"There are two worlds of magic. One is the glittering domain of the illusionist. The other is a secret place, where magic is a terrifying reality. Here, men have the power of demons. And Death itself is an illusion." ~ from 'Lord of Illusions'
“The Last Illusion” is a short story written by none other than author and film director Clive Barker and is part of a collaboration of horror stories from Volume 6 of his book, “Books of Blood.” Barker had also written the screenplay for the movie, “Lord of Illusions” which was very loosely based on his short story.
Why do I say ‘loosely’? Well, in contrast to his novella, “The Hellbound Heart,” and his movie “Hellraiser,” of which had such minor differences between the two that it was hardly worth mentioning, “Lord of Illusions” was very different from the short story. Aside from some of the character names remaining the same, both the story itself and the dynamic between the characters were significantly changed for the big screen.
Like “Hellraiser,” I saw the movie first before I actually read the book "The Hellbound Heart" I had thoroughly enjoyed both! Although, I must admit that “Lord of Illusions” with its’ very different storyline, gave a better insight into the characters which actually were included in the book. For instance, the magician Philip Swann (played by Kevin J. O’Connor in the movie) was killed off within the first two pages of the story in the book, and further, did not die from an illusion gone horribly wrong as in the movie version. Furthermore, he fakes his death in order to protect his wife Dorothea (played by Famke Janssen) from Nix (Daniel Von Bergen) seeking his revenge on them for shooting, binding, then burying him "so deep that no one will ever find him." Dorothea was not the little girl who, in the beginning of the movie, was kidnapped by occult madman Nix (aka “The Puritan”) and years later married Swann ~ one of Nix’s ex-occult followers who helped saved her life. Instead, she is said to be a former prostitute in the book.
On the other hand, the troubled detective, Harry D’Amour, (as played by Scott Bakula) was taken from a recurring character of Clive Barker’s and is found in some of his other writings as well. In the book D’Amour is attracted to Dorothea (as in the movie version), but they never have a relationship other than detective-client. Another substantial difference are the characters of Nix and Butterfield, an avid follower of Nix and the movie’s catalyst in bringing back Nix from the “dead.” To start with, there is no such character named “Nix” in the book ~ only in the movie. And, Butterfield was Dorothea’s antagonist lawyer in the book version.
As with the novel, “The Hellbound Heart,” both the book and the movie offer us something captivating and exciting as only Barker can. And, although I do usually prefer that the two medias resemble one another as closely as possible, Barker does a wonderful job adding new characters to his changed storyline. Furthermore, he takes a 70-some page short story and turns it into a wonderfully successful and entertaining motion picture! As far as the barely recognizable storyline is concerned ~ Hey, it is his story both on and off screen and he can do what he wants with it. Most especially because he knows what he is doing and how to do it so very well!