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Blu-ray Review: Highlander (Director’s Cut)
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Highlander blu-rayHighlander
Director’s Cut
Blu-ray Edition
Directed by Russell Mulcahy
Starring Christopher Lambert, Clancy Brown, Sean Connery, Roxanne Hart
Lionsgate Home Entertainment
Release Date: November 2, 2010

There can be only one.

Even if you’ve never seen Highlander, chances are you’ve heard that phrase uttered countless times. It’s the battle cry of the sword-wielding Immortals in the 1986 fantasy-action film, starring Christopher Lambert.

Lambert appears as Connor MacLeod, a young Scotsman in the year 1536 who one day meets his fate on the battlefield at the hands of the Kurgan (Clancy Brown), a massive Slavic warrior out to slice Connor’s head from his neck. When Connor seemingly comes back to life after dying from his battle wounds, his superstitious clan banishes him, leaving him to build a new life for himself elsewhere. Five years later, a mysterious man named Ramirez (Sean Connery) seeks out Connor to become his mentor, explaining that they are of a group of Immortals who will eventually meet for The Gathering, where they will fight each other for The Prize until only one survives.

We learn about Connor’s early life through flashbacks, as the immortal now lives in present day (1985) New York City as antiques dealer Russell Nash, who’s currently being investigated by police after they catch him fleeing the scene where a man was found decapitated. Between dealing with the police and the probing questions from their overly curious forensics expert Brenda (Roxanne Hart), Connor also begins to feel the pull for The Gathering, which includes having to fight his old enemy The Kurgan, who’s wreaking havoc across the city in his quest to find and fight Connor.

The film frequently toggles between New York City in 1985 and Connor’s life in Scotland in the 1500s. Newcomers to Highlander might find the constant flashes between centuries confusing, as it’s about 30 minutes into the film before Ramirez arrives to explain what the hell is going on. Yes, there is a quick opening narration by Ramirez, but it doesn’t really prepare you much for what’s to come. Before Ramirez arrives — and what an arrival it is — you’re left to wonder why Russell in New York City wearing jeans and a trench coat is swordfighting a guy in an underground parking garage, and how it is that he also had a life as a Scotsman in the 1500s.

Once we get the full explanation, it all begins to make sense. While we wait for the inevitable Gathering to occur, we also get flashbacks to other times in Connor’s life, like when he humorously dueled with a mortal in the 1700s and fought the Nazis during World War II (a deleted scene that was restored and inserted into the director’s cut of the film).

The film introduced me to Christopher Lambert, who I instantly loved in the role. He didn’t go on to top Highlander, but I will say that if he’s in a movie, I will give it a chance. Though Connery isn’t in the film as much as I’d have liked, he manages to shine in every sequence he’s in, and Ramirez and Connor’s master/apprentice relationship is a great one to watch.

But, Clancy Brown’s evil Kurgan outshines every time he appears on scene. Though we know that the Immortals must one day fight each other till the death, the Kurgan inspires fear like no other opponent. He’s not content like the others to respectful fight as destined; no, he must terrorize not only his fellow Immortals, but also any humans that even remotely come across his path.

Aside from the fantasy elements, what really drew me to the film was the soundtrack by Queen. I was (and still am) a big fan of the band, and their songs — along with Michael Kamen’s score — propelled Highlander into another realm for me. The band’s “Princes of the Universe” triumphantly rocks the opening credits, while “Gimme the Prize” nails the Kurgan’s unrelenting drive to win The Prize. But the music is truly compelling when “Who Wants to Live Forever” plays during a montage of Connor’s long life with his wife Heather as she grows old while he retains his youthful appearance. Without Queen’s music, I don’t know if the film would have been hit the spot with me the way it did. This winning combination of rock music with fantasy film can probably be attributed to director Russell Mulcahy‘s background as a music video director in a time when music videos were at the forefront of pop culture.

Since first seeing it in the 1980s, Highlander has been one of my favorite movies of all time, and after hundreds of viewings, I’m still in love with it. Getting to see this director’s cut in Blu-ray was a real treat, if you’re a fellow fan of the movie, then this is a must-own. If you’ve never seen Highlander, I highly recommend grabbing this Blu-ray version, as the visual quality is great (aside from one or two quick scenes that appear slightly grainy) and this cut of the film is the most comprehensive.

Special Features

Deleted Scenes [HD]

Apparently, while they were creating the HD Master for this Blu-ray, they found five scenes that were extended or edited differently than in the final version of the film. Since no audio was available for these scenes, they weren’t integrated into the director’s cut shown on the Blu-ray. Instead, music was laid under the scenes and they were collected in this Deleted Scenes bonus feature. Some of the scenes have parts that are in black and white.

1- The opening sequence at the wrestling match at Madison Square Garden. This part shows a lot more of the wrestlers fighting in the ring with more referee interactions and crowd reactions.

2- Connor talking to Rachel about their past, and she’s crying because she’s afraid. This is before he goes off for the final confrontation.

3- Extended scene of when Brenda is hanging from the giant sign during the final battle.

4- The end of the final battle between Connor and the Kurgen.

5- Connor and Brenda in the Scottish Highlands.

Audio Commentary with Directed by Russell Mulcahy

This is feature-length audio commentary with the film’s director Russell Mulcahy. This was only his second film. I’d love to say that it’s incredibly insightful, but unfortunately, Mulcahy seems to have forgotten a lot of details on the film and a lot that he does remember, he seems dismissive about it. I would have loved to learn more about the mythos of Highlander, but the director was more keen on naming where certain scenes were shot (“This was in Wales, cut to London, back to Wales, now London, back in New York…”). At least he seems to have a sense of humor about the parts of the film that kind of don’t make sense (why the Scottish character has a French accent, and the Spanish character has a Scottish accent). If you love the film like I do, you’ll want to sit through the commentary for whatever bones Mulcahy those at us. Actually, it’s worth a listen just for the tidbits about the final battle sequence.

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