Friday, January 1, 2021

Highlander (1986)


2020 was one of the rougher decades we've had. Rougher than the 2010's, 2000's, 1990's... it's been a while since we had a decade as long and challenging as 2020 was. To celebrate being done with it, here we go. The movie where it all began. I haven't seen this in ages. The show gets compared to the original movie a lot, so I'm interested to see if the movie holds up after all this time. My belief that the show is (usually) the superior of the two might not survive this viewing of the movie, we'll see. There can be only one!

We start with this narration by Ramirez, played by Sean Connery. Another thing I'm going to try to do with this viewing: See the movie through the eyes of someone in 1986 who had no idea what all of this was about. Already it's sounding interesting. Immortal people? What's the gathering?

Already this story has a big difference from the show: The immortals here, at some point, stopped being born. A lot of them are super-old, as evidenced by "from the dawn of time". And now their numbers have dwindled to a mere four. An issue I've had with the show is that it feels like there are way too many immortals, with more being born (...found) all the time. They're a bit less special that way. Here, they're ultra-rare, ultra-old, and soon to be gone altogether.

Cut to RASSLIN. They've got some southern NWA here with the Freebirds battling some other dudes. 

It's worth noting that this part makes wrestling look skeevy and trashy AF, and the fans look like raving lunatics. It's like watching the beginning of a Dark Side of the Ring episode. Today on Dark Side of the Ring: The Racist Underbelly of the Industry, plus the sordid tale of a man found beheaded in Madison Square Garden.

Here's our hero, Connor Macleod, looking not a day over Hangman Page. You can tell this rasslin' really isn't his scene. He's a homebody - but not as much of a boy scout as Duncan - so he doesn't get out much. In his wilder days he once overdosed on a multivitamin, and he has been known to say "damn" when his language gets particularly spicy. So why is he at the wrestling show? I think he was intentionally meeting an opponent at the venue, though the movie doesn't spell it out.

He senses another immortal, and has a quick flashback to 1600's Scotland. What follows is a solid back-and-forth juxtaposing the wrestling with Scottish bloodshed. Where we used to have wars, now we have pretend wars on TV as the pressure release valve of society.

Connor goes out to the parking garage to find... a weirdly Spaceyesque immortal. This is Iman Fasil, another of the Final Four. Connor isn't surprised, which is why I think all of this was arranged.

We get sword-sparks with the very first swing. Nice.

The battle goes all over the garage, and at one point they trip the sprinklers to create this rain effect over the battlefield.

Fasil also does lots and lots of backflips for some reason. This fight is oddly-edited, but it's a damn good battle. The sound effects and Connor's less-dexterous style make this feel heavier and more impactful than the fights in the show. While Duncan uses quick, Dexterity-scaling katana swipes, Connor's fighting style is more of a Strength-scaling haymaker situation. He takes these big swings with the katana like he's attacking with a bat.

Connor nearly loses when his sword goes under a car, but he manages to retrieve it and give us this intense moment of uncertainty.

SHIIIIIING! Unlike the show, we actually see the head fly off here. Also Connor is a stunt double here for some reason. ...this happens a lot.

We get a fairly anemic Quickening, with no lightning.

It does blow up some cars, though. So, how powerful do we think Fasil was? For a Final Four immortal, at least in first movie canon, I'd probably put him at about Kalas' level or a little above Kalas. Hard to say.

I keep mentioning Final Four and whatnot. This might be a good time to mention that this movie really doesn't share continuity with the show. I mean, it kinda does since Connor is also in the show, and the events of the movie are referenced in the show. However, Connor being the last immortal is an idea that they retconned out. And not just in the show, but in further movies as well. The thing about Highlander movies is that most of them only exist in their own vacuum. They all contradict each other.

Retcon out some details and this first movie could be in the same canon as the show. Highlander: Endgame fits easily into the show canon and functions as a series finale. Other than that, it's vacuums all the way. Here are all of the different canons that exist in live-action Highlander, mostly independent of each other:


Highlander->Highlander 2

Highlander->Highlander 3

Highlander->Highlander: The Series->Highlander: Endgame (works if ignoring the last 30 seconds of the first movie)

Highlander: The Series->Highlander: Endgame (Probably the most official continuity for the show)

The Source? What's that?

And now! Flashback time! No year, unfortunately. It's Glenfinnan, Scotland, on the shores of the Loch Shiel. A real place and an absolutely stunning one. Unfortunately, in the present day it's even more deadly than it was in the feudal ages of barbarism, because everyone drives on the wrong side of the road.

