HIGHLANDER

THREE GUYS AND… A MOVIE

series created by Marvin Mercer and Nick Stephenson

“HIGHLANDER”

written by Dominick Cappello

DR JELLYThis film won the Academy Award for the best movie ever made (at least according to “Talladega Nights” it did). A clever blend of gritty action and fantasy. “Death Wish” meets “Conan the Barbarian”. Christopher Lambert stars as Connor MacLeod, the immortal Scotsman from 1536 who battles to be the last of his kind in present day New York City (1985). Since the only way to vanquish an immortal is by decapitation, their weapons of choice are swords. There is no origin story given for these immortals. Even they are unsure how they came to be. All they know is that one day they will be drawn to one location for the gathering when “there can be only one” who claims the prize. I got goose bumps. How about you?

MacLeod uses the alias Russell Nash and beheads another immortal in a parking garage after attending American Wrestling Association matches held in Madison Square Garden, absorbing his adversary’s life force. What an awesome way to start a movie and introduce your protagonist. Hey, I don’t care if his accent is muddled. I find Christopher Lambert to be a charismatic lead and a credible action hero. Flashbacks show MacLeod being banished from his village in the Scottish highlands and then being mentored by Juan Sanchez Villa-Lobos Ramirez, played by the incomparable Sean Connery. When is it not a treat to see Sean Connery? The man everyone thinks they can do an impression of. Ramirez dresses like a Spaniard, but is actually an Egyptian. Ironic how Sean Connery keeps his Scottish accent no matter the role, but when finally making a movie set in Scotland, he portrays an Egyptian. Ramirez is killed by The Kurgan, played by Clancy Brown, who is the most savage of all the immortals. Mankind will be doomed if he wins the prize… even if the film is a bit vague on what the prize actually is.

MacLeod watches helplessly as his wife Heather, played by Beatie Edney, grows old and dies while he remains young. Who wants to live forever? Present day, MacLeod romances Brenda Wyatt, played by Roxanne Hart. She is a forensics expert who learns his true identity. MacLeod and The Kurgan soon become the last two immortals standing. One of the best scenes in the movie is their verbal confrontation inside a church. The Kurgan has two of my favorite lines. “Happy Halloween, ladies!” to some nuns and “It’s better to burn out than to fade away!” as he exits. There is no physicality because immortals are forbidden to fight on holy ground.

I was happy to pick up the Director’s Cut on Blu-ray a couple of years ago because it includes the scene where MacLeod rescues a little girl during World War II. The girl who would grow up to be his secretary in 1985. His line, “Hey, it’s a kind of magic” is finally given context. The Kurgan kidnaps Brenda, setting up the final duel, 449 years in the making. MacLeod vanquishes The Kurgan, sparing mankind an eternity of darkness, and claiming the prize for himself. Okay, the prize is a bit underwhelming. I’ll admit that. MacLeod gains some form of psychic abilities and becomes mortal. He can also father children, something he was unable to do prior to the gathering, so he and Brenda can live happily ever after. Ramirez speaks to MacLeod from beyond and congratulates him on his triumph.

“Highlander” was much more successful abroad than it was here in the United States, but did develop a strong cult following in the years that followed because of home video. I think there’s plenty of people who’ve never seen this film, yet still know the tagline: “There can be only one!” The line also foreshadowed the reaction critics and fans would have to the sequels. They’re so crummy that there should have been only one, but I’ll leave it to Dr. Frisbee to go on a tirade about the extraterrestrial origin story the immortals are given in part two. You read that right. Extraterrestrial.

– Dr. Jelly

Author: Dominick

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