HIGHLANDER is the 1986 cult classic about immortal warriors of different nationalities waging a battle across centuries, and its opening is a clash in its own right. It starts with Sean Connery narrating flowery fantasy movie text, jumps to credits cut rhythmically to a rockin Queen theme song, and before we know it the gorgeously grainy cinematography of Gerry Fisher (WISE BLOOD, THE NINTH CONFIGURATION, DEAD BANG) and the orchestra of Michael Kamen (DEAD ZONE, BRAZIL) are lavishing cinematic glory on a super-powered sword fight between trenchcoated acquaintances in the Madison Square Garden parking garage during a professional wrestling match. The stadium rock band influenced by opera butts up against the rock arranger turned classical score composer for a sword-and-sorcery meets urban-action cage match. And somehow this all feels perfectly natural.

The production itself is a battle royale of nationalities: British and American financiers, Australian director Russell Mulcahy, Frenchman Christopher Lambert playing Scottish, Scotsman Connery playing Egyptian-Spanish, carrying a katana. Classes, cultures and eras fit together in unexpected ways, forming a movie that feels a little closer to the neo-noir-and-loneliness cinematography-porn of BLADE RUNNER than to other action films of ’86 like THE DELTA FORCE, AVENGING FORCE, NO RETREAT NO SURRENDER, QUIET COOL, DANGEROUSLY CLOSE or NEVER TOO YOUNG TO DIE. And yet HIGHLANDER developed enough multi-generational populist appeal to be declared “best movie ever made” by Ricky Bobby in TALLADEGA NIGHTS.

From the dawn of 1986 they came… the movies, TV shows and cartoons that make up the HIGHLANDER franchise, moving through the decades wielding swords and lightning and shit.

The clever premise allows the story to take place both in 16th century Scotland and 1985 New York City (with a few other stops along the way). It’s able to use sword fights and magic but also car chases and homicide investigators. Because the characters are Immortals, they’re able to sustain lots of battle damage (stabbings, bullet wounds); because the one way to kill an Immortal is to cut off his head, the movie has no choice but to show a bunch of decapitations – always a plus in an action movie. Like a Terminator or a rogue alien invader, the Immortals shock and awe all the stock characters that inhabit a 1980s movie city: punks, priests, an old lady in a bonnet, even a Vietnam vet (Christopher Malcolm, LABYRINTH) who brings a machine gun to a sword fight (and loses). These eyewitnesses not only see alley sword duels, they see a decapitated corpse levitate in the air, emanating electricity and causing shit to explode left and right. But they hate cops, so they keep their mouths shut.

On a commentary track Mulcahy notes, “I had it rain in the car park. It makes no sense, but… it looks good.” It’s a nice summary of his cinematic philosophy, but the water actually comes from fire sprinklers, and makes sense to me. The lush, backlit style of the movie is uniquely Mulcahy. He pioneered both directing music videos (“Video Killed the Radio Star,” “Bette Davis Eyes,” “Hungry Like the Wolf,” “Total Eclipse of the Heart”) and going from videos to features. As in his first film, RAZORBACK, the director elevates an already strange genre story with meticulous attention to visuals and energetic pacing. Scenes that would be standard in other hands – an alley fight, a police raid, a sword duel in a warehouse – are vividly painted in strokes of light, smoke and color. Transitions between time periods are communicated with gimmicky wipes such as the one where the camera rises through the parking garage and the horizontal line of its ceiling becomes the plains of Scotland.

The highlands-liver of the title is Connor MacLeod (Lambert, who was known in the U.S. for GREYSTOKE, and had to learn English for the role). He was born in 1518, but we first meet him as an ’80s dude who wears a tan trenchcoat over jeans and white Diadora* sneakers. He doesn’t seem to have come to Madison Square Garden looking to fight the Immortal Iman Fasil (Peter Diamond, a.k.a. STAR WARS cantina patron Garouf Lafoe, who is also the stunt coordinator), but then was he given the tickets by mistake? Because man does he not seem to be a wrestling fan. There’s an incredible-even-for-today shot with the camera apparently hanging on wires and floating from the Jumbovision to the ring, across the crowd and up into the nosebleeds (a camera flash tries to disguise the one edit) where MacLeod seems to be the single solitary person not enjoying the show. The violence and bloodlust causes him to flash back to wars he fought in hundreds of years ago.