Man. This place is completely majestic. I think most of this movie's charm, and most of the good memories I have of it, stem from these flashbacks. Love the Scotlandesque music in these flashbacks, too. Just a great score all around.

That said, I also like Christopher Lambert a lot as Connor, and he also exudes a dose of nostalgia.

Being a trained Scotsman, Connor guffaws and bellows as the Macleod Clan rides off to war. Now I want to say he's mortal here, but Connor's current state is unclear. He can sense other immortals, even though he hasn't died and become immortal yet, and apparently killing him counts as killing an immortal. Most likely the original idea was that you just stop aging and quietly become an immortal at some point, and in the series it was retconned that you become immortal after your first death which makes a bit more sense. Also Highlander 2 retconned everything to "They were always this age, from the dawn of time! Remember Zeist!" but we don't talk about that.

On an unrelated note, it's becoming more and more apparent as this movie goes on that Christopher Lambert is actually not a good actor, at least here. His lines are wooden and unnatural, both in the past and present. He's at his best when he can put on expressions, like in this shot.

In any case, the Macleods meet another clan on the battlefield, and the other clan has this mysterious Lu Bu type ringer on their side. This guy is, of course, THE KURGAN. One of the deadliest immortals around. He's a pretty unique character, and the show doesn't really have any immortals like him.

Connor senses him from afar, but doesn't know what he's sensing.

Kurgan insists that the other clan stay away from Connor. If they want Lu Bu's help, they leave Connor for him.

The battle is joined, as the Scots all brutally murder each other. Should have saved their energy for the British.

Connor wonders aloud why no one will fight him, as the enemy troops all steer clear of him. Worth noting: He's using the Macleod family claymore here, something that'll come into play in Season 4 of the show a few times.

Finally, he comes face-to-snout with The Kurgan. A guy so badass that he has "The" in his name. This is a tremendous scene.

He then defeats Connor in one hit. What a way to debut a villain.

Before he can behead Connor, he gets tackled by most of Clan Macleod and dragged away. Connor is left on the field.

Back in the present, Connor speeds out of the arena parking lot and gets stopped by cops. What follows is a super-unrealistic depiction of Movie Cops where a ton of them (like 12) crowd around and point guns in Connor's face... for speeding. Actually, in 1986 New York, this might have been realistic.

Back in the past (I'm getting whiplash), Connor's [wife? girlfriend? main squeeze? friend with benefits? not sure] is overcome with grief at the sight of his body. He hasn't died all the way yet but he's looking pale.

A Sassy Female Reporter Forensic Detective shows up to investigate the scene of the wrestling show beheading. The reporters and cops on the scene are all "lol, it's a girl. Get outta here!" like it's the craziest thing they've ever seen. In the 80's women weren't legally allowed to be crime-fighters or solve mysteries yet so you'll have to bear with the movie here.

Connor gets interrogated at the station, as the cops now believe he might be responsible for the beheading. He plays dumb while continuing to be as wooden as possible. At least here the wooden-ness makes sense.

This guy accuses him of being, and I quote, ::checks notes:: "a hommo" and they raise the specter of Iman Fasil possibly being a BJ salesman. Let's just move on.

Speaking of BJ salesmen, Kurgan has arrived in New York. He already cleared out all of the immortals and platinum'd Paris by finding all of the collectibles, and the other two remaining immortals are both here in the Big Apple.

We get an awesome and all-too-short scene of him driving on the expressway while Queen's "Gimme The Prize" blares on the car radio. Absolutely perfect.

Kurgan checks in at a hotel and we see that he now has a massive neck scar, like Kalas. It immediately raises questions. How'd he get it? Luckily, we'll find out.

Kurgan assembles his giant, badass death-sword and practices his moves. I've savaged Christopher Lambert a bit today, but Clancy Brown plays Kurgan to perfection. A legitimate monster, this guy.

A lady of the night bursts into the room for some reason and we get this creepy close-up on Kurgan as he likely realizes his latest victim has arrived.

Not to get too political, but man, New York City sure was a shithole up until around the mid 90's. It is again now, thanks to the current "leadership" there, but it had a good 20+ year run of being a fine, and most importantly safe, place to go. Spent a lot of time there until recently, but it is what it is now.

Brenda (the forensic detective) investigates the Madison Square Garden garage where Fasil was killed, and finds evidence of a sword-fight. She clearly knows history, and is able to identify Fasil's sword as an incredibly rare relic. Maybe the only one of its kind in near-perfect condition. It helps that she literally wrote a book on swords and metallurgy.

