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Blu-ray Review: Highlander: 30th Anniversary Edition
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Highlander 30th anniversary image header

Highlander
30th Anniversary Edition – Director’s Cut
Blu-ray
Directed Russell Mulcahy
Starring Christopher Lambert, Roxanne Hart, Clancy Brown, Sean Connery
Lionsgate Home Video
Release date: September 27, 2016

Russell Mulcahy‘s 1986 feature Highlander centers on Connor MacLeod (Christopher Lambert), a man born in the Scottish Highlands in the 1500s who discovers he’s immortal after he miraculously recovers from a deadly wound he sustained during his first battle against a rival clan. The film seamlessly goes back and forth between MacLeod’s past in 16th century Scotland and his current life as antiques dealer Russell Nash in modern-day New York City, with a few other brief past-life flashbacks thrown in. Under the tutelage of Sean Connery‘s Ramírez, a fellow Immortal, MacLeod learns to swordfight and use his strength in preparation for the eventual Gathering, when all Immortals will be summoned together to fight for “The Prize.”

In modern-day, MacLeod comes under suspicion by the police after a man is found decapitated by an extremely rare broadsword, which was recovered at the crime scene by police forensics pathologist Brenda Wyatt (Roxanne Hart), who seeks to know more about the weapon and where it came from. Meanwhile, the Kurgan (Clancy Brown), the fierce warrior who dealt Connor that initial deadly blow back in Scotland, has arrived in New York City to seek the Highlander out and finish what he started so long ago.

While Highlander was only Mulcahy’s second feature film, he did have an extensive background in music videos during a time when MTV actually played music videos! So, the young director enlisted the rock band Queen to contribute the original soundtrack music, which turned out to be a fantastic accompaniment to this R-rated scifi/fantasy action story and its orchestral score by Michael Kamen.

Upon release in U.S. theaters in 1986, Highlander failed to woo audiences, which is hard to believe now since the film went on to become such a beloved cult classic. But this was the 80s, the era that ushered in the VHS home video rental boom, which really took off when Blockbuster stores began springing up everywhere. So while Highlander couldn’t get people in the seats, it did find a new life in home video. (Matter of fact, it was the very first VHS tape I owned; my mom bought it for me on sale for $15 at a local video store that was going out of business, thanks, no doubt, to the rise of Blockbuster. Back then, a new VHS movie costs around $75!) While the movie was meant to be a standalone tale, thanks to its premise that in the end “There can be only one” (a phrase from the film that has been quoted often by fans of the genre), its post-theater success and cult following eventually led to the creation of a lucrative franchise of movie sequels (something, ironically, diehard fans did NOT want), a long-running television series, original novels, comic books, video games, and more.

Now, here we are three decades years later, and Highlander is getting a special 30th Anniversary DVD and Blu-ray release of the Director’s Cut from Lionsgate Home Entertainment that gives the film itself a 4K restoration, and includes new bonus features. Highlander is one of my favorite films, and I have several VHS, DVD, and Blu-ray copies, so for someone like me, there has to be a reason for me to go out and buy a new edition. Also, I’m someone who’s always skeptical at first of “restorations” and “remasters” and such, but I can attest that the improved picture quality here is noticeable. The beautifully green Scottish landscapes are more clear and vibrant now, and even the intentionally gritty nighttime scenes are not as muddled. I like that it still looks like a classic 80s film on a whole except now it’s even easier on the eyes.

If you don’t already own Highlander, then getting this new 30th anniversary edition is the way to go. For fans like me who already have every edition, you might be tempted to get this one too for the improved picture quality and the new bonus features, such as two new interviews with director Russell Mulcahy and star Christopher Lambert, along with some archive interviews and a restored original theatrical trailer. The new edition also includes Mulcahy’s feature-length commentary and a 2-hour “Making of Highlander” documentary.

Bonus Features

BLU-RAY/DVD SPECIAL FEATURES
● The Making of Highlander documentary
● Deleted Scenes
● Interviews with Director Russell Mulcahy and Actor Christopher Lambert
● Archival Interview with Actor Christopher Lambert
● Audio Commentary by Director Russell Mulcahy
● Trailer

The Making of Highlander: This 2-hour documentary on the making of Highlander is divided into four parts, about 30 or so minutes each, and culled together from older interviews. This was part of previous some home video releases.
Part I: The Legend Begins. The script writers Gregory Widen and Peter Bellwood (Larry Ferguson is the third co-writer) reveal in interviews how they came up with the story; what the motivations are for the characters; how their original story differed from the screen version; and their intent to inject some comedy into all the action. They also discuss a sequence they had planned for MacLeod to encounter Napoleon, which never made it on screen. They also talk about the harsh response to Highlander II.
Part II: The Visual Style. Interviews with Director of Photography Gerry Fisher and Set Decorator Allan Cameron about the look of the film.
Part III: A Strong Woman. Interview with Roxanne Hart about her role as Brenda, the forensics expert who becomes MacLeod’s love interest in the modern-day sequences.
Part IV: The Producer’s Point of View Producer William N. Panser talks about the film. (A small part of his interview is cut off by music with credits.)

Deleted Scenes (6:13): There were 5 scenes that did not make the original HD transfer, or they were edited differently, so they are included here, some of it is without audio and some of it is in black and white. Some of it is just set to a score.

NEW Interview with Actor Christopher Lambert (20:23) Christopher Lambert talks in a recent interview about what made him take the starring, especially since the French actor did not really know how to speech English at the time!

NEW Interview with Director Russell Mulcahy (23:01) The film’s director Russell Mulcahy talks in a recent interview about making what was only his second movie, getting Queen to do the songs, and more.

Archival Interview with Actor Christopher Lambert (8:53) – This is an older interview with star Christopher Lambert where he speaks solely in his native French.

Audio Commentary by Director Russell Mulcahy: This is feature-length audio commentary done solely by the film’s director Mulcahy. You can tell he didn’t quite prepare for this, and that while this film is a cult classic, he doesn’t live and die by it. He does reveal plenty of tidbits and trivia about the making of the film, but the director is also honest about how producers didn’t like certain aspects and how no one expected it to be a hit. He also points out some things that fans would probably say while watching it (like Highlander has a sword inside his trench coat, but then can sit down at the bar without the sword sitting out). Even though its laughable how Mulcahy can’t even remember around what year the Scotland sequences take place (he says it was during 15 something; then says 1550, meanwhile, it says “1536” right on the screen!), he does reveal a wealth of information about how the music came about, as well as how exactly scenes were filmed and the use of practical effects and cell animation for the visuals in a time before CGI.

Trailer (2:31) – Here’s the original 2 1/2-minute theatrical trailer restored, showing how different these trailers were back in the 1980s as compared to today’s in-your-face action trailers.

Trailer

Highlander – New Trailer – Restored in stunning 4K


The DVD & Blu-ray release will include a brand new interview with Christopher Lambert and the director Russell Mulcahy. An immortal Scottish swordsman must confront the last of his immortal opponent, a murderously brutal barbarian who lusts for the fabled “Prize”.

Highlander 30th anniversary Blu-ray box art

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