This doesn’t seem to be intentional, but I love that one of the tag teams shown are the southern-United-States-themed The Fabulous Freebirds. Here is a guy who very well may have experienced the civil war first hand, unimpressed by dumbasses waving the battle flag of the vanquished Confederacy.

Later, during a police interrogation, MacLeod mentions the wrestling being terrible. Maybe he does like wrestling but just thinks this is a poor iteration of it. He was obviously around to see Gorgeous George wrestle. And Frank Gotch. Not to mention Abraham Lincoln.

In addition to its aggressive stylishness, the beginning of this movie is unimpeachable in how it unrolls its weird mythology. Narrator Connery tells us about his people “from the dawn of time” who are “struggling to reach the time of The Gathering, when the few who remain will battle to the last.” McLeod is ready, if not thrilled, to take on this challenge with flair, even running across the tops of parked cars (just one of the ways this seems to have influenced I COME IN PEACE). I wish the action scenes weren’t so limited to one-on-one sword-clanging, but there are a few absurd touches, like when Fasil, a middle-aged-or-older gentleman in a suit and tie, does gratuitous backwards handsprings all the way from one end of the garage to the other. Strangely, these shots were removed from the 8-minutes shorter American theatrical version of the movie. And I will never forgive them for the insult.

The first time you see this movie this is all pretty surprising. We’ve seen these sorts of secret battles in other extreme lifestyles, such as ninja or vampire – basically, any movie where the world you live in is just a sugar coated topping. But I personally was not prepared for the transference of power known as The Quickening. Lightning shoots from the defeated corpse to MacLeod, in the process causing the windows and headlights of all the cars in the garage to explode and rain shards everywhere. He stashes his sword and tries to drive off but is immediately surrounded by cops.

I’m sure he could escape from prison if it came down to it, but any Immortal is gonna wanna stay under the radar so as not to have to deal with this kinda shit. Unless maybe they consider it an interesting challenge, but I don’t think that’s the case with MacLeod. Anyway, it’s fun to watch this magical being get investigated by jaded (note: also homophobic) cops, including a very slim but already bald Jon Polito (MILLER’S CROSSING).

In flashbacks we learn of MacLeod’s centuries-old feud with an Immortal barbarian called The Kurgan (Clancy Brown, PET SEMATARY II) and his mentorship by the flamboyant older Immortal Juan Sanchez Villa-Lobos Ramirez (Connery, THE LEAGUE OF EXTRAORDINARY GENTLEMEN), who teaches him about decapitation, The Quickening, and the inevitable occurrence of The Gathering, when the last remaining Immortals will battle until only one remains, at which point that last will receive “The Prize.”

Some of the montages include Ramirez and MacLeod practicing swords on mountain tops. I was impressed that they had such cool helicopter shots of the actors sparring near dangerous ledges, and then I noticed how clearly it wasn’t them. Stunt doubles are a proud and important tradition that I’m not knocking, but I still get a laugh from that moment when I switch over from completely buying the illusion to feeling like I’m watching cosplayers. You can’t unsee it.

Ramirez also teaches Connor the catchphrase “There can be only one,” which will be repeated throughout the series to a numbing degree. I’m afraid the only one will not be Ramirez, though, because 1) they only had 7 days to film with him and 2) it turns out back in the day he died protecting MacLeod’s second wife Heather (Beatie Edney, IN THE NAME OF THE FATHER) from The Kurgan. So MacLeod takes it personally when that bad-guy-from-WILLOW-skull-armor-wearing motherfucker turns up in ’80s New York City in punk attire, practicing swords in a seedy hotel room, trying to pick off the last of the super old guys.

