be available)? I have no idea how to get a hold of such a thing and as you are the author I figure it's as good a place as any to begin the search. I would appreciate any help that you could offer.

Timeras said...

Hi Mr. Dougherty, I just wanted to take to opportunity to say what a fan I am of "Cast a Deadly Spell." As a fan of both noir/pulp and fantasy, I'd have to say you smacked one out of the ballpark with "Spell". I remember watching the original premiere on HBO back in '91, totally enraptured by the idea of mixing two genres together, and being blown away by your treatment of such .

I did watch "Witch Hunt" when it premiered, but I have to admit I didn't care for Dennis Hopper much as Lovecraft. It's been years since I've seen it, I guess I'll try to find a copy somewhere and give it another shot.

What inspired this particular story/genre treatment? I've seen since a few other stabs at the same type of story, but few (if any) can reach your achievement. Did you have much say in the overall production? If not Fred Ward, then who would've been your first choice to play Lovecraft? Connie? Borden?

I must admit to echoing Pierrethemime's desire to see further stories of Phil Lovecraft; I think it would have great potential in today's market, considering Glen Cook's "Garrett, P.I." series, and Jim Butcher's "Harry Dresden- Wizard Investigator" series (btw, is being developed as a show on SciFi).

I also wonder if it might be possible to get a copy of "Cast a Deadly Spell"'s screenplay... to be honest, I would like to see how close the production came to your original vision.

In any case, I just wanted to reiterate how much a fan of "Cast A Deadly Spell" I am. It was one of those pictures that stick out in my mind as a grade-A classic. Thanks for writing it.


cock said...

How about that. I'm watching Cast a Deadly Spell as I write this. This is by far one of my all time favorite films and mostly it's because of the writing which is priceless. I've been waiting for this film to be released on DVD for ages now but fortunately I recorded a hardly used VHS copy I got of Ebay on digital format so it won't degrade. It's weird that this film hasn't been released already considering the talent behind it, especially now with Martin Campbell directing the most popular Bond film of all time. Well hopefully someday it will happen and if it does I hope you will provide an audio commentary for it.