Highlander (1986)

The cult sword and sorcery epic gets a handsome UK Blu-ray release to mark its 30th anniversary.

The cult sword and sorcery epic gets a handsome UK Blu-ray release to mark its 30th anniversary.

Although a relative disappointment at the box office in the mid-1980s, Highlander found a much bigger audience on VHS before establishing itself as a cult favourite on home video.

Set in 1985 New York, it explores a fantasy underworld where, since the dawn of time, several immortal warriors have been fighting each other until a final battle (“The Gathering”) will establish one final winner (“There can be only one!”).

It explores this narrative through Connor MacLeod (Christopher Lambert), a New York art dealer by day and swordsman by night, who since the 17th century has encountered many characters on his journey.

There is a Spanish-Egyptian mentor (Sean Connery), a mortal enemy (Clancy Brown) and many others, as his backstory is discovered through flashbacks by an expert in antiquities (Roxanne Hart).

Directed by Australian director Russell Mulcahy, then famous for landmark music videos such as The Buggles’ “Video Killed the Radio Star” and his debut feature Razorback (1984), it is a mixture of fairly wild themes but also styles.

Mulcahy brought to his videos for Duran Duran, Elton John and various other 1980s acts was a sense of grandeur on a lower budget, which you can see in Highlander through the lensing of Gerry Fisher and an epic score by Michael Kamen.

Added to all this, the presence of Queen on the soundtrack just adds to the bombast. Most of the actors seem to be having a lot of fun (especially Connery) and although there are lapses in logic (if the warriors are immortal how can they be killed by being beheaded?) if you give it a certain licence then there is much to enjoy here.

My first experience of this film was in the VHS era and watching it now Blu-ray (from a 4K transfer) shows how far film technology has developed. Highlander already had a cult status in the analogue past and that looks likely to continue in our digital present and future.

The extras are plentiful, including:

  • Newly Remastered in 4K for the Anniversary Release
  • New interview with director Russell Mulcahy
  • New interview with actor Christopher Lambert
  • Making of documentary in 4 parts
  • Deleted scenes
  • Audio commentary with director Russell Mulcahy
  • Original theatrical trailer

Highlander is out now from Studiocanal UK

> Buy the film at Amazon UK
> Find out more about Highlander at Wikipedia

Author: Ambrose Heron

Editor of FILMdetail