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.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Handwritten Theatre: Summer Bonus Track #1

Just because the actors have all gone to the beach, doesn't mean we're not going to soldier on here at Handwritten Theatre. A presentation from the archives: A scene from a movie I wrote a couple of years back, the remake of a key film from my youth, Attack of the 50 Ft. Woman. While not conceived for this podcast, I can guarantee that it was handwritten at the time.

The movie was directed by Christopher Guest and produced by Debra Hill with Daryl Hannah in the titular role. In the great tradition of B-movie science fiction pictures, the movie was short. So short the studio insisted we go back and add scenes to pad the running time. While this had an unfortunate impact on the pace, it gave me the unique opportunity to go back and write new scenes for two of the actors, O'Neal Compton and Victoria Haas who played the sheriff and deputy in the town rampaged by a giant Daryl Hannah.

Sheriff Denby and Deputy "Charlie" Spooner were characters at the edge of the action, but Victoria and O'Neal had the most remarkable...I refuse to say chemistry. Let's just say they were really good in scenes I'd written before I met them. The need to add screen time gave me a chance to write something specifically for their voices. What I came up with is a scene that does nothing to move the picture forward, just the Sheriff and the Deputy talking about two thirds through the movie. It's pure padding, but it's one of my favorite scenes. And I think it's one of the perfect counterfeits in a movie filled with scenes meant to sound like they were lifted from a Jack Arnold Universal-International picture made between 1954 and 1957.

Give a listen to two very good actors who got to go back after a movie was finished and play a scene written expressly for them.

About an hour into the picture, Sheriff Denby and his deputy are discovered in his office where he times Deputy Charlie to see how fast she can load her revolver. This leads to a general discussion of life and what's been going on up at the Archer place where the beautiful Nancy Archer has grown to five stories tall, yet hopes to keep her marriage with the philandering Harry intact.

Handwritten Theatre: Summer Bonus Track #1
Performed by Victoria Haas and O'Neal Compton
Running Time: 7:02
All Audiences

If you'd like to see the well as the rest of the picture, you can rent my version of Attack of the 50 Ft. Woman at Netflix...
Netflix, Inc.
...or buy a DVD for your very own at