In any case, she goes to the bar for a drink after leaving the arena, and Connor follows her around creepily. He drops cryptic lines about knowing where she's been, which just scares her. I guess he wants her to get off of the case and leave it alone for her own safety, or something. She just sorta leaves because this weird babbling guy in a trench coat is making no sense and making her uncomfortable.

Connor leaves the bar after she does, but he isn't following her anymore. Time to go be alone and sulk. Unlike Duncan, he hasn't gotten over the events of his youth. This shot looks like a pre-rendered background from a PS1 game. Things like Resident Evil and Final Fantasy VIII loved these kind of diagonal-perspective street-level shots.

Connor walks home through the wasteland, and now Brenda is following HIM.

He gets ambushed by the massive Kurgan, and he doesn't have his trusty katana with him. Brenda throws him a pipe, which he uses to at least block Kurgan's assault.

The battle continues, with Connor getting thrown into various walls, until...

...a police helicopter roars up in the background and orders them to cease and desist. At least they can clearly see that Kurgan is the aggressor, so they don't have to go after Connor again. Kurgan disappears into the night.

Connor yells at Brenda for following him. I get that he doesn't want her to get hurt, but it comes off as pretty douchey since he himself was stalking her around five minutes ago and being all coy when she asked him why.

In the past, Connor awakens from his death, fully-healed. He's really happy to see everyone and feel well again...but everyone isn't happy to see him. On the contrary, he is met with scowling faces and hate.

Connor's wife, who now looks like she has rabies, declares that Connor is alive again because he's a demon now, and should be burnt. Well, if Connor were The Thing, she'd inadvertently be the smartest person in the room. Unfortunately, she's among the stupidest. She then screeches at Connor that he is a spawn of Lucifer.

"Ooh! Rabblerabble Lucifer Franklin rabble rabble Lucifer Franklin" says the crowd.

A mere woman isn't enough to convince everyone, so his brother speaks. "You got the debil in you, boy" he says. The crowd goes nuts.

Unfortunately young Connor lacks critical thinking skills and offers no rebuttal. He could have suggested that maybe God willed him to not die, and it'd be equally believable to having debil-powers. Actually, more believable, since Connor led a good life, and Jesus' whole superpower was the ability to revive people. If Connor were thinking on his feet, he should be able to spin this into a net positive for his reputation in the clan. Instead he just sits there and denies having the debil in him while offering no alternative explanation. A lawyer he is not.

Connor goes full Passion of the Christ as he gets locked up in arm-restraints and pushed through the village, pelted with rocks, and led to a stake where he'll be burned. His wife is actually leading the charge and inciting the riot the most, which must sting more than any of the rocks do.

The tribal chief, Angus, shows mercy on Connor. He isn't sure what to make of what happened but he's known Connor since childhood and knows he doesn't deserve this. He banishes Connor from the village before the villagers can burn him at the stake. Even the chief can only keep the bloodthirsty masses at bay for so long, so Connor has to run for it.

Connor sulks away into the wilderness. They didn't even take the arm stocks off of him. And that was the last anybody in the clan saw of Connor. Stories were passed down and around 80 years later, a young and newly-immortal Duncan would go off searching for Connor to find out why they were alike. At least in the show's canon.

In the present, we see Connor's antique store (much like Duncan's in season one of the show, as they were originally intended to both be the same character).

Behind some curtains is the secret "adult" section of the antique store, home to the hottest antiques. Your Mona Lisas, Statues of David, the hundreds of topless statues in France, etc.

Back to the past: Connor is now living in a tower, where he keeps herds of animals and forges weapons at his smithy.

He lives here with his new, less-rabid wife Heather, who accepts him. He also likes to dunk his head in water and flip his hair back. He's a WILD MAN!

When they aren't farming or crafting, they pretty much spend all of their time boinking.

Their makeout sesh is interrupted by the arrival of Juan Sanchez Villa-Lobos Ramirez, an Egyptian by way of Spain and chief metallurgist to a king. Also the most well-dressed person in Scotland currently.

They're both like "wtf" at the intrusion. Connor recognizes him as being like the dark knight who killed him before, due to feeling the same buzz.

After Connor just bluntly orders Heather to go away and she disappears for the next ten minutes (er...), Ramirez takes Connor for a walk to FEEL THE POWER of immortality. This means a sort of mini-quickening as nature unleashes a storm on Connor.

Connor gets blasted by rain as Ramirez tells him that they're brothers, both immortal.

