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1985 New York City; the battle to end all battles. The last remaining Immortals gather together to fight to the death: Decapitation alone can kill them, and victor alone can lay claim to "The Prize". Amongst the contestants is Connor MacLeod who fought his first battle in 1536 on the highlands of Scotland, and his most feared opponent, the evil Kurgan...
Highlander is one of those classic '80s movies that most 40-somethings remember fondly from their childhood. It's weird, because at different times in my life this movie has meant different things. When I was younger it was all about the sword fights, but now I'm older the love story and the fear of losing those you love to old age is what I mostly related to.
Immortal Scotsman, Connor MacLeod (Christopher Lambert), is one of a race of immortals who can only be killed when beheaded with a sword. During a fierce battle in the 1500s MacLeod is mortally wounded but he does not die. Banished from his clan, for being in league with the Devil, MacLeod learns from the mysterious Ramirez (Sean Connery) that he is of a race of immortals. These rare knights never age and never reproduce, they can only meet death by the blade of another of their kind. Leap forward to the present day and The Quickening has begun - in this time the remaining immortals are few and for one remaining soul a glorious prize awaits.
The movie's most memorable line: "There can be only one" was obviously not referring to the home media release. Over the years I've owned this movie on VHS, at least one of the standard DVD releases, the Immortal Edition DVD; the Special Edition Blu-ray and now this 30th Anniversary Blu-ray edition).
Now, if I were being cynical, I'd think that the "30th Anniversary" tag was nothing but a clever marketing ploy. True, this release does offer two new interview over 2009's Special Edition Blu-ray release, but they're hardly reason to pay out again for a movie you already own. But wait! This version of the movie has been restored by Deluxe London, which used a 4K scan of the original camera negative, followed by a full 4K workflow, with the approval of director Russell Mulcahy. To be fair I doubt this fact will sway many. The previous Blu-ray release was pretty impressive and the difference will only be noticeable if you have a viewing platform the size of a cinema screen.
For some reason the Blu-ray comes on two discs. Now, everyone knows that a single Blu-ray disc is capable of holding hours and hours of high definition material, so I'm not sure why there was the need to split this over two discs.
On disc one you get the movie; an audio commentary with director Russell Mulcahy; an Interview With Director Russell Mulcahy (22 min, 06 sec) and an Interview with Christopher Lambert (19 min, 44 sec). Now, I need to point out that all of the extras on this release are old and have been available on previous releases apart from the two interviews with Mulcahy and Lambert on this disc.
The audio commentary is fairly run-of-the-mill, but Mulcahy does reveal some interesting observations on the making of the movie. He explains why the opening camera shot has never really been seen again in the movies - apparently it was used soon afterwards on another picture and the camera fell, killing someone. He also gives us a brief history lesson, explaining that in actuality MacLeod's clan would have fought in the nude and certainly wouldn't have been wearing tartan - as it hadn't been invented. Mulcahy also comes clean about moving some rocks while on location - rocks that Queen Victoria was said to have stopped at to have a picnic on.
Another interesting point, made in the commentary, is that in the American version of the movie viewers don't realise that Connor's PA, Rachel, was rescued by him from the Nazis. The whole WWII segment was not available in the American cut of the movie. He also points out that the original actor cast in the role of the Nazi walked off set because he was getting bored of waiting around.
Disc two contains a few features that have been available on previous releases. We get a handful of German made featurettes. These run as one long feature: The Making of Highlander (1 hr, 55 sec, 41 sec) but can be played as individual featurettes: A Legend is Born; The Visual Style; A Strong Woman; and The Producer's Point of View.
A Legend is Born, features interviews with the movie's scriptwriter (Gregory Widen) and co-scriptwriter (Peter Bellwood). Widen reveals how the movie wasn't as serious as he wrote it and ended up a little to comic book in style. Even Clancy Brown complained to him that he thought his role should have been a little more serious. Bellowed also talks us through some plot threads that were talked about, but never saw the light of day. These include a scene where Connor is working in France as a window cleaner and accidentally falls on Napoleon - who has him hung for trying to kill him. The end result is Napoleon and Connor walking away from the gallows with Napoleon quizzing Connor on how he managed to survive the noose.
It was interesting to learn that the opening scene of the movie was originally scripted to be set at a hockey game. It was supposed to be the clashing of hockey sticks that reminded MacLeod of his Scottish sword battle. However, the National Hockey League didn't want anything to do with the movie and refused to let them film at a large hockey game.
The second part of the Making of featurette (The Visual Style) interviews director of photography (Gerry Fisher - who sadly died in 2014) and the set decorator (Allan Cameron) It was interesting to learn that originally the finale wasn't planned to take place on top of the Silvercup building, the script originally had the showdown on a roller coaster at Coney Island.
The third part (A Strong Woman) is an interview with Roxanne Hart, who played Brenda in the movie.
And finally, we have The Producer's Point of View, an interview with William N. Panzer (who sadly passed away in 2007) on his recollections of making the movie. This is probably the most interesting interview of the lot.
To round off we have a few more featurettes, starting with Deleted Scenes (5 min, 58 sec showcases 5 scenes without their original audio as it was unavailable); Archival Interview with Christopher Lambert (8 min, 32 sec piece in French with english subtitles. It looks to be about 10 years old, so certainly not from the time of the film's original release. It was interesting to hear that the fight scenes were challenging as he can't see to well without his glasses, and the fact that the Scottish extras would return to the set in the afternoons a little drunk, which led to a lot of minor accidents on set); and Trailer (2 min, 25 sec).
What is missing is a previous audio commentary with director Russell Mulcahy and producers Peter S. Davis and William N. Panzer which was available on early Region 1 (American region) DVDs.
It's still a great movie and if you haven't already picked this up on Blu-ray then now's your chance. However, if you already own the previous Blu-ray edition there seems little point in spending out again.
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