Highlander (1986) – Russell Mulcahy

Highlander. Man I love this movie. I remember the first time I saw it. I had barely heard of it when I went to hang out with some new/old friends (story there for another time) and they put this movie on to wile away an afternoon. I was completely swept up in it, how cool was it to see sword fighting set in a modern day city, and the hint of a mythology and history to its universe (which was completely ruined by the ill thought out sequels, which didn’t bring back the original writer, Gregory Widen and screenwriters, but doesn’t mean I might not check them out).

The film follows a race of immortals who live among us, fighting for The Prize. They can only be killed by having their head removed, hence the swords. At the center of the story is Connor McLeod (Christopher Lambert) a Scottish highlander, who discovers his immortality in battle when he is attacked by the Kurgan (Clancy Brown).

When he doesn’t die, he learns of his nature from Ramirez (Sean Connery, in one of my favorite of his performances) and works and trains until the time of the Gathering, when there are few left, and they are drawn to a distant land for a final conflict until there can be only one to claim The Prize.

The story slips back and forth through time, giving backstory, and character beats as the police and a forensic investigator, Brenda (Roxanne Hart) investigate one of the immortal clashes that Connor was involved in. Brenda is drawn to Connor, while also trying to get the truth from him.

Connor isn’t quite a brooding character, though he mourns the loss of his friends, and his wife from centuries ago. He simply wants a quiet life, preparing for the Gathering, but things keep intruding, like the Kurgan, arriving for a final confrontation.

Through it all, there are fantastic songs by Queen (released on the album A Kind of Magic) including the beautiful Who Wants to Live Forever, great sword fights, and honestly, some really sparkling and quotable dialogue. This is the little cult film that could, it inspired a collection of sequels as well as three spinoff television series, including an animated one.

Highly enjoyable, this one, when it first came to my attention, felt like a cool secret that only those in the know knew about.

There is some great location shots, sweeping, epic countryside, which juxtapose nicely with the pavement, steam and steel of the city. The production works, perhaps it is, as Connor said, a kind of magic. It’s just an engaging, and entertaining film, it doesn’t explain everything about the immortals, and nor should it have to, there are a number of mysteries about these characters, their histories, and their abilities, and this makes for a much more interesting world.

And who wouldn’t want Queen singing the story of your life?

There can be only one! (But yes, I will check in on the two sequels. There are arguably four, but two of them tie directly into the television series mythology as opposed to the film mythology).

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