MacLeod is living as “Russell Nash,” dealer (or mostly just collector) of rare antiquities. He seems to be pretty much a loner, only close to his sole employee, Rachel Ellenstein (Sheila Gish, MANSFIELD PARK), who looks about 15 years older than him but is actually his adopted daughter who he rescued during the Holocaust (a scene indefensibly removed for the American cut). Soon he will get to know one other woman, Brenda J. Wyatt (Roxanne Hart, OH, GOD! YOU DEVIL), police forensics consultant and author of the book A Metallurgical History of Ancient Sword-Making. She finds Fasil’s sword in the parking garage, says it’s worth a million dollars, and becomes obsessed with “The Head Hunter Case” for purely sword related reasons.

“Nash” is the main suspect, but only the first victim is his. The rest come from The Kurgan, for example he duels another Immortal named Sunda Kastagir (Hugh Quarshie, a.k.a. Captain Panaka from THE PHANTOM MENACE, a.k.a. Detective Joyce from NIGHTBREED) in an alley. The aforementioned ‘Nam vet happens to be driving by and sees this. Some crazy shit to just come across. And a whole crowd gathers.

MacLeod encounters Brenda when he goes back to the garage to get his sword, and he follows her into a bar and creeps her out, so she decides to follow him, and ends up right there when the Kurgan attacks him in an alley with his giant broadsword. I like when Kurgan sarcastically grunts “Nice to see you again, MacLeod,” and MacLeod says “Nice to see yo–aggggh!” as he gets his head banged into a pipe. Like he’s just real polite and can’t stop himself from saying “Nice to see you too” even in a situation like this. They only stop fighting because a police helicopter flies over and shines a light on them.

Obviously Brenda is intrigued by this crazy shit she witnesses, so she investigates “Nash” and figures out he’s been taking the names and social security numbers of dead babies. Only one thing to do now: fall in love. But MacLeod swore off that shit hundreds of years ago – that was one of the things Ramirez taught him. So he shows her his vault of ancient artifacts and has sex with her, but the next day at the zoo he says, “Brenda, it’s not gonna work. I can’t get involved. Not again.”

(How many times has he used that line?)

So like a vampire movie there’s melodrama surrounding the heightened stakes of their romance. It works, but to me his relationship with Rachel is the moving one. He arranges to transfer all his property to her before the fight with Kurgan. “You’re not coming back, are you?” she asks. “Even if you kill him, you’re not coming back.” Her lovingly watching him leave in the elevator, tears in her eyes, is the sweetest part of the movie.

The Kurgan is a great villain partly because he either doesn’t care or doesn’t know how to blend in the way the other Immortals do. His neck got sliced and he closes it shut with safety pins. He sloppily cuts off most of his hair (like, ten times worse than Kevin Bacon in DEATH SENTENCE) and explains, “I am in disguise. This way no one will recognize me.” He approaches Connor in a church – they’re forbidden to fight on holy ground – frightens some nuns and talks loudly about raping “Ramirez’ woman,” who he then realizes was actually MacLeod’s wife. She never told him even though she lived to die of natural causes. Fucked up.

The climactic sword fight takes place partly on top of a building, a downgrade from earlier plans of The Statue of Liberty or an amusement park. During the battle they knock over the giant letters of the Silvercup logo. I assumed that was a fictional dairy company or something – turns out it was a bakery that was turned into a movie studio in 1983 and had been used for many music videos and commercials. Maybe that’s how Mulcahy knew it. Other movies that filmed scenes there include GANGS OF NEW YORK, KRUSH GROOVE and THE LAST DRAGON.

And then there’s a long finale inside the building, shot in stunning silhouette, light reflecting on a flooded floor from behind a giant wall of windows that looms over, a ticking timebomb waiting to explode from the inevitable Quickening. And Connor doesn’t flinch, he stands and enjoys a cool pose as it happens.

