Liverpool born Clive Barker is a well-known name in fiction, and especially in horror. His novels have sold millions of copies all over the World and many of his stories have been adapted to the screen over the last three decades, one of those films was Lord of Illusions, based on the short story “The Last Illusion” from Barker’s “Books of Blood Vol. 6”, a compilation of stories from 1985.
Directed by Clive himself, Lord of Illusions is a fantasy horror starring Scott Bakula (Quantum Leap), Kevin J. O’Connor and Famke Janssen (X-Men). This was the last film that Barker directed after previously stepping behind the camera for Nightbreed and Hellraiser. The director’s cut of “Lord…” is, in Barker’s words, the “definitive version of the film” while the theatrical cut does not represent his true vision. This release from 101 Films features the theatrical cut on Blu-ray as well as the director’s cut, complete with director commentary, on DVD. This alone makes it worth picking up this version.
The plot is very Barker-eqsue. It tells the story of Private Detective Harry D’Amour (Bakula) who happens upon a cult that is awaiting the resurrection of their “leader” Nix. Nix trained Philip Swann (O’Connor) in the art of magic and illusion, and Swann went on to become a success much-like a David Copperfield. Philips wife, Dorothea (Janssen), hires D’Amour to protect her husband from the impending rise of his former master, Nix, and his demented cult members. An “accident” with Swann leads to D’Amour investigating and discovering a world of magic he didn’t know existed. A twisting and turning story of magic, deception and evil, Lord of Illusions is an intriguing and unusual film that plays in the fields of horror, fantasy and sci-fi.
There are few films that deal with magic and illusionists, and even fewer that deal with it in the way that Lord of Illusions does. The director’s cut is much better viewing than the theatrical version, the version I had always been familiar with until seeing this release. An absorbing premise, the film offers something very different and while it isn’t flawless, it is still a very palatable and enjoyable experience that I will return to once again in the future
The acting is hit and miss. They often feel trite and border on lethargic at times, but Bakula is charming as D’Amour, and Janssen, though much improved since her work here, offers a polite performance that doesn’t really offend. I found O’Connor to be a little puerile at times and it made for some scenes that bordered on cringe worthy, but it wasn’t enough to put me off watching.
The story isn’t Barker’s best, and as a reader of plenty of his novels and short tales, I am surprised that he didn’t adapt something better to the screen than this. The Damnation Game, Pig Blood Blues and The Body Politic all come to mind and were released before or around the same time as “The Last Illusion”. Still, Barker saw fit to make this, and it isn’t a bad movie, just not on the same level as Nightbreed and Hellraiser. Barker was a fine director too and it would be nice to see him try his hand at it once more, perhaps adapting a newer novel such as Mister B. Gone to film.
101 Films have done a commendable job with this release. It looks the part, and the picture quality and sound on the Blu-ray is of a high quality for a film of this type. The extra DVD featuring the director’s cut of the film as well as a directors commentary is a lovely addition and should be a big reason to buy this release.
It’s not brilliant, and it doesn’t feature an iconic antagonist like Pinhead, but Lord of Illusions is still worth a watch, and the director’s cut is just dandy.
Lord of Illusions is available on DVD and Blu-ray/DVD Combo, through 101 Films, now.