• Highlander: 30th Anniversary Edition

    Released By: Lionsgate
    Released On: September 27, 2016.
    Director: Russell Mulcahy
    Cast:Christopher Lambert, Roxanne Hart, Clancy Brown, Sean Connery
    Year: 1986
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    The Film:

    Two sweaty, muscled masses of men circle each other at a wrestling match at New York City's Madison Square Gardens. A sold-out crowd. Shouts. Jeers. Screams for blood. The audience is on their feet. All except for one man. Russell Nash (Christopher Lambert) sits quietly in his seat with a far-off look in his eyes, ignoring the conversation from his fellow audience members. Visions of a battle in a long-ago land, the clashing of steel, the thunderous hooves of horses, run through his mind. Nash takes his leave, heading to the underground parking lot, where he's set upon by a man in a suit with lethal-looking sword. Nash pushes aside his overcoat to draw a sword of his own, and the two battle mercilessly, with the clashing of steel and the flash of lightning overwhelming in the concrete enclosure. One false move, and Nash is victorious, severing his opponent's head from his body. The victory, however, is short-lived, with Nash's flight from the scene of the crime cut short by police responders.

    Down at the station, Nash deftly avoids the questions from his captors. No, he doesn't know anything about a murder. He's a respected antique dealer, not a criminal. No, he's not a homosexual. No, he knows nothing about antique sales gone wrong. Returning to the scene of the crime, he discovers Forensics Investigator Brenda J. Wyatt (Roxanne Hart) digging through the clues left in the garage to discover who else was involved, and pulling mysterious, ancient fragments of steel from the concrete pillars. Nash realizes that she may be too close to finding out who he is; but even if she does, will anyone believe her?

    You see, Russell Nash is really Connor MacLeod, of the Clan MacLeod, a warrior from the Scottish Highlands....circa 1536. After suffering what should have been a fatal wound in battle against another Clan, led by The Kurgan (Clancy Brown), Nash/MacLeod is exiled from the village by one of his best friends, in an effort to save his life from those who believe his recovery is the work of Satan. Looking to move past his ordeal, he finds a happy life with a beautiful woman, a modest castle, and skill as a blacksmith, but MacLeod's life is about to get turned flipped upside-down once more with the arrival of Juan Sanchez Villa-Lobos Ramirez (Sean Connery), a sophisticated dandy with impressive sword skills. Ramirez fills MacLeod in on what he really is; an immortal warrior who travels the same path as Ramirez and The Kurgan, to outlast all other immortals until there is only one. Some, like The Kurgan, have decided to jump-start the process by cutting off the heads of the other immortals, which makes them not so immortal and allows the victor to gather the power of the deceased.

    Through the ages, MacLeod avoids death, courtesy of his immortal powers, and stealthily avoids The Kurgan, until the two arrive in present day New York City. And now, the police on his case and the lovely Brenda certain the he's involved in the parking garage beheading are the least of his worries, as the Kurgan shows up in studded leather punk rock glory to steal the power from his last living opponent. The backdrop of 1980's Manhattan will set the scene for the final battle, from which There Can Be Only One champion.

    1986's Highlander is an odd duck in so many ways, it's almost impossible to list them all. It's an ambitious undertaking, spanning eras and rounding up a substantial amount of talent. The effects are are not always great, but the choreography is impressive, and the element of fantasy allows Mulcahy and his team to present the film via an otherworldly aesthetic that makes it immensely watchable. A bombastic soundtrack, provided by Michael Kamen and Queen runs throughout, creating a somewhat timeless feeling, and adding to that is Mulcahy's style that brings to mind the many 80's music videos he was responsible for. Of course, it's a Cannon Group production, which means it ventures into the outrageous, but all of these things work to the advantage of the film. It's flashy and excessive, not a bad thing at all.

    THAT being said, there's a fair amount of cheese here, for better or for worse. Let's get that elephant in the room out of the way first; Christopher Lambert. While I've never been a big fan of Mr. Lambert, his Scottish dialect, unsuccessfully attempting to overcome his natural French accent, borders on comical. His brooding stares...are they meant to be sexy? Who knows. They will crack you up, though. Add to that the choice to have Sean Connery play a character named Juan Sanchez Villa-Lobos Ramirez, plus Clancy Brown's insane modern-day wardrobe, and you have absolute comedy. Still, like most films of its generation, Highlander's unintentional hilarity plays well in the pacing of the film, ensuring that dull moments are hard to find, and contributes to the overall sense of enjoyment and entertainment.