Not really sure what the science of this mini-quickening is, or if it's a normal occurrence when feeling the buzz from another immortal in this movie's canon. 

Back to the present, a storm is also descending upon New York. The Chrysler Building is easily my favorite building.

Stuff happens in the B-Plot with Brenda the forensic detective / sword expert learning that the police are investigating Connor.

Somewhere, the writers of season one of the show found themselves leaping out of their seats in excitement as they jotted down notes.

Back in the past, Ramirez is taking Connor out to train him. Connor is just whining a lot and being difficult. It's a lot like Duncan's early interactions with...well, everybody. Ramirez tells him that he has the manners of a goat.

He then rocks the boat and tips Connor over, after telling him that he can't drown.

Connor, who can't swim either, sinks...only to find that he's fine. He doesn't have to breathe. Was wondering what'd happen if an immortal ended up in water. Would they die and revive repeatedly? Nope, turns out they'd just stop breathing.

It isn't all good. Ramirez tells Connor that people are going to fear him because he seems different, and he'll be treated badly more often than not.

We now get a tremendous montage, as Ramirez trains Connor in the combat arts.

This means getting the better of him in swordfights, with ease, repeatedly. Now Connor is well aware of the one thing that can kill him, thanks to Ramirez.

Most importantly, Ramirez teaches Connor to be at one with all things! That includes sensing the heartbeat of nearby elk.


My God. This is it. This is the scene where he says that. I've only been quoting it for YEARS.

Training montage continues, as stunt doubles they battle on a cliff!

At the end of the training montage, Connor finally gets the better of Ramirez...who isn't thrilled. Connor helps him up, because they're bros.

Later, Ramirez warns Connor that he'll have to let Heather go. Not only is he putting her in danger, he'll also be putting himself through a huge amount of pain when he has to watch her grow old and die. Ramirez suggests that it's better to spare yourself from seeing this over and over through the centuries.

On the other hand...the future is the last thing on their minds.

Ramirez also informs Connor that he can't have kids. "But I want to!" says Connor while stamping his feet.

Ramirez has only been married only 3 times in his 2400 years. His third wife was Japanese, and her father was the legendary swordsmith Masamune. Which is how he got this katana. Connor is intrigued by such a weapon, but he'll stick to the Macleod Claymore for now.

Connor wants to know more about the dark knight that felled him on the battlefield before. Ramirez explains that he's the last of the Kurgan Clan, a group of bloodthirsty Russian nomads. He's also the strongest immortal, from a raw physical strength standpoint. If he becomes the last immortal and wins "The Prize", it'll doom mankind to an eternity of darkness. So...what exactly IS this prize? Sounds like the final immortal will basically attain deity status, but other than that we don't really have a clear picture.

Ramirez sought out Connor, knowing that Kurgan went after him. When Kurgan comes to finish what he started, Connor needs to be prepared.

While Connor is out doing whatever it is that Connor does, Ramirez and Heather talk about his hilarious misadventures. One time, Ramirez climbed into a tower window at great difficulty just to introduce himself to a lady he was in love with. However, when he got there, she was away. So he introduced himself to the different lady who was there.

Ramirez senses a disturbance in the force. It's...

"Oh Yeahhh."

Actually it's Kurgan, who breaks down the door looking for Connor Macleod. Question is, why does he want Connor so badly? It is later established in the show that super-young immortals aren't really worth killing, like you don't get much out of their quickenings. Stronger immortals who can find better will usually just overlook the challenge of a spry youth. However, here we have Kurgan obsessed with killing this one guy who is barely even fresh off of being human, and hasn't killed any other immortals yet. Maybe in the movie canon, picking off a new immortal is preferable because it's when they're at their most vulnerable.

Not vulnerable: Ramirez, who actually goes toe-to-toe with Kurgan and gives him a proper thrashing. Unfortunately, this fight is marred by the fact that Heather is screaming in the background the entire time. I mean it is distracting and unnecessary to say the least. Even when things are chill and Ramirez has the advantage, she starts screaming at the top of her lungs off-camera.

He then PUTS KURGAN THROUGH A TABLE. My God, Ramirez is totally beating their monster heel champion down here. I don't remember the fight being like this. I thought Kurgan dispatched Ramirez pretty handily, but nope. As you can see, Kurgan gets up and no-sells the table bump quickly.

A bloodied Kurgan gets slashed across the throat by Ramirez (that'll leave a scar) and damn-near loses the fight right there. However his pain tolerance and overall resilience levels are off the scale, so he just SHRUGS OFF the massive amount of damage he's taken and chases Ramirez.

