#JFK : the greatest public act of stage magic illusion in modern history

A substitute body, corpse swapped from coffin to coffin, hide and reveal in Dealey Plaza, improvised coverup when the patsy lived, the real murderers away as part of the crows, walking calmly away (in one case with a rifle in a sports bag!).

David Copperfield eat your heart out.



Clive on Lord of Illusions

Harry takes a sheaf of papers, and hands them to Billy.
HARRY : You go through these. Go on!
Reluctantly, Billy does so. Harry picks up a faded photograph of the doorway to Nix’s house (with the sigil painted on it) and Butterfield the child standing in the sun. There are other cultists standing around. And in the doorway – a barely visible figure (and all the more intimidating for that) – is Nix.
HARRY : Wait a minute…
He stares at the boy’s face. The eyes are clearly different colours.
HARRY : That’s Butterfield…
BILLY : (points to man in doorway) And who’s that?
On Harry, staring at the ambiguous presence.
On the photograph of the shadowy figure.

HARRY : At a guess? The Puritan. Nix.
Billy picks up an etching, water-stained and dirty. It shows a horror we recognize: a man’s hand pressed into the flesh of another man’s head.
BILLY : Take a look at this.
HARRY : (looking at it) A Nix speciality?
Billy is getting subtly spooked now. He puts the etching down and starts to go through others in the series. We glimpse them as he does so. In one, a man regurgitates a serpentine form made of flame. In another, a man stares at his own hand which is stripped of flesh. There is no bone beneath. Only a form of solid blackness. In a third, we see a head with a slit in the middle of the brow, emanating darkness.
BILLY : I don’t know any of these tricks…
Harry studies the etchings.
HARRY : (a slow burn) Maybe they’re not tricks.
BILLY : (mystified) I mean there’s no instructions – (realizes what Harry said) What do you mean they’re not tricks?
HARRY : What did Vinovich say? Something about walking a path between –
BILLY : Trickery and divinity. Yeah, he says that all the time.
HARRY : That’s because he knew. He’d seen these files and he knew.

Draft Three – February 1994

“I’m just working on a draft of that [Last Illusion] [ August 1991]. It won’t be the next movie to go, [planned to be Eden USA] but it may very well be the one after that.”

Boundless Imajination

By WC Stroby, (i) Fangoria, No 109, January 1992 (ii) Horror Zone, No1, August 1992

It’s a very rich palette and it’s as far from violating girls in showers as you can possibly get. I wanted to do a completely different kind of movie. I feel like the other kinds of horror movies, including the ‘Hellraiser’ movies, have sort of run their course and it’s time to look again and see if we can make something fresh. I’ve long considered him [Harry d’Amour] an interesting character to put into movies, partly because horror movies of the last ten years have been dominated by the villains… and there are limitations that come with that. One of the obvious limitations is that the more often you see a villain, the less scary they are. It’s the law of diminishing returns… I thought if I’m going to make another series of horror movies, why not base it around the hero. Harry can be involved in a series of very different confrontations from movie to movie. You’re almost taking a little leaf from ‘Die Hard’ or ‘Indiana Jones’ and transferring that to the horror genre. The intention of this movie is to give people a profound sense of dread and send them out of the movie thinking, ‘I tasted something, I felt something.'”

Lord Of Illusions – Filming The Books Of Blood

By Michael Beeler, Cinefantastique, Vol 26 No 3, April 1995

“Lord Of Illusions uniquely parallels something that’s going on in my own art all the time. It deals with illusions and illusionists, and illusionists provide, for bourgeois audiences, narratives – they are, loosely speaking, narratives in the form of tricks or illusions – that seem to be pieces of frivolous entertainment but are, at root, extremely rich and dark tales of death and resurrection. There’s a little exchange in Lord Of Illusions in which Valentin is making the distinction between magic and illusions. He and Harry are driving Script cover and Valentin says, “Illusions are trickery”, and produces a flower out of his hand. Then he scrunches the flower up and shows his bare hand, saying “Magicians do it for real”. There’s a beat and then Harry leans across and says, “Where did the flower go?” And in that line – which, by the way, was an ad-lib by Mr Bakula – is the voice of the audience. “Where did the flower go? I know it’s a trick, I know it’s not real magic, but where did the flower go?” I wanted to lay into the texture of Swann’s illusions images which somehow or other recurred elsewhere in the narrative. So we have sand, obviously because of all that desert stuff. We have a sarcophagus, which speaks for itself. We have skeletons, we have fire, we have the demon statue… In other words, there on the stage are images which in some way or other refer to other elements of the movie. I don’t necessarily expect the audience to pick up on that, but it was a way for us to make some choices out of the millions of directions which we could probably have gone.”,