    Lionsgate, in conjunction with Studio Canal, bring Highlander: 30th Anniversary Edition to DVD in a 1.85:1 anamorphic transfer that was sourced from a recent 4K restoration. How does it look? Pretty damn good for the most part, though some scenes do appear questionable, but are more often a result of video effects/transition than any fault of the transfer. Blacks are solid, colour representation is dynamic; key for the number of eras that the film works in, capturing rolling Scottish hillsides and the like; while night scenes remain clear, key for the number of, er, night scenes on display. Despite the limited resolution of the DVD format, film grain is maintained pleasantly, and the print is free from dirt, damage, and debris. It should be noted that this "Director's Cut" is the 117-minute version of the film that is a closer representation of the European version that was released, being approximately 8 minutes longer than the US Theatrical Version.

    English Audio tracks are handled by a Dolby Digital 5.1 track, and a Dolby Digital 2.0. Truth be told, there's not too much apparent difference between these two tracks to my ears, with very conservative use of the surrounds taking place on the 5.1. Both tracks are adequate and clear, balanced well with dialogue remaining at the forefront. Range is decent, and there's an absence of hiss, clicks or pops.

    Subtitles are available during the feature in the form of English SDH and Spanish Subs.

    Extras on this set are spread out across two discs, a wise move with the size of the content. On the first disc with the feature film, we have a commentary with Russell Mulcahy, which features a lot of decent information, though Mulcahy seems fairly unenthusiastic. As such, you can expect a lot of gaps in the conversation as the Director discusses the technical aspects of the opening Skycam scene, the use of Connery's bathroom in the opening monologue, the use of transitions in the film, the confusion of the sequels and the audience reaction, and blanket statements on how things were pretty good during the shooting. It's not a great commentary, but it's worth a listen.

    A new Interview With Russell Mulcahy (23:01) sheds sheds some light on the man and his career, as he talks about his start as an amateur filmmaker that graduated to music video director for the likes of Elton John, AC/DC, Queen, and more famously, Duran Duran...whose "Hungry Like The Wolf" video led to Mulcahy's employment on Razorback. On the topic of Highlander, Russell deals out some anecdotes from the set and talks about working with Sean Connery and other actors. There are no subtitles for this interview.

    A new Interview with Christopher Lambert (20:33), features the actor discussing his reaction to the Highlander Script and his casting due to his Greystoke: The Legend of Tarzan sorta fame. He also discusses, among other things, his enthusiasm towards the idea of doing his own stunts, and Mulcahy's extreme attention to detail.

    Disc 2's supplements opens with the massive The Making Of Highlander (2:00:30), which surprisingly, features very little involvement from the cast. Split into four sections, we get scriptwriter and co-scriptwriter Gregory Widen and Peter Bellwood, respectively discussing the genesis of the script, that Widen essentially wrote while he was employed as a firefighter. The two also talk about scenes that didn't make it to filming, how Russell Mulcahy came to join the Highlander team, relationship between the characters and the film's life on home video....oh, and the sequels.

    Director of Photography Gerry Fisher and Set Decorator Allan Cameron are also on hand to talk about the film's fantasy element and how it allowed them to work outside of normal convention, as well as the awesome Skycam and utilizing creative transitions. The two also discuss the fun of working on a film that covered multiple periods and the challenges that it posed.

    Cast involvement comes courtesy of Roxanne Hart, who discussed her experiences being cast in the film and her character, as well as working with the other actors and some stories from the set. At two hours, this is a pretty massive piece, and very good at what it does feature, but one gets the feeling that a little more involvement from Mulcahy, Lambert, and even Clancy Brown would've made it much better.

    An opening text screen introduces 5 Deleted Scenes (6:13), discovered during the HD restoration of the film. These scenes are either longer or existed in different edits in the film, but unfortunately, featured no audio. They are presented here with music added to them, and they're nice to see, but in this form one shouldn't expect them to add much to the story.

    An Archival Interview with Christopher Lambert (8:54), in French with English subtitles features more of Mr. Lambert talking about his character and the plot of the film, as well as working with Mulcahy. Lambert also briefly discusses the stunt choreography in the film and the sequels.

    A Trailer for the film rounds out the supplements.

    The Final Word:

    Some will regard it as great, others will see nothing but cheese, but there can be no mistaking that this first entry in the Highlander series has achieved classic status. Lionsgate's DVD transfer looks as good as it can on this format, and a wealth of extras have been provided.