Ramirez IMPALES Kurgan with a mighty thrust! He is absolutely whooping Kurgan's ass here. I used to wonder who would win a fight between Duncan and Kurgan (in movie canon, no series plot armor). But now I have no doubt Duncan would win. The new question is who would win a fight between RAMIREZ and Duncan. I think that one would be much closer, and might even go either way.

After getting completely thrashed and pummeled, Kurgan gets a lucky hit on Ramirez while holding onto Ramirez's sword so he can't yank it out of Kurgan's chest. Basically, he cheated. Lightning strikes as Ramirez begins to reel. Kurgan may have sustained a ton of damage and kept going, but Ramirez has lower HP and one good whack was enough to stun him and set him up for a follow-up impalement. With his sword stuck in Kurgan's chest he couldn't block, and he's got nowhere to dodge to up on those stairs.

Kurgan asks Ramirez who the woman is. Ramirez says "she's with me", perhaps hoping Kurgan will let her go. If he knew she was Connor's wife, no telling what he'd do to her in order to draw out Connor.

Unfortunately for her, Kurgan isn't going to show respect for Ramirez's "wife". To a barbarian nomad from the Russian steppes, women are just property to be traded.

One beheading later and he absorbs the quickening of Ramirez, which isn't much of a quickening. There isn't even any lightning. It's less-impressive than the one at the beginning of the movie. If they ever give this movie a George Lucas VFX remaster, the sole thing I'd say they should add is a real quickening on this part.

Then he limps off, now looking a lot weaker than he did five minutes ago. Ramirez kicked his ass.

Back in the present, Sassy Investigator Brenda is poking around Connor's antique shop. We find out that as this is his day job, he has a secretary named Rachel.

Rachel implores Connor to go out and meet somebody. Go on a date. Do something besides be a sulking loner. He agrees to set up a date with this Brenda, even though she's a snooping investigator. Turns out Rachel has known him for a very long time. Flashback:

Connor finds Rachel while running through ruins in Netherlands during World War 2, trying to get away from the fighting.

He gets shot up by an SS trooper while protecting Rachel, then revives and blasts the guy (after giving him a chance to run away and him refusing). He clearly isn't as averse to using guns as Duncan. Since Rachel saw him revive, it wasn't exactly a secret. Her parents were gone so he raised her after that.

There seem to be quite a few versions of this movie. In some versions, the trooper asks how he's alive and Connor just shoots him. In this version he gives him a chance to leave and he refuses. In other versions this scene isn't even in the movie at all.

This version is the latest DVD release (European, Uncut...not to be confused with the Director's Cuts or the U.S. theatrical / TV versions), and so far there have been several things I don't remember from past viewings (as well as a couple of things I remember being omitted).

Back in the present, he bids Rachel adieu and heads out to go on his date. The interesting thing about this duo is that it illustrates how long-term immortal friendships tend to go. After he raised her, she went out into the world as an adult, and then returned to work for him as she got older. So she started out as a kind of daughter for him, then later functioned more like his mother, advising him on how to take better care of himself. Unfortunately we don't see much of her in this series, as she's only in this movie and Endgame as far as I know. If the TV series had starred Connor as originally planned, she would have been one of the main characters.

Connor arrives at Brenda's place for their dinner. He thinks it's a date, while she just wants to find out what he knows and what his connection is to all of the beheadings that have been going on. He made quite an impression when he fought off that giant maniac in front of her earlier.

While she's in the other room, Connor finds a hidden recorder nearby. His amused expression indicates that he already expected her to be taping their conversations.

Connor brought a 1783 brandy for the occasion. She takes a sip, while he just breathes it in and reminisces on things that happened in 1783 as if he was there. This would be impressive if he hadn't brought the bottle himself, and were rattling off facts on the spot about a drink she had. Instead it just comes off as bragging, like he just got off Wikipedia-ing the year so he could show off.

He calls out Brenda for recording him and gets all snippy with her for being self-absorbed or whatever before storming out. He went from chill to angry pretty quick.

We flashback to the aftermath of Ramirez's death. Heather didn't tell Connor anything and we're left to wonder whether Kurgan had his way with her. One thing I could do without in this movie, but so it goes. Connor doesn't know, in any case, and they move on with their lives. Kurgan presumably sodded off to look for him elsewhere before going back to hunting other people.

Another montage follows, during which Heather starts to get old before our eyes. Of course, Connor doesn't, and herein lies the tragedy of the immortal. Ramirez's voice echoes in his head, telling him to let her go...and of course, he didn't, so now he has to take the pain of the loss.

