note: This was an article that I wrote for Grindhouse Purgatory. I thought it might be fun to post it here as a Throwback Thursday. It covers both the movie as well as the special features and if it is worth upgrading from previous releases.
The Blu-Ray Report: Lord of Illusions
by John Shatzer
After a couple of tribute issues here at
Grindhouse Purgatory I’m back to reviewing regular old Blu-Ray releases that
I’ve picked up. For this issue I thought it was time that I finally tear into
the Lord of Illusions disc that I picked up. Directed by Clive Barker from
his own script based on one of his short stories and starring one of my favorite
television actors Scott Bakula it has been years since I’ve seen it. I’m not
only excited to check out the movie, but there appear to be a nice batch of
special features on the new Blu-Ray as well.
The story is part Film Noir
detective tale and part horror. Things kick off with a bang as we see a group
of cult members returning to their former compound to stop the cult leader, a
man named Nix. He has apparently “gone to far” and kidnapped a young girl for
some nefarious reasons. There is a shoot out and the leader of the returnees,
Swann, uses some special tools to bind Nix stopping the danger to both the girl
and themselves. Or so you would think.
The action moves to thirteen years
later where our main character, detective Harry D’Amour, is sent to Los Angeles
to keep tabs on an insurance fraudster. While trailing him Harry stumbles over
a crime scene where a palm reader has been tortured and is barley hanging onto
life. After fighting off the crazies who were responsible, he is told by the
dying man that he has a destiny and that he is drawn to the darkness. We know
this to be true since we were clued in earlier that his last case had involved
an exorcism. Clearly, he is not scared off by the spooky stuff.
His presence at the crime scene
brings him to the attention of Dorothea Swann, wife of the man who we saw
earlier stopping Nix. She is concerned about her husband and offers to hire
Harry to check on him. This leads him down a rabbit hole of magic, murder,
cults, and perhaps love. Many bodies hit the ground, some sinking into it, and
secrets are revealed before the end credits roll.
As I’ve already mentioned it has
been years since I’ve watched Lord of Illusions. This was a frequent
watch on different premium cable channels back in the late nineties, but I’ve
never seen it quite like this. For the review I decided to check out the
director’s cut, which clocks in at just over two hours long. I highly recommend
that this is the version that you watch if you should happen to pick up the new
Blu-Ray. It adds some great background and spends more time on the investigative
parts of the story. We get to see Harry working on the case and connecting the
dots in a much more logical way. The theatrical version seems to jump around
more without these scenes.
Of course, that might also make the
movie feel longer and I know that many fans I’ve talked to over the years find Lord
of Illusions to already be a bit slow. While I don’t agree with them, I
totally understand that if you sit down to watch this as a straight horror
movie then you might be disappointed. That is why I keep mentioning the film
noir and detective bits of the story. If you like that sort of thing then I
believe that you are going to dig this movie. We even have a femme fatale as
well as a villain and henchman continually roughing up our hero. This is very
cool stuff if you are in the right frame of mind.
The special effects are a mixed bag
for me. The practical effects are stellar and include a lot of kills. People
get run over, stabbed, faces get melted, and a stage prop is rammed thru
someone’s torso. These are just a few of the highlights. We also have people
melted into the floor, a nice hand slash, a couple gags where someone reaches
thru the skin to bury their fingers in another’s head. I have zero issues with
Unfortunately, the digital effects work
doesn’t hold up well. There is a reoccurring gag where the magicians can turn
themselves into what Barker calls origami, basically they are folded up into
geometrical shapes on screen. This hasn’t aged well and looks horrible,
especially with the movie now being presented in high definition. We also get
some lighting and fire effects work that also looks bad. This is really my only
complaint about the movie.
I’m not going to allow that one flaw to
scare me away from recommending Lord of Illusions. I think it is an interesting
story, one that no one had tried to tell on film before. Barker’s vision and
inspired casting choices make this a movie that you should see at least once.
This is especially so since you have read this review and have an idea what you
are getting into.
This article isn’t just a review of the
movie, but also a review of the new Blu-Ray as well. Here is where I normally tell
you if it is worth double dipping on the new disc. This is going to be hard for
me to determine because I’ve never owned a copy of Lord of Illusions
before buying this release. Remember I used to watch it on cable, so I never
got around to buying a VHS or DVD of it. I’ve got nothing to compare it too.
But I can still let you know what else is included and you can decide if it is
The Scream Factory release is a two-disc
set with both the theatrical as well as the directors cut of the movie. So you
get both versions, which is sort of cool. The transfer is top notch with both
beautiful picture and sound. I think that the transfer alone is likely to be
worth the purchase. If that doesn’t rope you in, we also get a director’s
commentary from Clive Barker that is fascinating. I honestly could sit around
listening to that guy talk for hours.
Other features include a vintage making of called A Gathering of Magic that clocks in at eighteen minutes. Don’t get too excited as this is an old feature that was shot as they were making the movie. If you are “vintage” like me then you have probably remember that HBO used to show stuff like this for releases that they knew they were eventually going to get. It is less informative and more of a teaser. We also get three minutes of deleted scenes that feel like they should have been cut, so nothing special there. There is a couple of minutes of behind the scenes footage that also looks as if it was left out of the Gathering of Magic featurette.
The only new thing on the disc was an
interview with the storyboard artist. This was interesting as it explains how
Barker shot the movie very close to what was on the storyboards, thus saving
time and money. The artist, Martin Mercer, also explains how his job helps the
director bring their vision to life. It was a fun way to kill twelve minutes
and I learned something new about movie making. Other than the commentary this
was the highlight of the extras included on the disc.
If I’m going to be honest, I’d have to say
that the special features were disappointing. I expected that as Lord of
Illusions has a small following and is nowhere near as popular as Hellraiser
or Nightbreed. But still I had hoped for a bit more love for the movie.
I’m sure they could have gotten Scott Bakula or Kevin O’Connor in for an
interview. Either or both of those would have been a killer addition.
If we take the release as a whole, I’d
recommend it solely on the transfer and the director’s cut. While I don’t know
if the director’s cut was available before I do know that this is a new
transfer. If like me, you haven’t seen it for years, or perhaps wanted to check
it out for the first time this is the way to go. Just remember to spend the
extra half hour to watch the director’s cut of the movie.
As I’ve mentioned in the past, I’d like to
thank Pete for giving me the chance to write for such a great magazine.
Grindhouse Purgatory is something that I’m proud to be associated with. Thanks
also to all of you out there that buy the magazine and occasionally drop me an
email to tell me I’m an idiot or that you agree with me. Speaking of email that
address is firstname.lastname@example.org and I’d love to
hear your thoughts on Lord of Illusions as well as anything else you
want to shoot the breeze about. I’ll see you all in six months and remember to
stay safe out there. Shit is getting weird.
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