It’s a Quickening worthy of a finale because not only does it have the highest volume of shattered glass, but the energy that enters him as he receives The Prize includes these hand-animated demons or ghosts or whatever:

Also in that sequence is an almost subliminal shot of Connor’s head exploding. My favorite thing I discovered in this movie by pausing is this frame of an unenthused Christopher Lambert mannequin head. Maybe I’ll use it as a profile pic somewhere.

The soundtrack is an important part of the movie’s identity. Wikipedia says that the neo-prog-rock band Marillion were offered the gig first, and turned it down because they were touring. According to an interview with Money Into Light, Mulcahy knew Queen through his friend Bruce Gowers, director of the “Bohemian Rhapsody” video, and had even visited the set of FLASH GORDON (with them?). He showed them 20 minutes of footage hoping they’d give him a song, but they insisted on each band member writing one. Mulcahy stayed over at the house during the recording sessions and fondly remembers Freddie Mercury cooking him breakfast.

Queen provides not only the theme song, “Princes of the Universe,” but “Gimme the Prize (Kurgan’s Theme),” “One Year of Love,” “Don’t Lose Your Head” and the corny earworms “A Kind of Magic” and “Who Wants to Live Forever.” The latter plays in a flashback about MacLeod watching his wife Heather grow old, making it a thrillingly operatic passage. That scene was where Pixar got the idea for the movie UP [citation needed].

Instead of a soundtrack, Queen released versions of those songs on the album A Kind of Magic, named after the song named after the line from the WWII flashback not originally shown in the States. The “Princes of the Universe” video includes clips from the movie and has most of the band wearing MacLeod-style trenchcoats, performing the song on a set of the Silvercup rooftop. Lambert, in costume, joins them on stage and briefly crosses swords with Mercury. This doesn’t quite count as a HIGHLANDER concept album, though, because it has a couple unrelated songs, including “One Vision” from IRON EAGLE.

Queen is also credited for “additional music,” which I think just refers to the weird part where the Kurgan starts singing “New York, New York” and then Freddie and the boys join in non-diegetically.

The existence of multiple sequels and TV spinoffs would seem to imply that being an Immortal brings you a life of fun adventures. This first movie begs to differ. Yes, Connor MacLeod has accumulated enough resources for an incredible home stocked with centuries worth of busts and shields and things. Not hoarder shit, but priceless treasures that are also personal mementos.

He likes to sit in there and reminisce about old times, but that includes all the wars he’s fought and that time all his kinsmen (and wife!) turned on him because he survived an impalement and they thought he was a witch. Sure, it was funny when he got in that drunken duel and kept getting up after the guy stabbed him. But that doesn’t make up for the hardest lesson he learned, that he can’t fall in love. For one, because inevitably you’ll outlive her and be crushed (see: Heather MacLeod), but in his case he also puts women in danger because of his Kurgan problem (see: also Heather MacLeod). Hundreds of years later he’s still hurt by the losses of Ramirez and his “bonny.”

The Kurgan definitely does not have long term relationships. He’s a real asshole, so it’s hard to imagine he has friends of any kind. He’s also a rapist. He enjoys hookers, but I doubt they consider him a very good customer.

And think about it – if Ramirez had lived, these two bros would have to be counting down the days to when they’re the only two left and then it sounds like they’d instinctively fight each other to the death. The only people who can truly relate to your experience as an Immortal or guide you in life are also doomed to become your enemies in the end. A truly tragic existence.

That’s why it’s so perfect when we find out what “The Prize” they’re all fighting over actually is. I mean yes, there’s some sort of power where he can hear the thoughts of everyone on earth, but the main thing is that he gets to be mortal again. So he can marry Brenda and they can have kids and grow old together.

I guess now that I think about it we mortals deal with similar problems. Everybody knows they’re most likely gonna outlive their dog, cat, bird or fish, but that doesn’t stop them. So stop whining, Highlander. Apparently in earlier drafts Immortals could have children. Connor had had 37 and there was a flashback to one of his son’s funerals. That’s alot of heartbreak. I hope he appreciates being spared that by rewrites.