On her deathbed, she tells him that she wanted to have children with him more than anything. So it isn't just him who has had to deal with a level of anguish from their staying together.

And that's it for Heather. Far as we know, Connor never got close to anybody else this way, now knowing how hard it would be to have to lose them no matter what. And also, presumably, not wanting to do a disservice to them either with his inability to have a family.

Connor plants the Macleod Claymore at her grave and adopts Ramirez's katana as his new weapon, then sets out to start the non-Heather chapter of his life...which will be a lot longer. He basically lived a full lifetime here in the highlands with her before he went out into the world, which is very different from Duncan's backstory of being cast out at a young age and touring the world as a boorish and crude inexperienced immortal. Connor likely had a lot more maturity when he set out into the world (and a lot more darkness about him) which is why in the show canon Connor is always treated as kind of the big brother of the two.

And that's pretty much it for the flashbacks to Scotland. It would be interesting to see a cut of this movie where everything was shuffled into chronological order. I'm sure that such a cut exists online somewhere.

Back to the present, Connor heads out to Central Park to meet with the third of the Final 3. That's right, I've been mentioning Final 4 and Final 3 and so forth but we never knew who the third was.

This is Sunda Kastagir, and he's a real badass. If he defeats the Kurgan, it'll be him and Connor for the Prize. For now, they walk around reminiscing.

Would have liked to see more of the backstory for this guy. How did he get to be one of the final immortals? What's his origin?

What we do get is a flashback to a party he went to with Connor, though Kastagir himself is nowhere to be found in the flashback. Connor got drunk and insulted the wife of a nobleman, who challenged him to a fight to the death on the Boston Common.

The nobleman stabs him repeatedly and he keeps getting back up. This doesn't look much like the Boston Common, though it's possible it looked like this 250 years ago.

The nobleman has this weird assistant who insists that they shoot Connor in the back as he is walking away, even though he apologized. Instead the nobleman shoots the assistant. I don't get it.

Back to the present, Kurgan is locked in combat with Kastagir! Yeah, they rushed through this part, we're there already. This should be a great battle, except it's hard to see it with everything being so dark.

Before too long, Kurgan wins, and Kastagir's head flies off.

Kurgan also impales some guy who had been watching the fight, after the guy shoots him a bunch of times. If he'd shot him a little sooner, Kastagir could have #cheated2win.

Kurgan gets a quickening, and it's a bit more normal than the Ramirez one. Still no lightning, though...

...we do get lots of windows exploding. And that's it for Kastagir. Still wish he had a bigger part in the movie. There's a lot they could have added. To make room for more scenes with Kastagir or Ramirez, the movie should have had less nonsense with the New Yorkers (like the cops, the various onlookers, and the random weirdoes they interact with).

Kurgan steals a car and drives off with some lady who inexplicably didn't just get out of the car. She ded

Elsewhere, Connor visits a cathedral and lights a candle for Heather, something she asked him to do every year on her birthday. We can infer that he's done this every year for around 430 now.

He also takes a moment to talk to Ramirez and asks him to take care of Heather in the afterlife. That may be a door you don't want to open, sir.

Speaking of unwanted things, here's Kurgan. They don't beat you over the head with the "holy ground" rule in this movie after Ramirez mentions it, so only attentive viewers will know why this is a safe place.

Connor asks what happened to all of his hair, and Kurgan says "I am in Disguise"

One of my favorite lines from anything, for some reason.

Kurgan taunts Connor with the fact that they're the only ones left. Connor brings up Ramirez nearly beating Kurgan, which turns out to be a bad move. Kurgan turns it around to laugh about how he raped Ramirez's wife.

Connor, of course...was unaware of this. It hurts him a lot more than anything else the Kurgan could possibly do. And Kurgan being a smart fella, he quickly realizes that she was actually Connor's wife and that he has successfully crushed the spirits of his foe before the fight even begins.

He tells Connor they'll fight on his time, then licks a priest* and tells everybody "it's better to burn out...than fade away!" before barreling out of the room. It isn't often you meet a character with absolutely nothing whatsoever redeeming about them, but this guy is it. He does have some quotes though.

* - Legitimately, only in the European Uncut version though. Same goes for quite a few things I've seen so far.

Elsewhere in the B-Plot, Brenda finds out through research that Connor has been assuming the identities of other people for hundreds of years, and she wants to know how that's possible. For whatever reason, he gives in. The B-Plot now merges with the A-Plot, as he makes her stab him to reveal his immortality.

