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Strange Illusion

3.5 out of 5 stars 28 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

The highly acclaimed DVD collection of low-budget auteur Edgar G. Ulmer's classic genre films continues with this fabled film noir. "Strange Illusion is another stylish low-budget feature directed by Edgar G. Ulmer," writes Carl Macek in Silver & Ward's indispensable guide "Film Noir," "The most interesting aspect of the film rests in its updating of Hamlet, complete with a message from beyond the grave and the faked insanity, into contemporary thriller. The asylum sequences are controlled visions of chaos and corruption, a mental hell sardonically defined by Ulmer." A Poverty Row suspense classic as only Ulmer made 'em.


Clean-cut American teen Jimmy Lydon is tormented by nightmares in which his deceased father warns him about Mom's new boyfriend, and he feigns madness to infiltrate a mental hospital where he suspects the answers lie. Yes, it's Hamlet refigured as a suburban film noir thriller with a psychiatric twist. Former Hollywood leading man Warren William is thoroughly wolfish as a silver-haired lothario whose slick charm and classy manners hide a disturbing taste for teenage girls, and Sally Eilers plays his mark, the young widow with two teenage kids and a sizable life insurance payoff. B-movie legend Edgar G. Ulmer (Detour) overcomes a starvation budget to create a modest little thriller with understated mood, simple but eerie dream sequences, and a creepy undercurrent of corruption and sexual deviance. --Sean Axmaker

Special Features

  • Collection of original theatrical trailers for Ulmer's films
  • Archive of original advertising art
  • Behind-the-scenes featurette, "The King of PRC" (16 min.)

Product Details

  • Actors: Jimmy Lydon, Sally Eilers, Warren William, Regis Toomey, Charles Arnt
  • Directors: Edgar G. Ulmer
  • Writers: Adele Comandini, Fritz Rotter
  • Producers: Leon Fromkess
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Black & White, NTSC
  • Language: English (Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono)
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated:
    Not Rated
  • Studio: Image Entertainment
  • DVD Release Date: September 18, 2001
  • Run Time: 87 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (28 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B00005NG0H
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #297,938 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "Strange Illusion" on IMDb

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By mirasreviews HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on May 28, 2005
Format: DVD
"Strange Illusion" was directed by the great B-movie director Edgar G. Ulmer, sometimes called "The Poet of Poverty Row" -meaning independent film and small studios, who is perhaps best known for making the famous and famously low-budget film noir "Detour" in 1946. "Strange Illusion" is more a conventional thriller than film noir, as it lacks film noir's introversion, alienation, and cynicism. It's a creepy but optimistic crime film that's well-conceived despite its shoestring budget and overstated acting. Ulmer's background in production design is evident in the thoughtful set design.

Paul Cartwright (James Lyndon) is a college student haunted by a dream in which an impostor, posing as Paul's deceased father, fools his mother and sister into accepting him into the family. Paul's father, an eminent criminologist, was killed in an unexplained car accident 2 years before, and left letters with his estate to be sent to Paul every few months. When Paul receives a letter from his father asking that he guard his mother and sister against unscrupulous associates, shortly after his troubling dream, Paul heads for home anxious as to what he might find. Paul's mother (Sally Eilers) is being romanced by a slick middle-aged bachelor named Brett Curtis (Warren William). When Curtis' words and actions recall his dream, and Curtis resembles a notorious criminal in his father's files, Paul becomes intent on finding out more about his mother's suitor.

"Strange Illusion" isn't subtle or multi-layered. It pretty much hits you over the head with these characters and their story. But this is a B-picture, probably part of a double bill, and it works as enjoyable, creepy, occasionally licentious entertainment. The film's flaw, looking at it from 60 years hence, is the character of Paul.
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Format: DVD
Review of the Alpha Video release.

Young Paul (James Lydon) isn't having a good time of it. His father has recently died, and, while on a fishing trip with avuncular family friend Dr. Martin Vincent (Regis Toomey), he dreams of his father's death. The dream convinces him that the death wasn't an accident, after all. Worried enough to cut their vacation short, they return home to find Paul's mother (Sally Eilers) engaged to the outwardly charming stranger, Brett Curtis (Warren William.) Before they leave Paul receives a letter from the grave. It seems the old man instructed his estate to send his son these epistles from beyond. The latest one warns against `unscrupulous imposters.' Cue a few bars from Schumann's Concerto (the score of the boy's premonitory dreams.)

Cross-cut to the manor - Paul's father was a judge and a `famed criminologist,' and if they sold the young man's house they'd probably be able to finance ten STRANGE ILLUSIONS. Famed criminologists did well for themselves back then, and the fatted calf he left for his young family sets oily wolf Brett Curtis off on the chase. Mother seems deeply in love, Paul is hesitant and then secretly opposed when Curtis repeats not only complete lines of dialogue from his dream but also tinkles a bar or two of Schumann's Concerto.

STRANGE ILLUSION borrows heavily from Shakespeare's Hamlet early on. The dead father communicating from the grave, the unavenged murder, the mother with the murderous beau. Being a big fan of suspense thrillers from the 40s I was salivating by the time Paul and the Doc stowed the rods and tackle and made for home. This was going to get weird.
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Format: VHS Tape
My never-ending search for Warren William movies eventually led me to "Strange Illusion", one of the last films of his career, in which he plays an honest to God creep!
Teenage Jimmy Lydon has been plagued by nightmares since his father's unsolved murder--and the latest one seems to suggest danger surrounding his mother. The next thing you know, mom announces she has a suitor, Warren William. Guess what? Uh huh, that's right. So this is partly David Copperfield/Mr. Murdstone and partly Hamlet/Claudius, as one reviewer made note. An unsavory twist is that Warren William has a fancy for underage girls, which doesn't bode well for Jimmy's girlfriend.
Still and all, I liked "Strange Illusion" because it is major camp on top of everything else--others in my family hated it, though. Ergo, I guess it's just one of those movies you have to make up your own mind about.
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Format: DVD
The film opens with a strange fog or mist surrounding Paul Cartwright (Jimmy Lydon) as he talks about his dead father, a criminologist who he idealized and emulates...soon his mother joins him in the shadowy dreamworld, and then a man....his father? but no, it's not, it's an imposter! there's a locket, given to mother, and a train crash, a truck...

Paul awakens, suddenly. Just a dream. He's in a bed, and above his is an old family friend, Dr. Vincent (Regis Toomey), who doesn't seem all that worried about the very powerful and realistic dream. The two go fishing. Paul is home for a visit from college, and though Dr. Vincent manages to calm him down, the dream never seems to go completely away, recurring in parts and seeming ever more real, especially when he meets his mother's new boyfriend, Brett Curtis (Warren William), a mysterious businessman with a clouded past. Soon Paul is following in his father's footsteps, convinced not only that Curtis is dangerous and not who he says he is, but that he may in fact be the man responsible for his father's death years ago.

This very low budget PRC production directed by Poverty Row master Edgar Ulmer is notable for the psychological angle that dominates the film - eventually Paul goes so far as to check himself into a sanitarium run by the shady Dr. Muhlbach (Charles Arnt), a friend of Curtis', to try to discover the link between the two and to keep his mother from making a terrible mistake. William is his usualy creepy, oily and shmoozing self and pretty well dominates the film, and Arnt is pretty solid in a sinister role as well.
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