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I tend to think of Clive Barker's LORD OF ILLUSIONS ($15) as something of an underrated gem in the vast realm of horror cinema. Clive Barker is an undisputed master of horror literature who has made the cross over to the film medium as a director. Barker’s debut film HELLRAISER is a cult classic and a horror movie that I love for its terrifying story, but hate for its slipshod look. LORD OF ILLUSIONS is a much more mature film than HELLRAISER, and one in which Barker shows his growth as a visual storyteller.

LORD OF ILLUSIONS is a unique film the melds the detective genre to a story that takes a hard, unflinching look at the nature of evil. Scott Bakula stars as New York detective Harry D'Amour. Unlike almost all other detectives, Harry somehow finds himself pulled into to cases that contain elements of the supernatural. Hoping for a bit of normalcy Harry takes a surveillance job in California. Harry’s California "holiday" seems normal enough, that is, until an unforeseen turn of events thrust Harry into the middle of the strangest case of his career.

A woman named Dorothea (Famke Janssen) hires Harry to protect her husband’s life. What makes the case interesting is that Dorothea’s husband turns out to be Philip Swann (Kevin J. O’Connor), the world most renowned illusionist. However, before Harry has the opportunity to start his latest job, Swann is killed during the performance of a new illusion. Harry doesn't take too well to losing this potential client and probes further into Swann's death. Harry’s investigation takes him down a very strange road where he discovers that Swann's abilities were more than mere illusions. Further digging, unearths an evil secret named Nix (Daniel von Bargen) buried in Swann's past. The cast of LORD OF ILLUSIONS also features Vincent Schiavelli, Barry Sherman, Sheila Tousey and Joel Swetow.

MGM Home Entertainment has done a terrific job with their DVD edition of LORD OF ILLUSIONS. The unrated director's cut LORD OF ILLUSIONS is offered wide screen only in a presentation that features the anamorphic enhancement for wide screen televisions. LORD OF ILLUSIONS is framed very close to its 1.85:1 theatrical aspect ratio, without evident compromises to the periphery of the image. The transfer is quite pleasing, with a strong, well defined image and excellent color reproduction. Chroma noise was never a problem; neither were digital compression artifacts on this well authored DVD.

The Dolby Digital 5.1 channel soundtrack has an effective mix, with atmospheric touches that draw the audience into the world of LORD OF ILLUSIONS. There is good channel separation across the front soundstage and the surround channels do have effective moments. The track has solid bass reproduction and the dialogue is always clean and intelligible. English and French subtitles have been encoded into the DVD.

The stylish interactive menus contain animation, music and sound. Through the menus one can access the DVD's interesting array of supplements. Clive Barker's running audio commentary is the chief supplement and something that his numerous fans are certain to enjoy for his informative talk about LORD OF ILLUSIONS. Other supplements include scenes that didn’t even make it into the director's cut (with or without commentary), a theatrical trailer and an isolated musical score.

As I stated above, LORD OF ILLUSIONS is an underrated horror gem. MGM's terrific DVD release of the film is a credit to Clive Barker's work and a special treat for his fans. Recommended.


Lord of Illusions (1995)



DVD reviews are Copyright 1999 THE CINEMA LASER and may not be copied or reprinted without the written consent of the publisher.
THE CINEMA LASER is written, edited and published by Derek M. Germano.



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