In the UK we have various ‘Freeview’ channels which air movies, some show older classics, like the Horror channel, which we have blogged about previously. Another is Sony’s ‘Moviemix’ channel. A film we discovered was a 1986 thriller called F/X: Murder by Illusion.
The film, directed by Robert Mandel, from a script by Gregory Fleeman & Robert T. Megginson, follows Roland ‘Rollie’ Tyler (Bryan Brown) an expert in movie special effects on low budget horror films.
Rollie is hired by the justice department to stage the murder of a mob informant, Nicholas DeFranco (Jerry Orbach). The supervisor, Edward Mason (Mason Adams) asks Rollie to be the man to act as the shooter.
The staged murder goes without a hitch until the Justice agent Lipton (Cliff De Young) picks Rollie up and subsequently tries to kill him!
Mason on hearing this tells Rollie to hide in a secret location. Another man turns up and is shot, which sees Rollie flee to his girlfriend Ellen’s (Diane Venora) home, where she is shot.
Rollie not knowing who he can now trust comes across homicide detective Leo McCarthy (Brian Dennehy) who has been interested in the case as he has been after DeFranco for years.
He soon discovers the staged murder was a set up which Mason was in on. Leo & Rollie team up to get justice. This involves using lots of Rollie’s FX skills.
It is a great thriller with an ending which saw Leo and Rollie get away with $15m dollars in Mafia Funds.
With the 2 set up for life with the $15m, it is somewhat surprising (but not unexpected) that 5 years later in 1991 a sequel arrived, FX2: The Deadly Art of Illusion followed.
Rollie now works as a toymaker, with no mention made to the large windfall he gained from the end of the first film. He now lives a quiet life with girlfriend Kim (Rachel Ticotin) and her son Chris (Dominic Zamprogna)
All that changes when Mike (Tom Mason) Kim’s ex and the father of Chris asks Rollie for his help to catch a serial killer. The setup goes wrong and Mike is killed.
Rollie begins to believe that he has once again been set up, this time by Ray (Philip Bosco) Mike’s boss at the NYPD! He quickly turns to his old friend Leo, who is now working as a P.I. to help him.
They soon find this goes much bigger than they expected, involving stolen medallions from the Catholic Church that have been missing for years.
Like the first one, this is a lot of fun to watch, once again we see some great special effects from Rollie, including stopping bad guys with sausages; mash and even baked beans.
The second, which we found on Netflix, directed by Richard Franklin, from a script by Bill Condon, was a bit more popcorn friendly to the action thriller of the original, but it is the chemistry between Brown and Dennehy that make these films a success.
The films have to date not been subjected to a remake, this could be in part be because the art forms used is no longer relevant. The Clown controlled by a suit made by Rollie in the sequel would probably now just be all done by CGI with motion capture.
However a TV spin-off, without the 2 leads, which we have never seen, followed in 1996 with 39 episodes, which featured Carrie-Anne Moss, who would of course go on to star in The Matrix trilogy.
The 2 films are great fun cult classics and you could see a lot worse
The 2 films will shortly be released on BluRay for the first time and you can find them here:
What other classic films have you seen recently? We would love to hear from you
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