A Kind Of Magic

By Maitland McDonagh, The Dark Side No 45, April/May 1995

“‘The Last Illusion’ was almost a Philip Marlowe type of thing, but this movie isn’t a homage to ’40’s noir. This isn’t going to be about Venetian blinds and ashtrays with a cigarette left burning with lipstick on it. We’re really just focusing on this everyman who is drawn into the heart of darkness over and over again because of some karmic thing which he has no power over. My belief is that the movie on the page delivers. My duty now is to put that on screen as clearly as possible, with as few compromises as possible. We have a tight budget and obviously we may have some compromises. I just have to know what movie I want to put up on screen. The one thing I guarantee is that it will be a horror film unlike any you’ve seen before.”

The Conjuring Of Lord Of Illusions Part 1 – Preproduction

By Anthony C Ferrante, Fangoria No 138, November 1994

“The audience reaction was good, but the feeling was that the movie should be shorter. I’ll be tightening the talk and playing up the effects and scares. I’m actually very pleased; it’s been a rough postproduction and, in the long run, with the extra time, we will have a better movie.”

The Conjuring Of Lord Of Illusions Part 4 – Postproduction

By Anthony C. Ferrante, Fangoria, No 141, April 1995

[on first test screening] “By and large, they didn’t like the explicitness of the sex. It surprised the hell out me. I don’t know why, from the bottom of my heart, I don’t know. I think horror fans are used to sex scenes being a prelude to death. They’re used to sex scenes being about murder and this one wasn’t. If one of the characters got out of bed and got a spear through the chest, they might have been perfectly content. They felt people talked too much. I think audiences are used to horror movies being 90 minutes and then get the hell out of there and our theatrical version is 104 minutes, so it’s still 14 minutes longer than a Nightmare On Elm Street picture. I happen to like movies that spend some time on character… . One of the things that happens is that, if you take a few dialogue scenes out and pare them down, the acts of violence get closer together and the feel of the movie is more intense. Now suddenly you have this picture that is really going for the jugular and doesn’t give you a moment to breathe since, of course, I took out what few moments there were where the audience was allowed to breathe… . At the second screening the numbers doubled. They said it was the scariest movie they’d ever seen. The sex was pulled back, the violence was not. I did not realise how much people would be freaked out by the cultist stuff and the notion of cults. The whole sort of Manson/Koresh thing that goes on in the movie really got under people’s skins with an intensity I didn’t anticipate and it freaked the hell out of them. I was also surprised by the little pieces of violence that really distressed people. The cutting of one character’s lips bothered them. Sometimes it’s a lesson. You can have these incredibly elaborate special effects and they may not be as devastating to people as something so small and intimate.

The Conjuring Of Lord Of Illusions Part 5 – The Last Interview

By Anthony C. Ferrante, Fangoria, No 146, September 1995

“I’ve always loved illusionists. There’s always a dark side, and illusionists present them to you. It’s very much life-and-death illusion – you sawed the woman in half, but she’s still alive. They’re presented as breezy , funny, entertaining pieces – but, subtexturally, they’re stories of death and resurrection. I love stories that deal with those things, and ‘The Last Illusion’ is a movie about just that. It’s also about magic… and it’s about monsters. It will be very much an independent. There’s lots of stuff in the movie that a studio wouldn’t do. I don’t want to give anything away, but we’re going to break some rules. Besides, the most interesting stuff in horror movies has been done outside the studios. There are very few examples of mainstream horror movies that work.”

