Highlander (1986) Review

ssddfffAlthough the central character of Highlander is immortal it is still hard to believe that this brilliant blockbuster celebrates its 30th Anniversary this year with an amazing crystal clear 4K restoration on DVD and Blu-ray packed with brand new bonus material.

Having always had a soft spot for the movie I was eager to revisit it to find out if it had remained the brutal, highly entertaining and slightly barmy action horror I adored in my teenage years or if it had aged badly like a past it plastic surgery obsessed starlet. I was exceedingly happy to find out it was just as good as I remembered.

The story is an epic one telling the time traversing tale of Connor MacLeod (Christopher Lambert) born in 16th century Scotland in the harsh highlands (hence his nickname!) where a battle with a rival clan assisted by the menacing skull clad assassin known only as The Kurgan (Clancy Brown) leads to his untimely death.

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Although that may sound like the shortest Hollywood smash hit ever it turns out Conner recovers good as new much to the shock of his comrades who shun their magically reanimated friend driving him out from the village believing he is in league with Satan himself.dffffgg

Making a modest and quiet life for himself it is not until the arrival of the magnificently monikered Juan Sánchez Villa-Lobos Ramírez (Sean Connery) born in Egyptian in 896 BC who has traveled the earth for centuries in search of fellow immortals that Conner learns anything about his mysterious gifts and powers.

Ramírez trains Conner explaining that a time will come called The Quickening where all the remaining immortals will fight till the last man standing for an unknown reward simply called The Prize. It turns out that The Quickening takes place in New York in 1985 where Conner, now living as an antiques dealer selling his own historical possessions, becomes a police suspect after a one of the many battles taking place leads to him decapitating his foe in a stadium car park.

The case gets the attention of plucky forensic pathologist Brenda (Roxanne Hart) who becomes fascinated after she identifies his sword as a Japanese katana dated about 600 B.C. Unfortunately for Conner she is not the only one interested in him as The Kurgen has returned determined to finish what he started eons ago.

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The first thing that struck me about Highlander was the complexity of the story and style which jumps straight into the action before rebounding in time to fill in Conner’s life, loves and losses in a wonderful sophisticated and innovative way which is by no means dumbed down or simplified for the audience who are just expected to accept this bizarre and violent reality of immortality.

Perhaps the hardest thing to except is not this fighting fantasy but the crazed cornucopia of accents going on with Connery playing an Egyptian Spaniard with his trademark Scotch speech impediment, Lambert as a Scottish native with a Euro-trash inflection and Clancy as a 10th century BC Russian growling lines in perfect English.

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This said all the cast are on top form especially Clancy who is marvelously menacing and hilarious in equal measure and it’s easy to believe a globetrotting immortal would pick up a few dodgy dialects here and there during his epochs alive.

Like many horror monsters before the undying beings in Highlander follow strict rules and codes of conduct such as not being able to fight on consecrated ground and battling with a variety of ancient blades, the perfect weapon for head chopping which luckily for the gore hounds in the audience is the only way they can be killed.

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Again like many classic monsters even though they at first seem powerful and desirable their long lives are somewhat pointless and depressing trapped without the ability to reproduce and faced with watching anyone they love age and die while they always remain the same and Conner displays this tragic eternal conflict pushing Brenda away at first making their romance a much more dramatic and interesting one.

Blending action, horror, fantasy, romance and comedy seamlessly as a great blockbuster should there are tons of standout moments including the touching transition of time Conner spends with his true love Heather (Beatie Edney) till her death of old age and the war torn rescue of his modern day assistant Rachel (Sheila Gish) who he saved from the Nazi’s as a child during WWII.

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The fights are very well choreographed and the animated effects still work well all punctuated perfectly by the rocking 80’s soundtrack featuring some classic Queen hits such as Who Wants to Live Forever and A Kind of Magic that will have you involuntarily humming along.

Looking better than it did on its release all those years ago and still just as fantastically fun Highlander spawned film sequels and TV spin offs none sadly as clever, creative or complete as the original proving without a doubt there can be only one.

Movie Rating: ★★★★½ 

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