A movie special effects man is hired to fake a real-life mob killing for a witness protection plan, but finds his own life in danger.


4,817 ( 594)

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1 nomination. See more awards »


Cast overview, first billed only:
Ellen Keith
Martin Lipton
Col. Mason
Nicholas DeFranco
Capt. Jake Wallenger
Lt. Murdoch
Jossie DeGuzman ...
Marisa Velez (as Jossie deGuzman)
Jean De Baer ...
M'el Dowd ...
Joyce Lehman (Miss Lehman) (as M'eL Dowd)


A movies special effects man is hired by a government agency to help stage the assassination of a well known gangster. When the agency double crosses him, he uses his special effects to trap the gangster and the corrupt agents. Written by Rob Hartill

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Murder by Illusion See more »


Action | Thriller


R | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:





Release Date:

7 February 1986 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

F/X - Murder by Illusion  »

Box Office


$10,000,000 (estimated)


$20,603,715 (USA)

Company Credits

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:



Aspect Ratio:

1.66 : 1
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Did You Know?


(at around 9 mins) Posters for Zombie (1979) and Fade to Black (1980) are seen hanging up in Rollie Tyler's apartment in several scenes. Also, the film I Dismember Mama (1972) is mentioned (referred to by its alternate title 'I Dismember Mama'). See more »


As Defranco dies, his neck tie lies to his left, touching his trousers. Col. Mason removes the key from cross/pendent, and drops it on Defranco's chest. It lands on the tie. When McCarthy enters the room to check on the body, Defranco's shirt is opened wider, the necklace is moved, and the necktie is splayed, one end touching the floor, the other across his chest. See more »


[first lines]
The director: Cut! Cut! Cut! Cut! Cut! Cut! Cut! Cut! Great. Great. Great. We got it. Great. You ladies alright? What about you? You okay?
Rollie Tyler: Ellen, come on out of there.
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Crazy Credits

Just at the start of the end credits, the camera flashes briefly through out-take type shots of the eight principal players (Bryan Brown, Brian Dennehy, Diane Venora, Cliff De Young, Mason Adams, Jerry Orbach, Martha Gehman, and Joe Grifasi). Each actor smiles out-of-character at the camera as though in appreciation to the audience of their performances. See more »


Followed by F/X: The Series (1996) See more »


Performed by Huey Lewis & The News (as Huey Lewis and The News)
Written by Johnny Colla (as J. Colla) and Huey Lewis
Courtesy of Chrysalis Records Inc.
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User Reviews

FX before they were giving 'everything' away...
6 February 2007 | by (USA) – See all my reviews

Here is an eighties hit, of a great time. Man this 'story' has a lot! Two Brians, a Diane Venora, who is unconditionally into her roles, she really puts talent into her characters. Even when her 'Ellen', Rollie's friend was cut short. Rollie Tyler, is the man for special effects. He is smart and can set up the 'Set-up' with moderate to no trouble. Then comes the Wit-Sec Program people with a simple request. Put together a murder in a restaurant that would seem real. To get the Mob, off of this mobster in Wit-Sec's Back. Jerry Orbach, Nick DeFranco is the man who needs a 'Pardon' from his past. Rollie even after some thought thinks he can pull-it-off, so to speak. This is the beginning of Rollies troubles. I don't recall Orbach in a lot of tough or badguy roles, but I liked him as the wise-cracking 'wise guy'. Entering into the party mess, Leo (Dennehy) an aggressive New York cop, who doesn't like no for an answer and he doesn't like tricks. He is now on the case of the trick master. (Mason Adams) Col. Mason was quite an inter agency man. I had never seen Adams in a role like this and he creates more intrigue. His assistant and partner 'Lipton' (Cliff De Young) was a sort of trick inter agency man as well. Plays dumb really well, all the while watching everything and everyone, like a crocodile. The ending of this was a surprise as well for me and then as the closing scenes were being shown, they played the best song, I can't find it anywhere anymore. One of those superb 1980's films with a perfect wrap-up. Beautiful scenery and that 'tall' looking cinema scope effect at the movie's ending.

I recommend to those who like action, mystery and the 80's too. This is a thrill of a great time for me. (****)

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