Looking back at HIGHLANDER

Tom Pheby looks back at the original Highlander movie, and hopes there can be only one!

We've already had four sequels, a live action television show and a couple of animated series, but with film makers imaginations already exhausted it can't be long before 'Highlander' gets the upgrade treatment and becomes almost unrecognizable from the classic movie made in 1986. With that in mind I thought it was worth taking a look back at the original before someone like Michael Bay gets their explosion filled hands on it and tarnishes the memory forever.

This science fiction fantasy featured Christopher Lambert (a Frenchman) as Connor McCloud (a Scotsman). He is joined by Sean Connery (a Scotsman) playing Juan Sanchez Villa-Lobos Ramirez (an Egyptian/Spaniard). It may seem as if I'm being unnecessarily absurd (I am) but it's worth noting that Hollywood has a history of casting in such a blinkered, haphazard fashion. Lambert had previously played Tarzan (an Englishman) and Connery would go on to play Marko Ramius (a Russian from just outside Glasgow) in The Hunt for Red October. Although neither of them vaguely compare with Dick Van Dykes overly chirpy cockney in Walt Dismals Mary Poppin's!

Highlander is basically the story of a band of Immortals in hiding, waiting for the 'Gathering' when they will battle until only one survives, a sort of 'last man standing' on a stag night. Lambert wanders his way through the centuries, one assumes he's sober but at one point he is dressed in a kilt & sleeping in a puddle, so...

Not long after this he's in a dapper suit in a trendy part of New York in 1985, complaining about the size of his bagel and not knowing where the last 2,000 years went.

The action gets under way when McCloud exits a stadium and is confronted by Iman Fasil (another Immortal) who demands a fight to the death. Lambert's character grudgingly agrees and reluctantly decapitates the unfortunate 'Immortal'. As part of his reward McCloud absorbs thunder and lightning, the life force energy.

The flash backs are initially cool, although become annoying later. It's on one of these trip backs we meet Connery in 1541. He is at his absurd best, informing us of additional powers such as extra sensory perception achieved from 'the quickening' after each immortal is killed.

Alright, you have to suspend a fair bit of belief but that's half the fun. The movie is performed adequately, the script is slightly heavy and complicated, but if you can't forget about all that when you see a pair of hairy legs under a kilt then there's just no hope for you.

Lambert's McCloud never really gains our sympathy. He seems to summon up the emotions of an insurance salesman and we are oblivious to his pain, even when his wife dies from natural causes. As an audience, we are much more concerned with the next fight scene or seeing the delightfully demented Clancy Brown as The Kurgen. Brown is unmissable as the brooding, miserable, psychotic antagonist that stalks McCloud throughout the centuries, and I for one wouldn't want to meet him on a dark night.

One other aspect of the movie that works really well is its soundtrack. The music performed by Queen gives Highlander an extra atmosphere, that is apart from the wrist slitting Who Wants To Live Forever.

Highlander was, and is, an entertaining film, even if it is a bit like Bagpuss these days - saggy and frayed at the edges, but most of us loved it.

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