The script (which was at some point titled THE DARK KNIGHT) was written by undergrad/firefighter Gregory Widen as his project for the UCLA screenwriting program. The idea came to him while looking at a suit of armor on a summer vacation to Scotland. He went on to write BACKDRAFT and THE PROPHECY, so he’s probly pretty high up in the “based on characters created by” credit rankings. Rewrites were by Peter Bellwood (ST. HELENS) & Larry Ferguson (BEVERLY HILLS COP II, THE HUNT FOR RED OCTOBER, ALIEN 3, MAXIMUM RISK, ROLLERBALL).

Though I think Mulcahy’s style seems elegant after decades of Michael Bay and stuff, many at the time saw it as frantic MTV bullshit. Walter Goodman wrote in the New York Times that

“Out of this union of academic excess and pop sensibility has come a cumbersome tale told with noise and flash, and it should surprise nobody if excerpts appear on the music video channel, especially since songs by Queen are part of the hodgepodge of a score that accompanies the action.”

Washington Post critic Paul Attanasio (who later wrote QUIZ SHOW and co-created Homicide: Life on the Street) wrote:

“And in the place of THE TERMINATOR‘s sure visual panache, Russell Mulcahy has directed at a perpetual scream. The camera style is grotesquely overwrought, a relentless exercise in technique for technique’s sake. It’s all here, folks: fancy wipes, expressionistic angles, quick-cut close-ups, stylized backlighting, camera moving in endless illogic. It’s as if a 15-minute history of film technique had been compiled by a psychotic.”

Fair enough, and I’ve heard people today say that Mulcahy’s films are just cool shots without meaning or rhythm. Even if you feel that way, you’ve got to at least slightly appreciate that a series known for long-lasting middlebrow appeal, continuing largely in cheesy syndicated television and DTV sequels, could’ve started with a movie this gorgeous. There were other good looking movies in 1986, but this one stands out.

Perhaps more objectively incorrect is Attanasio’s declaration that “the fey, cartoon-faced Lambert is no action hero.” Mulcahy’s intentionally un-Rambo-like casting is a master stroke, and I’m sure Lambert would prefer he’d been less accepted as an action hero, so as to avoid typecasting. He went on to star in FORTRESS 1 and 2, GUNMEN, THE HUNTED, MORTAL KOMBAT and MEAN GUNS.

But HIGHLANDER was not an immediate hit. In its opening weekend in the U.S. it placed below PRETTY IN PINK, HOUSE, DOWN AND OUT IN BEVERLY HILLS, THE COLOR PURPLE, HANNAH AND HER SISTERS and WILDCATS, none of which were in their first week. It didn’t quite make back its $19 million budget theatrically, but it became a home video staple. And it was popular enough in Europe to create demand for a sequel, which would happen five years later and… not go smoothly. Meet me tomorrow on Planet Zeist to discuss the fairly unlikely, highly unusual followup HIGHLANDER II: THE QUICKENING.

*I was interested in finding out what type of shoe he was wearing, which I had guessed were Reeboks. I was happy to find that the writer of a blog called Tears of Envy had also been curious and figured it out. This is the type of thing I love about the internet. A useful post for detail weirdos like me, and surely for some cosplayers.


Other action films released in 1986:


Other fantasy films released in 1986:


Of these, BIG TROUBLE IN LITTLE CHINA and THE GOLDEN CHILD share with HIGHLANDER the practice of fantasy in a contemporary urban setting, but both are much more comedic.

Also relevant: MANHUNTER, for its emphasis on style and music to elevate a genre story. The same could be said for BAND OF THE HAND and arguably TOP GUN.

This entry was posted on Wednesday, May 22nd, 2019 at 10:14 am and is filed under Action, Fantasy/Swords, Reviews. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

35 Responses to “Highlander”

  1. It’s funny but I think I’m pretty sure I’ve never actually watched Highlander before. I have seen the beginning because it’s proof that the Freebirds were in WWF at one point in time.