Barker Looks Back

By Anthony C Ferrante, Bloody Best Of Fangoria, No 12, September 1993

“This extra stuff includes intense material, dialogue material, subtext material – a lot of stuff that helps people understand what the movie is all about. It’s not Storyboard of the 'hokey' guardian 

attacking Billy Who by ? twelve and a half minutes of blood and gore, it’s actually the thematic guts of the movie. What MGM/UA did, and I’ll think they’re wrong till the end of my days, was say that this isn’t enough of a horror movie, we want to make it more intense. It was a bad commercial decision in my view. They wanted to take out some of the detective elements. I said no. Part of the point of the movie is that is a genre-breaking movie. It moves from film noir to horror and back and forth and that’s what makes the movie work. But MGM/UA was adamant. They said, “We’re gonna take this stuff out, either you do it or we do it.” So I said I would take it out, so long as they promised me that a director’s cut would come out on video and laser disc. Worldwide… Putting together a special edition laser disc like Lord Of Illusions is very time consuming and it does change the way you look at the entire film making process, the outtakes and deletions. When Hellraiser was shot, the biggest task was simply to finish the project. Nine years on, we only now realise how valuable all the outtakes and the supplementary stuff is. Finding out that someone was on set one day with a video camera is incredibly exciting. All those throwaway things become like gold dust. Ironically, Lord Of Illusions probably looks better on laser disc than it did theatrically. There are lots of tricks you can do during the film to video transfer. We did some work on the special effects sequences. If a prosthetic appliance looks too rubbery and fake, we can take some of the shine off it. We can colour correct the images. Improve the computer generated effects sequences…”

Lord Of Illusion

By [ ], Home Cinema Choice, September 1996

“Horror movies haven’t really explored magic, so it’s the perfect background for a film which, I hope, will scare the bejesus out of people. But while I pray that people will be so frightened that their asses will be separated from their seats, I want them to realise that they’re in a world which is totally believable. This movie is set in such places as Bel Air and Hollywood, locations which we all know. It’s a challenge to make a movie which connects with the audience and gives them brand new material which nobody has ever seen before – something which is really important. Instaed of the sterotypical ‘girl stalked in shower’ scenes, we’re combining a film noir thriller with the darkest and most horrific elements. Quite honestly, I’m hoping to invoke the same feeling of dread and anxiety that I initiated when I directed the first Hellraiser movie. In that film, you never knew what to expect – the horror that unfolds within the course of that story is totally unexpected and unique. So we really push the envelope in this film and, as fans will know, that’s something which I’ve become quite famous for doing.”

Lord Of Illusions – A Fable Of Death And Resurrection

By Simon Bacal, Sci-Fi Entertainment, Vol 1 No 5, February 1995

“One of the things I wanted to do with Nix was to make him very uncharismatic. There is nothing appealing about this man and, towards the end of the movie, when the temptation would be to go into apocalyptic mode, the movie pulls in exactly the opposite direction. Nix becomes this frail, rather pathetic creature. In one of the final scenes, Dorothea asks the metaphysical question, “What are you?” and Nix says, “I’m a man who wanted to be a god and changed his mind.” And I like that. I like the fact that he is just a man. He wanted to be something more but he gave up on this useless endeavour. He’s murdered all his acolytes, his devotees, and now he’s alone in the dark. I actively went after that, even though it was flying in the face of what the audience expects.”

Clive Barker – Lord Of Illusions

By Nigel Lloyd, SFX, No 16, September 1996

“We’re not skimping on the viscera – [Lord of Illusions is] a pretty strong movie. It also has a lot of the qualities which will endear it to an audience that wouldn’t be so keen on the viscera flying. I think we’re making a class act which has eruptions of weirdness and violence. This environment is sort of like a little corner of hell. And I like that combination. The picture has a big budget look and feel to it – it’s beautifully performed and photographed – but then you’ve got a lot of this nastiness which you normally don’t get with pictures like this.
“This isn’t an homage to 1940’s detective movies like ‘Angel Heart’ was. This is not going to be a movie full of immaculately backlit women with a lot of smoke. This is not going to be about Venetian blinds and ashtrays with cigarettes left burning with lipstick on ’em. What we have, though, is a hip, interesting, brave Everyman who is drawn in the Heart of Darkness over and over again because of some karmic thing which he has no power over. I think that will be fun to watch.
“I wanted to make a movie that scared the fuck out of people. The short version does that better. Ironically, the people who didn’t like the movie said, ‘This movie is too fucking weird’ or ‘I was scared shitless. I don’t like this. I don’t want this done to me.’ Now as far as I’m concerned, even though they didn’t like the movie, they at least didn’t like it for the right reasons. Nobody said, ‘The movie didn’t affect me.’ ”

