Tuesday, August 14, 2012
(March 1986, U.S.)
If you take a moment to reflect back on science fiction/fantasy films of the 1980s, you may agree that with the exception of STAR WARS and STAR TREK films, many of them (not all, but many) were dark, menacing and may have even had a deeper high concept meaning to deliver to its audience. Consider HEAVY METAL (1981), BLADE RUNNER and THE ROAD WARRIOR (both 1982), THE TERMINATOR (1984), ALIENS (1986) and THE HIDDEN (1987) to get an idea of what I'm talking about. In the thicke of all of it was HIGHLANDER, what I like to affectionately refer to as my "grindhouse sci-fi" movie. Just look at its dark, grimy on-location shots of New York City and tell me you can't picture yourself watching it in the middle of the night in some sleazy movie theater on 42nd Street!
While almost no science fiction or fantasy tale is without its share of action, the truly intruiging element that makes HIGHLANDER so interesting for me is watching the saga of an immortal man like the Highlander Connor MacLeod (played by Christopher Lambert in his first role after making himself known in GREYSTOKE) live through history during a period of several decades since the Scottish Highlands of the 16th Century. A man who cannot die is doomed to suffer throughout his life as he continuously watches those he loves die. This element is made very clear throughout the film, as it should be. Of course, all of this high concept is not to say that HIGHLANDER isn't without great action and even some cliche points of not-so-great acting and dialogue. You see, as the story goes, the immortals or Highlanders, have been fighting each other throughout the centuries with powerful swords. The only way a Highlander can die is by decapitation. Time has moved forward and in the end there can be only one (you'll hear that point repeatedly throughout the film and eventually you'll hear the phrase in your own head accompanied by Christopher Lambert's accent). A climactic battle of good versus evil on the streets of New York City may not seem so original now, but twenty-six years ago it was an explosion of originality, in my opinion. And let me tell you, as sword fights in films go, this is some of the best I've seen. It's not just the visual effects and sounds of swords clanging with each other, but also the lights and explosions that we see whenever swords come crashing onto metal or steel. Without being a lightsaber duel from your favorite STAR WARS movie, it's truly a visual feast!
Characters are a strong element here and not just the film's protaganist. The evil one known as the Kurgan, played by Clancy Brown, an actor I'd come to know in later films like THE SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION (1994), STARSHIP TROOPERS (1997) and THE HURRICANE (1999), is one of the most sick-ass-sons-of-bitches I've ever seen on sreen and a character who's managed to move through the times whenever he's updating his "evil look". You're likely not to see a more frightening looking modern Nazi-Hell's Angel motorcycle-type on screen anywhere else. On the side of good, we also have the character of Ramirez (played by Sean Connery in a truly underrated role), another Highlander who serves as MacLeod's personal "Obi-Wan Kenobi", training him in the art of sword fighting and getting him to understand and accept his fate and ultimate destiny. Because in the end, there can be only one and you don't have to guess too long to know who it'll ultimately be.
This will come as no surprise to anyone who follows this blog, but I did not see any of the HIGHLANDER sequels and I never watched the TV show (nor will I ever!). And even though I'd never condone such an act, I'm quite surprised some big shot Hollywood moron hasn't attempted to remake this original movie yet. That would be tragic, because when it comes to the great sci-fi/fantasy film of HIGHLANDER, THERE CAN BE ONLY ONE!!!
(Okay, that was bad, but I couldn't resist!).
Favorite line or dialogue:
Priest: "This is a house of God. People are trying to pray. You're disturbing them."
Kurgan: "He cares about these helpless mortals?"
Priest: "Of course He cares. He died for our sins."
Kurgan: "That shall be His undoing!"