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Lord Of Illusions – Collector’s Edition (Blu-ray Review)

Lord-Of-IllusionsIts no wonder that after the back to back experiences of Nightbreed and Lord Of Illusions, that horror maestro Clive Barker hasn’t take the director’s chair since.  It wasn’t as much an extreme case with Lord Of Illusions, but once again the studio did not seem to understand Barker’s vision for the film.  And during this time, the studios in general didn’t seem to understand that horror could branch out and be other things and still include horror.  Barker’s horror’s were of a unique mind, but the studios seemed to think he was just some guy who made Freddy or Jason movies.   For this film however, Barker agreed to make a generic and no frills cut that would appease the studio.  Barker made the agreement on the guideline that when it came to video his  original director’s cut would become readily available.  Scream Factory has gone ahead with its debut on Blu-ray and brought you both cuts, just like they did with Nightbreed.

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Film 

Thirteen years prior to the present day of the film, a man named Nix who claims to use real magic has started a cult and holed up in the desert.  He and his cult plan a sacrifice of a young girl.  Led by a man named Swann, some of his former followers raid the house and take care of Nix, vowing to bury him deep in the desert where no one will find him.  In the present day, private investigator Henry D’Amour is summoned to Los Angeles to look into an insurance fraud case.  No stranger to the paranormal, his case ends up leading him to the murder of one of the group that took care of Nix thirteen years ago who warns “the Puritan is coming”.  D’Amour decides to take it upon him to find this killer and dive deep into the world of magic to get to the bottom of it.

This Director’s Cut, like Nightbreed, is a much improved upon version of the film merely because it gets to actually be what it was supposed to in the first place.  Studios didn’t understand that lower budgeted horror could be other things or inflict itself into other genres at this time.  Here, Barker is trying to tell a modern noir tale meshed with occult horror.  A film drawing from the same well as the Mickey Rourke/Robert DeNiro film Angel Heart had done many years earlier.  The big difference in this cut is that it focuses much more on the noir aspect of the film.  It fills the runtime with much more investigation, dialogue and character development that wasn’t present in the Theatrical Cut.  As a fan of film noir, I appreciate all that patience and fleshing out.

Our investigator we follow in this noir tale is Harry D’Amour, a regular in the literary works of Clive Barker.  He’s a PI who specializes in the occult.  This story is loosely based from his first appearance in the Books Of Blood story “The Last Illusion”.  D’Amour is a character that would have made for a great number of films following him through disturbing and creepy investigations had this movie been a smashing success.  Equal to drawing me in with Barker, Scott Bakula was a big get for me to see this movie back when it came out.  I am HUGE Quantum Leap fan and was excited to see him not only take the lead in a feature film, but a horror film too!  Bakula rocks as D’Amour, and really is able to bridge and old-time type performance with a modern film.  Barker was insanely happy with the casting choice and even says that Bakula is the perfect Harry D’Amour.  That when he writes the character ever since Lord Of Illusions, that Scott Bakula is who he is writing him as.

The film also stars the stunning Famke Janssen.  Though, it wasn’t her biggest film of 1995.  She’d become quite front and center later that year as Xenia Onatopp in the triumphant return of James Bond in Goldeneye.  Lord Of Illusions is actually her theatrical debut, having only done straight to video movies and television up to the this point (And boy is she a geek friendly actress having already done a Star Trek: The Next Generation at this point).  I can’t say aside from her looks that she’s quite incredible here in the film.  But, she’s above average and more than solid.  For a model turned actress, the best thing is that you couldn’t tell at all.  She seems like a pro already and its her first big gig.  She’s able to match wits with every lead in the film.  Watching this movie, you can easily tell she’s someone on the rise.

Years later and having become more of an adult now, I think I have much more an appreciation for this film than I originally did when I saw it almost twenty years ago.  To be honest, I can’t tell you if it was the theatrical or director’s cut I viewed when I first watched it.  It doesn’t matter though, because back in my teens, I hadn’t hit my nitch of digging noir yet and this wasn’t really a horror film for younger audiences.  I remembered a few memorable effects and monster bits from this movie, but overall it was kind of forgettable.  Watching it now, I really like all the detective work.  I find it a shame that Barker really stopped after this, because with his three films; Hellraiser, Nightbreed and Lord Of Illusions he seemed to be ahead of the game, going somewhere new and interesting with horror.  His films were distinct to his craft, always a bit disturbing and featuring unique and new ideas.  Aside from Hellraiser, sadly, they just didn’t seem to click with studios and were chopped up before they got to audiences to give them a truly fair shake.  This film is no masterpiece, but it sure is a bit of enjoyable horror-noir romp if you’re into something like Angel Heart.

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Video 

Encoding: MPEG-4 AVC

Resolution: 1080p

Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1

Clarity/Detail:  Until the advent of Blu-ray and the recent release of this and Nightbreed, there is a visual style distinct to himself that Clive Barker seemed to have with his productions.  I believe Hellraiser and Candyman carried it too.  Its here on display in Lord Of Illusions.  This has a nice image, very cinematic and cleaned up.  There is plenty of detail, especially on the horrific effects like Nix’s rotted up face.  On polished surfaces you can spot a fingerprint if you want too.  The best it has and may every look.

