HIGHLANDER (1986)

PrintE-mail Written by Scott Varnham

Inspired by The Duellists and a visit to Scotland, Highlander tells us the story of immortal Connor MacLeod, a man born in 1518 and who cannot die unless decapitated by others like him. As the opening title card explains, these immortals fight to the death through the centuries as they battle to the last. The last one left standing receives the mysterious Prize, “power beyond imagination”. At its heart, it’s a simple film. The good guy is obvious; the bad guy is equally obvious. Hell, it’s an ‘80s film - the bad guy is the only Russian dude. The swordfights are neat too. We like swords.

But nearly everybody involved agrees that the real appeal of the film lies in its tragic love story, as Connor watches his wife grow old and die in his arms. All this is backed by a superb score, composed by the musical powerhouses of Queen and Michael Kamen (Lethal Weapon, Die Hard).

Let’s not forget the star power in this film. Clancy Brown (The Shawshank Redemption, Spongebob Squarepants) is the perfect physically intimidating opponent. In the end, it’s Sean Connery who steals the show as Connor’s wise Egyptian mentor.

There are only two new interviews on this release (the rest come from previous releases) and the cover art is bland. The main attraction is the 4K restoration; there is a clear improvement in this new release. The scenes which really benefit are anything taking place in the Highlands, as the gorgeous cinematography captures the bright colours and natural beauty of Scotland. Mind you, the transition from the battlefield through Connor’s eye still looks awful.

As this film is close to our hearts, it would be the easiest thing in the world to give it a 10-star rating. Yet we can’t bring ourselves to do it. It’s a flawed film, there’s no getting around that. Homophobic slurs are casually tossed around, women are damsels in distress and it’s frustrating to see some of the most important aspects of the film go unexplained. What exactly is the Quickening? Would Connor’s seduction actually work? Why is Connor wearing three layers in every New York scene (including a trench coat over a leather jacket)? But all this does help to give the film an air of mystery and depth.

In Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby, Will Ferrell’s character states that Highlander won the Academy Award for ‘best movie ever made’. It’s nowhere near that but it will always be one of our favourites. For a good feeling and a renewed sense of purpose, there’s nothing else like it. Films like this are why cinema is a medium worth keeping.

HIGHLANDER (1986) / CERT: 15 / DIRECTOR: RUSSELL MULCAHY / SCREENPLAY: GREGORY WIDEN, PETER BELLWOOD, LARRY FERGUSON / STARRING: CHRISTOPHER LAMBERT, ROXANNE HART, CLANCY BROWN, SEAN CONNERY / RELEASE DATE: JULY 11TH

 


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