  2. Fred: We got ’em! We finally got ’em to review these!! #missionaccomplished

    Needless to say, I love this one warts and all and it always bugged me how critics shit on Mulcahy for not just phoning it in. Pretty sure I mentioned this in the RESIDENT EVIL: EXTINCTION thread, but I’ve always rooted for him and find it disappointing that his career stalled.

  3. It’s been so long since I saw this one and I don’t have any memory of parts 2 and 3 and only a bit of part 4. I was a fan of the TV show, but I guess you will talk about that later and so will I.

    Maybe my most interesting memory around this movie was how my mother thought that this was some extremely violent horror film, where people constantly chop each other’s heads off and she was disgusted that Sean Connery would appear in such a trash film. Of course when she saw it, she liked it.

  4. Imagine if Mulcahy had seen Witness, noticed Viggo Mortensen in his first feature film role, found out he was mutilingual/possibly immortal and cast him as Connor.

  5. I don’t know if it was this movie that did it (it was probably Greystoke, but whateves) but my Mom, and likely a fair number of 80’s Moms Thought Christopher Lambert to be majorly hot.

    I bring this up because when she would pick the film for movie night, well, I’m just saying I don’t see any other scenario as to how Knight Moves got to be family viewing.

  6. Oh man, one of my all-time favorites! I saw this one way too young at a sleepover as a kid and it blew my mind. It’s just such a great hook for a story (as evidenced by all the attempted sequels and spin-offs, none of which ever quite captured the magic of the original imo, but I definitely watched all of anyway, even the Raven spinoff that lasted like one season).

    Specifically, Clancy Brown’s performance especially is just one of my all-time favorite villains. So over the top, just having a BLAST being the evilest, toughest, immortalest dude he can be.

    Does anyone remember those Highlander catalogues they used to advertise on TV? I never got one, but the impression I remember was that you could outfit yourself with basically every longsword and trenchcoat you could ever imagine.

  7. I didn’t know this until just a few months ago, but there was an Anime version of Highlander directed by Yoshiaki Kawajiri (Wicked City, etc). It’s supposedly really good. And most intriguing to me….has music described as “A bizarre tribute to Queen’s original score.”

    It’s called HIGHLANDER THE SEARCH FOR VENGEANCE from 2007. Just a heads up if you didn’t know such a thing existed (I sure didn’t!)

  8. Just read the blurb on the side…I am assuming “and cartoon” means this one!

  9. Tigger- there actually was a 1990s cartoon as well, starring one of the many other immortal MacLeods that seem to be running around, but it was also like a crazy post apocalyptic piece too.

    Kinda weird how many hard R rated movies also got children’s cartoon spinoffs in the ‘90s when you think about it.

  10. Ah…maybe I knew that at the time!

    I am a Highlander fan…but not a superfan so I haven’t seen the TV show and the 90s cartoon slipped by me. Not sure how I came across hearing about the 2007 anime, but it immediatly intrigued me.

    Oh, one thing while reading this review…I am pretty sure Angel on Buffy was heavy inspired by McLeod. Their story is told in a similar fashion…contemporary but flashback of him drifting through history, having run ins with this, dodging run ins with that… Either Joss Weadon was inspired by Highlander (not out of possibility at all) or they both were inspired by the same thing. Anne Rice maybe?

    Anyway, I love, love, love this first flick! The second is an insteresting question mark. Don’t remember or haven’t seen the others. Grateful for this series of reviews….love Vern’s franchise overviews!!!

  11. Sternshein: The Freebirds were in the WWF, but for a brief stay in 1984. They were literally run out by Andre The Giant for being too lazy. Michael Hayes would later come back as announcer Dok Hendrix, and has maintained a role within the company ever since. Terry Gordy came back very briefly at the end of 96, under a mask supposedly because he needed the money and the company did it as a favor to Hayes.