Then, of course, they boink. He's got a sick view from this building.

I guess they're dating now, as they go to the zoo, where lions get really hostile at Connor for some reason. Also, Kurgan is following them around and Connor somehow doesn't sense him. The movie has been really inconsistent with The Buzz, as Connor snuck up on Kastagir in the park, yet sensed Fasil in the parking lot from all the way inside the arena.

Brenda goes home, only to have Kurgan break in and kidnap her.

He takes her out for a spin, driving like a maniac while she screams a lot. This eats up a lot of time and it's certainly one of the scenes I'd have left out. At this point we get it, Kurgan is vile.

Connor gets his katana out of storage and tells Rachel that he has to go fight. Weird how he didn't carry the katana around with him. Also, all of this is Rachel's fault! She made Connor go on a date, and a couple days later his date is in mortal peril. Leave it alone, MOM.

Connor leaves his antique store to her, and bids her adieu by telling her the same thing he did when they first met, about immortality: "It's a kind of magic."

Another shot of Rachel just because the movie should have had more with her.

Connor arrives at the legendary Silvercup Studios near Manhattan. Kurgan awaits him on the roof with his hostage.

Really, she's more bait, as Connor tries to save her only for Kurgan to ambush them.

Sword sparks return! But only some of the time.

This is quite the battle, and the New York City backdrop is tremendous. I just wish you could see it a little better. The fight really had to be at night though. It's also much longer/better in the European version, much like the final fights of Endgame. Not sure why that is.

Kurgan manages to chop down most of the Silvercup sign during the fight, which creates total chaos as water tanks and various scaffolding collapse onto the roof.

Pretty soon, they're battling in an apocalyptic flood as things continue to crash down around them. This is like quickening-level destructive already. Kurgan's default state is "bull in a china shop"

As the fight continues, electricity starts zipping off of both guys and their weapons. I don't remember that from past viewings. It's pretty awesome.

At one point we get a couple of huge sword sparks that are more like sword BOLTS.

They end up falling through the roof of Silvercup and landing in this massive empty room. To some, this would just be a big empty space. To the creators of this movie... was the ultimate backdrop for a fight, and boy did they choose well.

Kurgan disarms Connor, calling back to him knocking Ramirez's sword away before striking the killing hit. This time, Brenda runs in and smacks him with a steel pipe just in time to save Connor.

It does little damage to the hulking monstrosity, but it distracts him long enough for Connor to retrieve the katana and then in turn save HER.

The battle continues! That window behind them looks very destructible.

We get a drawn-out sword spark as they face off.

Kurgan is enjoying this too much.

...until Connor manages to get several fast swings off that Kurgan can't intercept, wounding him. Therein lies the benefit of a katana versus a huge two-handed sword.

With Kurgan stumbling, their next clash leaves him with a neck cut. For a second it isn't clear if the fight is over or not, because he starts laughing. Then, his head just falls backward and right off. SUPER-memorable shot.


"You are one with all things, Highlanda!"

In addition to electricity, this one also has a ton of evil spirits that swirl around and taunt Connor. It absolutely looks like some kind of Dark Quickening.

More energy gets absorbed by Connor as all of the windows in the background explode. Tremendous.

I remember there being a part where Connor managed to "push back" one of the evil spirits by blocking it with his sword. But I don't see that part here. So either I'm remembering something else from the series, or it's another small change in the latest DVD release.

In a way, thish ish the quickening by which all other quickenings will be judged. Though quite frankly the two super-quickenings in Highlander: Endgame are probably the most visually-stunning quickenings I've seen (as they should be, given that it came out fourteen years later), this one is certainly up there though, maybe #3...or #4 after the Kalas Eiffel Tower quickening. The show has a few very cool ones though, so who knows. Someone should make a quickening top ten. ...a good one, because there are some nonsensical ones out there. The Joan Jett fuzzy screen quickening was like #3 on one list I saw.

Brenda checks on Connor amid the shattered windows. What a visual.

They head out to Scotland to live their lives, with Connor finally free to be normal. He says that the Prize is the ability to hear the thoughts of every human on Earth, including world leaders. So if Kurgan could have done that, it would have ushered in an era of darkness? I guess that makes sense. Also I think Connor is mortal now, depending on which version of the movie you're watching. This version doesn't say anything about him being mortal. I don't know, The Prize seems a little underwhelming, not quite the deification we were expecting up to this point.