Depth:  Depth is a little above average here.  The highlight being the sequence where Swann fails at his sword trick in the first act.  There are a couple floating sequences that impress as well, in terms of dimensional depth and feel for the environment.

Black Levels: Blacks are rich and carry a little bit of grain in very dark spots.  Not a lot of crushing present, and plenty of good shading throughout to help with a noir effect.

Color Reproduction:  Colors are natural and for the most part keep tame.  The Magic Castle sequence features some lovely colors popping abound.  Most of the impressive color work comes with lighting.  Blood looks delicious in this transfer as well.

Flesh Tones:  Natural and consistent.  Detail is high in closeups and pretty impressive in medium shots as well.  Famke looks outstanding 🙂

Noise/Artifacts:  A light layer of grain and some specs throughout.

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Audio 

Audio Format(s): English 5.1 DTS-HD MA, English 2.0 DTS-HD MA

Subtitles: English

Dynamics: The audio here is quite impressive and makes for a lively action-effective track.  There is a nice balance of vocals, score and effects on display.  One thing I liked is all the booms and crashes in scuffles really make themselves present and count without interfering with any dialogue.  This is a really nice track that gets you plenty involved in the film.

Low Frequency Extension:  Car engines, gunshots and destruction all get a nice bump with the subwoofer.  The score sounds really nice as well.

Surround Sound Presentation:  Some spooky happens do make an appearance in the rear speakers, but mostly they are relegated to score and ambiance.  The front speakers dictate the onscreen action quite well, whether it the sound be in motion or catching the right volume or pitch.

Dialogue Reproduction:  Clean and clear.  Appropriately displayed as to the characters placement and movement on screen.

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Extras 

Lord Of Illusions is a 2-Disc Blu-ray set.  One disc features the Director’s Cut and the other the Theatrical Edition.  The cover art is reversible featuring the original theatrical poster.

Disc 1 – Theatrical Edition

Theatrical Trailer (SD, 2:39)

Disc 2 – Director’s Cut

Audio Commentary

  • By Director Clive Barker – An older commentary ported over from a previous release.

A Note From Clive Barker (HD, 1:56) – Set to some music, this is a note from Clive in 1995 explaining what happened with the production and that this is his to definitive work to be “judged by”.

“A Gathering Of Magic” Featurette (HD, 17:52) – A vintage behind the scenes featurette that has interviews with Clive Barker, Joann Sellar, Scott Bakula, Famke Janssen, Daniel Von Bargen.  Has on set footage.  The interviews all appear to be taken during the shoot.  Sort of a glorified promotional piece from 1995.

Original Behind The Scenes Footage (HD, 1:01:57) – Comprised of vintage interviews (likely during production or shortly after), on set footage, make up and effects tests.  Includes some side by side comparisons of shooting and the final product.  This is pretty awesome, and really gives you a full, raw look at making this film.

Deleted Scenes With Commentary By Clive Barker (HD, 3:21) – 3 scenes not featured in either cut of the film.  They have live sound (Not mixed, no score, no foley), so its no bother that you aren’t able to see them without Clive speaking.

New Interview With Storyboard Artist Martin Mercer (HD, 11:55) – This is the only feature exclusive to this edition.  Features some storyboard to screen comparisons and Mercer talks about how they brought them to life.

Photo Gallery (HD, 15:53) – A video montage of posters, promotional shots and character test photos.

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Summary 

Scream Factory does a very nice job on Clive Barker’s Lord Of Illusions.  You get both cuts of the film and hours of extras.  Its a little bit of a bummer that there’s really  not a lot of “new” extras here, but they did dig up a complete gem in the over one-hour long behind the scenes footage.  The film looks and sounds the best it ever has and maybe now can pick up some new fans or be reevaluated these many years later.  I think its a perfectly enjoyable horror-noir story.  Despite the lack of new stuff, nobody who buys this Collector’s Edition is going to find themselves disappointed.

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Writer/Reviewer, lifelong obsessive film nerd. As eager to educate in the world of film as I am to learn. An avid lover of horror, schlock and trash, Brandon hosts the Cult Cinema Cavalcade podcast on the Creative Zombie Studios Network (www.cultcinemacavalcade.com) You can also find more essays on his blog Naptown Nerd (naptownnerd.blogspot.com).

1 Response to “Lord Of Illusions – Collector’s Edition (Blu-ray Review)”


  1. Monty Britton

    Have owned Lord of Illusions on Laserdisc back in the day. Not sure why I never upgrade to DVD. Was the DVD anamorphic or just like the Laserdisc, letterbox (widescreen).
    I knew I could trust the blu ray to get the video and audio of the director’s cut right after the problematic past transfers. This is an outstanding picture with great colors that do not bleed everwhere. This really looks amazing on a 4K television!