    They would have been in the AWA at this time, as the other wrestlers in the match were Jim Brunzell, The Tonga Kid and Greg Gagne who were all at the time employed by them. It meant the match itself likely wasn’t filmed in Madison Square Garden, which at the time Vince McMahon was the only promoter with rights to run MSG (probably took place at the Meadowlands in nearby New Jersey). Originally the script called for it to be a hockey game, but the NHL refused because it emphasized the violent side of the sport.

    The Queen songs are what they are, some of them more outdated than others, but the best track has to be “Who Wants To Live Forever”. Seal sang it at the Freddie Mercury memorial show and did a tremendous job. What I really like most about it, is the way it also acts as a foil for Michael Kamen’s tremendous score. Pre-dating LETHAL WEAPON and of course DIE HARD, it shows his capabilities for the action genre just before he would add his unique touch to those franchises.

    As for the film itself I can’t say it’s anything great, but the concept itself is intriguing enough that I kind of mourn the fact nearly everything didn’t rise to that. The music is what really makes it aces for me, but that alone cannot carry a movie to be a classic in my opinion and I’m sure others. I was a little excited when a remake/reboot was in the cards, I thought maybe they could actually do it right. That all said I have seen a few episodes of the TV show recently, and while it may have been too late that got some of the emotional heft down a little better.

  12. I’m… I’m so happy…

  13. Vern, tell me you’re going to watch the TV show? It’s the best thing in the Highlander-verse. Season One starts out rough after the pilot but picks up with episode 13 “Band of Brothers” and is good from then on.

  14. Yeah, the Highlander cartoon is definitely in continuity with Highlander II: The Quickening. I feel like there were actually *two* Highlander cartoons, but that might just be Robocop and Stargate.

  15. Tawdry, did they do a Highlander cartoon with planet Zeist and then it was too late to change it when Mulcahy special editioned it out of the Renegade cut?

  16. I’ve always felt that in this universe where immortal warriors can only die when decapitated, there needed to be at least one character who wielded a flying guillotine. It’s the perfect weapon!

    Lookinf forward to reading the rest of the retrospective (if not the triggering of long-repressed Highlander trauma).

  17. Honestly, if I were doing a Highlander remake, I’d keep Zeist, but have if worked in from the Getgo.

  18. Wait, the first chick was his wife? I thought it was just a girlfriend.

  19. I first saw this at a pre-premier midnight showing in the 80’s, and there was a lot of hollering and clapping. Of course I became a fan right away. Bought a blu last year and revisited it. Still like it. But I would rather see Lambert in the Paris Subway than in the Scottish highlands.

  20. Nice to see that the clearly visible wires during the finale are digitally removed, though.

  21. I actually dreamed last night of the Christopher Lambert dummy head. If something bad happens today, I guess it tried to warn me. Or it caused it.

  22. Hey Vern – the soundtrack WAS actually released as a tie-in to the film EVERYWHERE but here. In the UK and Japan, the album and singles had covers featuring imagery from the film. Here, where the film didn’t do well theatrically, the movie stuff was tossed – replaced by the weird cartoons that wound up featured in the “A Kind of Magic” music video.

    And to The Kurgan up there – I had a few of those catalogs… and I bought a replica of Ramirez’s/Connor’s katana signed by Christophe, because I love this goddamned movie and I didn’t want a Highlander sword from a flea market…

  23. So here’s my immortal question: if you slice an immortal down the middle, does each half stay alive since you technically didn’t sever the neck?

    What if you just cut them under the shoulders?

  24. I can imagine an under the shoulder cut might not count as a fatality. In part three we see someone get sliced in half (although through the chest) and have his torse re-attach to the legs, if I remember right. Although in the TV show it was established that while every other wound heals quickly, sliced off body parts don’t grow back. One episode had a villain losing his hand in the end and later he returned with a prosthetic. Although considering how the immortals only use swords, there should be way more of them with one hand or at least less than 10 fingers.

  25. I love the fact that at one time this was considered with Clint Eastwood as Ramirez and Hulk Hogan as MacLeod!

  26. The TV Series is the best. Adrian Paul is a highly underrated actor/martial artist.

  27. I want to record that Mulcahy also made DEREK AND CLIVE GET THE HORN, which was the height of hilarity when I was in school but which I have no wish to revisit now.

