Clive Barker’s final movie as a director to date was this ambitious adaptation of his story The Last Illusion from the Books of Blood. The production history was troubled, with financing initially coming from Polygram Pictures. Unfortunately the company collapsed and the film was sold off to MGM / UA where it was recut and suffered patchy and disinterested distribution. This is a great shame as it’s actually a very good film indeed, and one whose reputation can only grow as time goes by.
While on an unrelated case, private detective Harry d’Amour (Scott Bakula - an excellent choice for the character, by the way) stumbles across a fortune teller with scalpels sticking out of his face. He lives just long enough to whisper a few tantalising facts about a fanatic cult whose powerful leader, Nix (Daniel von Bargen), was eventually despatched using a special ritual by Phillip Swann (Kevin J O’Connor) and some other rebellious cult members. Of course we already know all of this because it memorably takes up the first part of the film.
Thirteen years later, Swann is now a famous illusionist and D’Amour is hired by his wife Dorothea (Famke Janssen) to protect him against members of the cult who want to bring Nix back. Swann apparently dies during one of his stage performances and other members of his group are dying too. Meanwhile Nix’s cult is regrouping at their old stomping ground in the desert and the hunt is on for their master’s buried body. Will Harry be able to solve what’s happened to Swann, save the girl, and stop the evil sorcerer from destroying the world?
LORD OF ILLUSIONS has a lot going for it, not least in terms of its lead performances. The casting is excellent and there’s a pleasant noirish feel to the picture that never gets too heavy but instead lends a feeling of adventure to the sometime horrific proceedings. The ending is a 1995 special effects tour-de-force but because what we’ve seen beforehand is so good it feels weirdly excessive. That’s a minor quibble, though, as is the fact that filming went on so long that original composer Christopher Young had to leave to be replaced by Simon Boswell who manages a perfectly excellent job on this.
101 Films offers us LORD OF ILLUSIONS on a double disc set. One is the ‘theatrical cut’ on Blu-ray and the other is the ‘Director’s Cut’ with commentary on DVD. The Blu-ray has a running time of 108 minutes and 50 seconds whereas the DVD runs for nearly 117 minutes. Neither versions have the 87 minute running time listed on the back of the box. On the DVD commentary track director Clive Barker confirms that we are watching his director’s cut and he also helpfully points out which scenes were removed for cinema release. There are no other extras.
Finally, apparently 101 Films' first pressing of this disc had a problem where the DVD wasn't actually included in the set. According to the company this problem has now been rectified.
101 Films should have corrected sets of Clive Barker's LORD OF ILLUSIONS on double disc Blu-ray and DVD on 17th March 2014