Of course, every other Highlander movie or show retcons this movie and makes it not actually the final battle between immortals, for various reasons. I mean, if it were, they couldn't have done anything else with the idea, unless they only made prequels. The canon I'm most likely to follow, the show canon, is that everything in this movie happened and the only difference is that they weren't the final two. It was just a big fight between two of the baddest immortals, one that will be spoken of in reverent tones by immortals for a long time.

That leaves room for other stories to be told, which is nice unless you're only watching this one movie. Which is how I treated Stargate, overall. Always wanted to watch the (said to be great) show, never did, so the movie sorta stands by itself as a result. Like I said before, the Highlanderverse can have a variety of different canons depending on what you've seen and what you count. Except Highlander 2, which never counts. Also The Source, which doesn't exist and isn't even a Highlander movie.

We get a cool flashback montage of Ramirez scenes with a Sean Connery voiceover, and the movie's iconic score. The point being that Connor remembers his friend and what he learned from him.

RIP, Sean Connery.

Wait a minute...did she dye her hair blonde? I never noticed this before. She had brown hair earlier (though somewhat blonde from some angles). Now it's much lighter overall. Did...did they try to make her look more like Heather here?

......let's just move on quickly. I've realized that this movie really is kind of a loop. Connor ends up right back where he started, with a woman who looks like the one he was with.

And that's it for Highlander. I wasn't sure if I'd like this movie as much as I used to, or if it would hold up. The good news? It does hold up. This movie is really good, especially if you're a fan of the show but even if you aren't. It's a shame that none of the Highlanderverse canons and continuities fit together better, because someone watching this movie after some of the other movies would find themselves very confused very quickly. "I thought Connor was from Zeist?"

All of that said, there are definitely problems with this movie. Christopher Lambert is very hit-or-miss. As much as I like the guy and have childhood memories of him, he can't hold a candle to Adrian Paul in most regards. While his charisma score might be higher than Paul, and even that can be debated, his swordplay, speaking, and acting are all many notches below. There are a lot of scenes where it sounds like Lambert's lines are dubbed over the footage in post, and he can often be stilted and unnatural in his delivery.

Also...and it pains me point this out so I didn't do that as it happened:

You can very clearly see the wires on Christopher Lambert throughout the final quickening. I'm shocked that they didn't solve this, given the amount of special effects that went into the scene. (Note: In some versions they did edit this out) clearly isn't Christopher Lambert, which was another problem throughout the movie. Almost everything physical was done by stunt doubles. Whenever Lambert's swordplay picks up a bit, stunt double. A lot of the time they used stunt doubles for things that don't even make sense, like scenes where you only see Connor from behind, or scenes where he does something very mild like rolling across the ground. It jumps between distance-shots and close-ups rapidly to hide the stunt doubles, but with the high-res of a DVD and the fact that I was constantly pausing for screenshots, it became very noticeable. I lost count of all the times I had to try to take a screenshot around very clear visuals of stunt doubles (aka wait until Lambert was visible again).

In closing...great movie, great "episode zero" of the series if you want it to be as well. It's rough around the edges technically, and inconsistent with some of the ideas (like the buzz, and the quickenings) but it's also the first to do those things, and inconsistency is going to happen.

Next time on Highlander: The Macleod Claymore Returns.

Highlander: The Source (Part One)

Highlander: The Source (Part Two)

Other Highlander Posts


  1. hello ^^ I noticed several major differences in the canon of the first film and the series! Like the fact that Connor never dies but rather pretends like with the Nazi or when he is stabbed by the Earl! Highlander is one of the my favorite films but even at the time I told myself that it was a shame that we didn't see many immortals!

  2. I really liked the mystical tone that the original film built around the Immortals, with the pseudo-Quickening on the mountain, and Connor "feeling" the stag's spirit. The TV show is superior IMO, but it often made Immortality seem rather predictable and commonplace.

    An interesting tidbit about The Kurgan: he was originally conceived as a character called "The Knight", and was a more tragic figure, who had grown so old and tired of life that playing The Game was the only reason for him to get out of bed in the morning.

    I can see why they changed it, since making the villain a complete maniac makes it more crucial that Connor be the one to win the Prize, but it's interesting to ponder what might have been. I wonder if the TV writers reused the concept of "The Knight" when they created Damon Case.

  3. I've heard that the original plan for the intro scene was to be a hockey match because they wanted something violent, but the NHL balked due to their desire to emphasize the violence. Wrestling was more than happy to fill that void.

    Haha, that season one cop show dig.

    "It's a kind of magic"

    Well it's... a little more impressive in the time before wiki.

    Yeah, Kurgan's disguise bit is great.

    What a classic.

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