    Unlike HIGHLANDER, which I’ve already watched again this year. I don’t have any numbers to back this up but I’m thinking it opened well in the UK. I saw it three times in the first couple of weeks and my (30+ year old) memory is that it was busy.

    In any case, I love this. And I love it not for the reasons we’re allowed to love it – because it’s camp, cheesy and ridiculous, – but because it is sincere and beautiful – hard to make Eilean Donan Castle look anything else – and exhilarating. I was never the biggest Queen fan, but the music works brilliantly, the Kurgan is an all time great villain, Connery was at the beginning of a late-career run of great performances.

    And, oh, Beatie Edney! I’ve never understood why her career wasn’t bigger, but anyone who wants to see how her old age makeup should’ve looked can check her out as Prudie in Poldark, which I believe plays in the Masterpiece slot on PBS in the US.

    I’m happy for those of you that love the sequels or the TV show, but in the end there can be only one!


  28. I heard somewhere that Highlander is a documentary and that it was shot in real time.

  29. Marillion being offered to do the soundtrack was interesting. They actually opened for Queen on their ’86 tour, which ended up being the last while Freddie was alive. IMDB said that their lead singer at the time was offered a role, but again had to turn it down because of touring commitments.

  30. Crazy how the openly gay Polito could play such homophobic trash with finesse. Still miss that guy. Man this reminds me. It’s probably been about 4 yrs since I last saw this. Just in time for this series I think a refresher is overdue.

  31. Oh and I pass by silvercup every morning on the way to work and despite it being the site of a lot of my fave movies known or forgotten (like ANALYZE THIS) it’s definitely this movie that comes to mind when I see that giant sign.

  32. Cinefantastique May 1986 interview with Russell Mulcahy: “…The opportunity to direct Highlander arose for Mulcahy while another project stalled creatively. Heavy Metal: The Movie was to be a combined effort between Mulcahy’s company MGMM (standing for Scott Millaney, Brian Grand, David Mallet and Mulcahy – the four kingpins of the worldwide video industry) and National Lampoon, with a budget of $16 million. ‘The theory was to combine everything we learned in the video field to try and do something different,” said Mulcahy. ‘Instead of doing just a pale Mad Max imitation we saw the chance to explore the directions our careers had taken within the context of the Heavy Metal format which is really only video clips in comic book form.’ The project foundered when the MGMM principals failed to agree on a central storyline…”

  33. Haven’t seen this since the first few years it was out when I was in college. I saw it at least twice, and the main things that have stuck with me through the years are Clancy Brown’s Kurgan and the overly clever scene transitions they use several times in the film (maybe only when they from past to present or present to past?). The one transition I still remember is going from McCleod NOT drowning in the lake to a fish tank in the present day.

  34. Picked up the 4K Blu-ray of the Director’s Cut that’s currently on sale and watched this for what I guess is the first time. This movie rips. The story really doesn’t make any sense, but it’s done with so much style. Love the camerawork, transitions, sets, locations. It’s straight-faced camp, but by the “Who Wants to Love Forever” sequence it had me in the palm of its hand.

    I like that you have a movie with a Frenchman playing a Scottish guy and a Scot playing an Egyptian by way of Spain, who have lived so long and traveled the world so much that they have weird new accents. The plot entails these immortal dudes, some of whom are allies, some of whom are archnemeses, all of whom are pitted against each other in violent competition, much like countries and nation-states today. The apotheosis of the film involves MacLeod absorbing (?) the thoughts of everyone in the world, evolving beyond cultural and societal barriers that divide us, able to push humanity forward through a holistic understanding of the planet’s population. Or something.

    I also dig how this opens with immortal Connor bored at a wrestling match, tired of his long life of violence (in contrast to young Connor who was happily off to war), and the sequel opens with old mortal Connor bored at an opera, probably yearning for a swordfight.

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