Barker’s Bite

By Anthony C. Ferrante, huH, Issue No 12, August 1995

“Nix is a villain I think we can relate to; he’s not unlike Charlie Manson. Halfway through shooting this picture, somebody came in with a newspaper with a headline about these mass deaths in a cult in Switzerland. I don’t think we even yet know quite what happened there. The craziness of Waco, the craziness of Jonestown, the Manson stuff – Nix is the embodiment of the charismatic leader who says, “Follow me to death,” which is something that’s part of our culture. So I thought, Supposing we had a villain like that, but instead of this guy just being somebody who can weave words and make promises, he genuinely has a greater power? That, to me, is scary and interesting.
“There are two huge special effects gags in the movie. In one of them, Nix calls all his cultists together and causes a storm in the room in which they’re standing. Production art by ? of Swann's 'death' The rain comes down with such force that it turns the ground beneath them to mud and they’re all sucked to their deaths. It was a mess! But the biggest logistical challenge was the magic-show accident in which Swann dies. We had this huge stage set with dancers and 10 swords hanging above him-and he’s going to get skewered by eight of them. He’s going around and the swords are going around, and the dancers are dancing and there’s a thousand people in the audience. We shot it at the Pantages Theatre in Hollywood, which was very cool because it’s a place with a real history; it’s where I first saw Copperfield, in fact. And there we were, staging this magic act which goes horribly, disastrously and bloodily wrong!
[are cast bothered by the content ever?] “Oh. Yes! And crew members, too. We have a scene with an 11-year-old girl and a baboon at the beginning of Lord of Illusions that got the crew very squeamish. But that’s part of what I do. Pushing a little bit further than anyone else is how I came into this business; I got my reputation by going places other people haven’t gone. And I don’t want to stop doing that. It isn’t always going to be about horror: It can be as much about fantastical journeys as it can be about frightening ones.”

Clive Barker’s Lurid Fascination

By Dan Lamanna, Cinescape, No [ ], January 1995

“In Lord of Illusions, I got to do all kinds of shit that I wanted to do. The bondage stuff in there, the girl and the ape, all kinds of shit. It’s very funny because Frank Mancuso was head of MGM/UA at that time, and he didn’t like the movie at all. There was one shot of a dead child on the floor, and he said, ‘This shot will never appear in an MGM/UA movie.’ As it turns out, it did, because I took it out, and then when he wasn’t looking, I put it back in. I knew he’d never bother to see the film again.”

Fuck The Canon

By Dennis Cooper, LA Weekly, Literary Supplement, 31 August – 6 September 2001

“I’ve travelled a long way with Harry D’Amour. He first appeared in a story I wrote almost a decade ago now, ‘The Last Illusion’. Since then , I’ve recounted his life and troubled times in two novels and some short fiction. I’ve not made the road very easy for him. His destiny, it seems, is to be in constant struggle with what might be loosely called ‘the forces of darkness’, though he claims he’d be quite content investigating insurance fraud. His reluctance is, I trust, part of his charm. He’s not a Van Helsing, defiantly facing off against some implacable evil with faith and holy water. His antecedents are the troubled, weary and often lovelorn heroes of film noir – private detectives with an eye for a beautiful widow and an aversion to razors . It therefore seems perfectly appropriate that Harry finds his way onto the cinema screen, where his world can intersect with that of the grand guignol horror movies I’ve had the pleasure to create hitherto. This self-willed collision of genres – horror movie and detective film – caused the studio some headaches when I first screened ‘Lord of Illusions’. They wanted a simpler picture, with less emphasis on the noirish mood. I reluctantly made some excisions, on the understanding that the director’s cut would be available on tape and laser disc. So here it is. The complete, unexpurgated ‘Lord of Illusions’. I think the picture is much stronger in this version than in its theatrical incarnation: the characters richer, the plot clearer, the atmosphere darker. Thanks to the vision of my colleagues at United Artists, this cut was not cobbled together after the fact. Simon Boswell scored this version. We mixed it, dubbed it and timed it. In short, we did everything but put it on the big screen. Ah well… This is, quite simply , the definitive ‘Lord of Illusions’ – the version by which I wish the work to be judged. ”

Lord Of Illusions – Liner Notes

Unrated Director’s Cut, 1996