DVD Review: Highlander (30th Anniversary Edition)

“There can be only one” was a great mantra for the beginning of the age of corporate acquisitions. As one huge company bought up another in leveraged buyouts, there had to be a movie that captured the zeitgeist. The Highlander was the perfect fable for 1986. He sent a stronger message to audiences than Olive Stone’s Wall Street. Sure it wasn’t about the stock market. Instead it gave us international immortals roaming the Earth. They’re not satisfied with immortality. They must track down each other and hack off their heads with legendary swords so they can absorb their power. Their goal was to be the last alive so they can achieve the state of God. Which does sum up what beer, banks, insurance and other international conglomerates have done. But instead of a boring business movie with financial numbers, Highlander: 30th Anniversary Edition is pure action with swinging swords.

Deep inside Madison Square Garden a crowd is going wild as the legendary Fabulous Freebirds battle in a WWE match. In the midst of the frenzy is a solitary calm figure in a trenchcoat. He leaves early to an underground garage where he encounters an equally mysterious man. They have one thing in common. They both are carrying swords. They go full force against each other. Everything gets destroyed in an all out death match that ends with a head getting sliced off. The police nab the survivor, an antiques dealer named Russell Nash (Christopher Lambert). The cops can’t quite hold him. But they tail him including using Brenda Wyatt (Roxanne Hart). Slowly we discover that Nash is really Connor MacLeod and he’s a bit older that he says. He’s in fact from the 16th Century guy from Scotland. He’s an immortal who only learned about it during a battle where he was “killed” but didn’t die. His clan really doesn’t like him being unable to die. Only his wife Heater (Beatie Edney) sticks by him. One of the people who wanted him dead in the battlewas The Kurgan (Lost‘s Clancy Brown). Luckily for Duncan is the next immortal to visit is The Spaniard (Dr. No‘s Sean Connery). He trains Duncan to be ready for the Quickening when only one of their kind can live. Things do get nasty when The Kurgan visits Scotland for another shot at Duncan’s neck. This eventually plays into how Duncan lives the next few centuries when they meet for a final time in New York City.

The version of Highlander on this DVD is the director’s edition. There’s quite a few scenes that help flesh out Duncan’s character and extend out the big battles. It is strange to see that Highlander wasn’t a massive hit when it was originally released. But luckily it came out when VHS and Beta became a major driving force. Thus fans were able to discover it on the shelf at Videorama. Thus a great action film was able to maintain and grow a cult audience. This home video revenue allowed producers to make a few sequels and a successful TV series. All this rests on the fact that the original film is fantastical fun. Sean Connery and Clancy Brown bring so much extra to screen as they exchange swords with the Highlander. The soundtrack done by Queen is a lot more impressive than their work on Flash Gordon. “Who Wants to Live Forever” should have at least been nominated for an Oscar. It perfectly blends action and romance so you can have a date film with heads being lopped off. The 30th Anniversary edition is available in Blu-ray and DVD.

The video is 1.85:1 anamorphic. The transfer brings out the charms of the Scottish highlands and the urban blight of lower Manhattan. The audio is 5.1 Dolby Digital. The swords do clang and Freddie Mercury will devour your speakers. There’s also the original 2.0 Dolby Digital mix. The subtitles are in English and Spanish.

Trailer (2:31) reminds us that this was a Cannon release although they didn’t produce it which is why the production budget doesn’t vanish in third act.

Audio Commentary with Director Russell Mulcahy. He breaks down how the film came about and the various shooting locations.

Interview with Director Russell Mulcahy (23:01) covers his career and how he ended up making Highlander. He discusses his time with the cast.

Interview with Christopher Lambert (20:333) talks about how he dealt with the scrip and Queen’s soundtrack.

The Making of Highlander (120:30) covers everything that went into making the film. The film is broken into A Legend is Born, The Visual Style, A Strong Woman and The Producer’s Point of View.

Deleted Scenes (6:13) have no audio so they couldn’t be included in the director’s cut.

Archival Interview with Christopher Lambert (8:54) has him speaking French. There are English subtitled. He discusses his time swinging the sword.

Lionsgate presents Highlander: 30th Anniversary Edition. Directed by: Russell Mulcahy. Screenplay by: Gregory Widen, Peter Bellwood & Larry Ferguson. Starring: Christopher Lambert, Roxanne Hart, Clancy Brown & Sean Connery. Running Time: 116 minutes. Rated: R. Released: September 27, 2016.

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