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Blu-ray Review Lord of Illusions Blu-ray Review (1 Viewer)

Todd Erwin

Senior HTF Member
Apr 16, 2008
Hawthorne, NV
Real Name
Todd Erwin
Lord of Illusions Blu-ray Review

Lord of Illusions, Clive Barker’s follow-up to Nightbreed, moves away from monsters and towards dark magic, mixing film noir with horror. There’s a lot to like here, including performances by Scott Bakula, a very young Famke Janssen, and Kevin J. O’Connor, but the pacing and muddled story line are what ultimately take it down.

Studio: MGM

Distributed By: Scream Factory

Video Resolution and Encode: 1080P/AVC

Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1

Audio: English 2.0 DTS-HDMA, English 5.1 DTS-HDMA

Subtitles: English SDH

Rating: Not Rated, R

Run Time: 1 Hr. 49 Min. Theatrical; 2 Hr. 1 Min, Director's Cut

Package Includes: Blu-ray

Two-disc Blu-ray keepcase

Disc Type: BD50 (dual layer)

Region: A

Release Date: 12/16/2014

MSRP: $29.93

The Production Rating: 2.5/5

Lord of Illusions opens with Philip Swann (Kevin J. O’Connor) tracking down black magic cult leader Nix (Daniel von Bargen), who has kidnapped a young girl he is planning to sacrifice. With help from some former cult members, Swann distracts Nix, who is shot by the young girl, and then traps and presumably kills Nix in an iron mask, burying him in the desert. Thirteen years later, New York private detective Harry D’Amour (Scott Bakula) travels to Los Angeles to investigate an insurance fraud case, but stumbles and witnesses the murder of a fortune teller (who happens to be one of Swann’s followers who helped him take down Nix), who warns him that The Puritan is coming. Swann and his wife, Dorothea (Famke Janssen), hire D’Amour through his assistant Valentin (Joel Swetow) to solve the murder. Swann ends up dead in what appears to be a magic trick gone wrong, Dorothea and D’Amour end up in bed together, the rest of Swann’s team are killed in freak accidents, all leading to a final confrontation in the desert as Nix becomes resurrected.

That is a fairly complicated storyline to begin with, and when Barker delivered Lord of Illusions to MGM/UA, the studio felt, much like Morgan Creek did with Nightbreed, that they did not get the movie they thought they had paid for, and requested cuts be made to downplay the film noir aspect, heighten the horror, while at the same time achieve an R rating from the MPAA. Barker learned from the bad experiences of his former film, and was able to strike a deal with MGM/UA, allowing him to provide a theatrical cut and an unrated director’s cut for the home video market. The film was ultimately a box office disappointment for the studio, and Barker hasn’t directed a film since.

Scream Factory brings both the theatrical and director’s cuts of Lord of Illusions to Blu-ray (each on its own disc). The director’s cut is the preferred version, running 12 minutes longer with extended sequences of gore and violence (which are tame by today’s standards) and a more graphic love making sequence (with no additional nudity), while at the same time retaining Barker’s original film noir vision. Bakula is very good, but there’s a lot of similarities to his role as Beckett on Quantum Leap that may prove to be a distraction for fans of that series. Famke Janssen holds her own as the mysterious Dorothea Swann in what is her first movie role (she would appear just a few months later on movie screens as Bond girl Xenia Onatopp in Goldeneye). And Philip Swann is probably Kevin J. O’Connor’s least annoying movie roles (in my review of Deep Rising, I noted that he is best in small doses), never becoming the whining sidekick that would be his trademark a few short years later. However, even with the additional 12 minutes, the director’s cut is still a bit of a confusing mess when it comes to plot, and the slow pacing doesn’t help. I found myself nodding off once or twice during both versions of Lord of Illusions.

Video Rating: 4/5  3D Rating: NA

The prints supplied to Scream Factory by MGM are a major improvement over previous home video releases. Although the packaging lists an aspect ratio of 1.78:1. both versions are presented in the original 1.85:1 theatrical aspect ratio. Compressed using the AVC codec, the transfer has a nice, film-like look, with accurate and consistent colors. Contrast is fairly solid, although there are a few sequences where it wavers, particularly in some the the darker scenes of the film, where shadow detail gets lost. There are a few instances of dirt and debris, but these are minimal, and you really have to be looking for them.

Audio Rating: 4/5

Although the packaging indicates only a DTS-HD Master Audio Stereo track, both versions actually contain both a stereo and 5.1 track in DTS-HD MA. The 5.1 track is the one to listen to (and it’s not a remix, as the film was released theatrically in DTS), opening up the soundstage to provide a fairly immersive experience for a 20-year old recording. Dialogue is directed mostly to the center channel, but never becomes overwhelmed by the music or effects. Simon Boswell’s score is nicely spread across all channels, and the mix does contain a few discrete uses of the surrounds to add some shock value. Fidelity and dynamic range are major improvements over previous home video releases.

Special Features Rating: 3.5/5

Disc One (Theatrical Cut):
Theatrical Trailer
(480i; 2:39): The film’s red-band trailer.

Disc Two (Director’s Cut):
Audio Commentary with Clive Barker: Originally recorded for the film’s laserdisc release in 1995, Barker discusses just about each and every scene in detail.

A Note From Clive Barker (1080p; 1:56): An on-screen textual reprint of Clive Barker’s liner notes from the 1995 MGM Laserdisc release.

A Gathering of Magic (480i; 17:52): EPK-style documentary ported from the Laserdisc release.

Original Behind the Scenes Footage (1080p; 61:57): A much more in-depth look at the making of the film.

Deleted Scenes (1080p; 3:21): A quick selection of scenes not used in the theatrical or director’s cut, with commentary by Clive Barker.

Drawing Boards with Martin Mercer (1080p; 11:55): An interview with storyboard artist Martin Mercer.

Photo Gallery (1080p; 15:53): A collection of movie posters, lobby cards, and promotional stills.

Reversible Cover Insert: Choose between Scream! Factory’s new artwork, or the film’s original movie poster.

Overall Rating: 3/5

Lord of Illusions has a relatively large fan base (although not quite as large as Nightbreed), and this two-disc set will likely not disappoint. Horror aficionados that are unfamiliar with this film would be wiser to try and rent the Director’s Cut, if they can find it, rather than a blind buy.

Reviewed By: Todd Erwin

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Fake Shemp
Senior HTF Member
Sep 20, 2002
Real Name
Forgot all about this one. Thanks for the review, I'll pick it up at some point since I got the fancy Nightbreed set.

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