An excellent US Blu-ray release of this noir horror
Lord of Illusions Film Review
Illusionists use trickery; magicians use real magic.In Clive Barker’s fevered imagination, where deamons exist and are persecuted by humans, there is magic, real magic as used by magicians. Those with real power tower above illusionists who use trickery, sleight of hand and other human traits. When The Puritan, a real magician called Nix wants to raise the world, his disciple, Swann, is the only one to stop him. Thus starts Lord of Illusions, Barker’s own adaptation of his short story, into which he pours his dark, black heart.The story is that of New York City private detective Harry D'Amour, who has a call to the dark side and all things supernatural; finding himself embroiled in dark cults, murder, suicide, love and magic - which is everything Barker is about. Magic is real and dark forces are benevolent only to be corrupted by man. He tries to meld film noir with the supernatural and for the most part succeeds (at least in the director’s version) but as with most of his films (save that of Hellraiser) puts in too many ideas that can’t be fully explored.
This ultimately leads to the main plot which, whilst being engaging, exciting and interesting, seems rushed, with an unsatisfactory feel, despite some wonderfully gory effects, very clever ideas, and a solid character on which to hang the film. It cannot be leaner (the theatrical cut tried this with disastrous results) so it needs to be longer (TV series?) to be truly absorbing. But at least what we do have is a gallant attempt and despite some reservations, a very watchable horror noir.
Blu-ray Picture QualityThe disc presents both the theatrical and director's cuts in their correct widescreen 1.85:1 aspect ratio with a 1080p transfer using the AVC codec and, being a US release, is region locked to A.
Detail is fair, and certainly better than I’ve ever seen it, check out Nix’s wounds once the mask has been removed, for example. The murals on the walls of Nix’s hideout show keen edges, likewise the decoration inside the Magic Castle. Clothing weaves are also reasonable. There is a fair amount of softness to the image, but this is from the original print and not a defect. There are precious few landscape shots but those in the desert provide the best use, with decent enough edges.
Primaries come off with decent enough strength - reds, particularly blood, are the boldest.
Colour is reasonable well represented, the primaries come off with decent enough strength, but there is an overall lack of depth; this in part, is due to the film stock used, the location shots are normally ‘weaker’ in colour than studio filmed material. Reds, particularly blood, are the boldest, though green and blue are fine in the right environment.
Contrast and brightness are set to give decent enough blacks, therein lies a little shadow detail when things don’t get too murky but the whites never clip. The black depth adds a little punch to the picture and does improve the colour perception.
There are no compression problems or edge enhancement, indeed there looks to have been very little in the way the print has been cleaned up and there are myriad of specks, pops and damage as well as very variable grain throughout the run time, though the beginning scene show the worst. Whilst some might view this as a defect, it’s not too serious, and does give an organic feel to the picture.
Blu-ray Sound QualityTwo tracks to choose from: English dts-HD MA 2.0 and 5.1 surround, I chose the latter. Surprisingly immersive for a re-engineered track with the surrounds adding much in the way of ambience. This is especially true of the Los Angelis shots where street noises (traffic, trains, pedestrians etc.) help to open up the feel of the piece, even if the scene is in an apartment.
The Blu-ray sports a surprisingly effective re-engineered soundtrack.The stage show within the film also has a good surround environment. Bass is very well handled, not plumbing subterranean depths, but there are plenty of LF effects to keep the sub rumbling away happily, never coming off as a ‘thick’ sound but tight and controlled. Dialogue is clear and precise, aimed to the frontal array. The score makes full use of the six speakers and gets decent stereo effects in. In all a well-rounded and immersive experience.
Blu-ray ExtrasAudio Commentary – From writer/director Clive Barker and hails from the previous DVD release of the film, when Barker’s voice wasn’t so difficult to listen to. He talks about every aspect of the film in amazing detail in a near non-stop barrage of information from scene specifics to overall aspects of the filmmaking process.
A Gathering of Magic featurette – A 20 minute 'making of' featurette featuring plenty of behind the scenes footage and interviews with cast and crew.
Original Behind the Scenes footage – At least that’s what the packaging describes ‘Illusion of Reality’ the full hour making of feature of which the above is an edited part – contains much more information about the film making process and is a terrific watch in its own right, the ‘Director’s cut’ of the featurette!
Deleted Scenes – About 2 minutes of scenes excised mainly for timing, Barker gives commentary as they are all unfinished without sound.
Drawing Boards – Newly recorded interview with storyboard artist Martin Mercer who tells us how he got involved, how crucial the work is and other aspects of working on this film with his friend Barker.
Photo Gallery – 15 minutes of images in a montage to the soundtrack.
A Note from Clive Barker – Exactly what it says, an introduction to the director’s cut of the film and how it came about and why this is the definitive version.
Theatrical Version - For those that want to watch the inferior cut.
Lord of Illusions Blu-ray VerdictClive Barker adapts one of his Book of Blood shorts into his third feature – Lord of Illusions – a story about the corruption of magic (that’s real magic used by magicians) by The Puritan, and how a private detective becomes embroiled in the sinister plot to resurrect him from the dead. Of course, being a Clive Barker adaptation, there is much more going on; love, death, resurrection, corruption, cultism, (real) magic, and typically for his way of storytelling, throws the viewing audience right into the action without ever explaining what is happening and who we are watching.
In his books this works out fine as there is time to work out exactly who is who and where the story is going, but on screen it is a little jarring. Whilst I applaud the attempt, ultimately the lack of character introduction and character arc means that you don’t really care about them; little or no chemistry is exhibited by the main protagonists and, as such, there is not much involvement. Having said all that the story is pure Barker and is told with a terrific noir horror feel as well as some nice gore and effects (at least in the director’s version) and is told with gusto and verve that pulls the story kicking and screaming into a very watchable horror film.
The big selling point is that both the theatrical and director’s cuts are presented on Blu-ray.
As a Blu-ray set, Shout! (or Scream! In this case) Factory has put together a very decent package; the picture is newly mastered and is brighter, cleaner and contains more detail than ever before. It’s not without its problems though, being rather ‘thin’ in colour and with plenty of original print defects. The surround track is a welcome surprise though being reasonably absorbing. The extras package is decent enough, everything from the previous DVDs are here, as well as a new interview with the storyboard artist. The big selling point though is that both the theatrical and director’s cuts are presented on Blu-ray, unlike the UK version which only had the Director’s on DVD.
You can buy Lord of Illusions Blu-ray (US import) Here
You can buy Lord of Illusions Blu-ray Here
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