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Highlander - 15th Anniversary Edition

Universal/Universal . R4 . COLOR . 111 mins . M15+ . PAL


In 1986 a new cult started with the release of an un-assuming fantasy film titled Highlander. With the growing of the (very obsessive and vocal) following, the intervening years have seen the creation of three additional feature films, two television series, a collection of novels, and a successful trading card game. Of course, with every successful franchise comes a large range of merchandise bearing the name of the franchise, and Highlander is no exception. Check the official website to see what I mean.

For those unfamiliar with the tale, the world of Highlander is much like our own, with one important change - some people, due to some quirk of nature, are born with a spark that gives them the potential to live forever. For this potential to be realised, the man or women needs to experience a violent death - sort of shock the body into immortality.

One such immortal is Scottish clansman Connor Macleod (Christopher Lambert), fatally wounded in battle in 1536, by a fierce warrior known only as the Kurgan. Banished by his clansfolk as a demon for surviving, he settles away from his family's lands, and takes Heather, a farm girl, for his wife.

Their simple life is interrupted by the arrival of Ramirez (Sean Connery), an Egyptian immortal of some two and half thousand years. He hones Connor's skills with a blade, and teaches him of his heritage as an immortal, that the life force, or Quickening, of each immortal is released if their head is severed from their body, and this Quickening may be absorbed by an immortal who slays another in this fashion.

In the future, when only a few immortals remain, there will be a Gathering in a distant land, such that the final duels can be fought, and to the winner The Prize. Ramirez does not know exactly what The Prize will be, but is sure that if the Kurgan were to obtain it, humanity would be in for some dark days.

The time and place of the Gathering is present day Manhattan, decapitated bodies are growing in number, and law enforcement agencies are at a loss to explain events. The only question of importance - does Macleod have what it takes to defeat the Kurgan?

"I have something to say - it's better to burn out than fade away!"

For those wondering about the "Director's Cut" disc and the differences with this disc, never fear. The "Director's Cut" tag was intended for North American audiences, as their theatrical release had a number of the flashback sequences removed, as the film-makers believed it would be too confusing for US viewers. The rest of the world, however, received the full version of the film, so the "Director's Cut" is the same Highlander we've always known.


Well, the good news is it seems like we have a new transfer, as the image looks much cleaner than the amusingly titled "Director's Cut" disc that is available. In fact, it's so good you can easily spot the cables used to lift the actors into the air in some scenes! Colours are rich and vibrant, such that you'll pine for the lucious green of the Scottish highlands.

Black levels and shadow detail are good for the most part, although there is the occasional shot where film grain rears it's ugly head, giving a slight blurred look. There's a little edge enhancement from time to time, but nothing distracting. On the plus side, the layer change is perfectly placed in the middle of a fade to black, providing a slightly longer than normal pause.

My biggest gripe with the picture concerns the aspect ratio. Rather than present the film in it's original 1.85:1 ratio, we receive a slightly cropped 1.77:1. Surely an "Anniversary Edition" would give us the correct ratio? Exactly what does "Original Widescreen Presentation" mean?


The Dolby 5.1 Surround mix used lives up to the action of the film, providing a good sound stage for the battle scenes, and bringing things in closer for the more tender moments. As the action moves around you, so too will the sound, making good use of all channels, especially during the Scottish battle scenes, and the modern fights in settings that provide plenty of echo room. Of course, the Quickening makes its own auditory appearence, thanks to the LFE channel.

Dialogue is always clear, with no noticeable lip-synching issues, and once you've found a comfortable volume level you won't need the remote again. One small issue of note, during the modern-day church scene between Connor and the Kurgen there is a degree of crackle in the rear channels that varies with the level of volume. Not a show-stopper, but potentially distracting if you've cranked the volume up.


What happened here? There are a good collection of extras out there for Highlander including an audio commentary by director Russell Mulchay and producers Peter Davis and William Panzer, a slew of pages of re-written script and other correspondence from pre-production, but we don't seem to get them.

Instead, we have an eight minute interview with Christopher Lambert, with French audio and fixed English subtitles, scrolling filmographies for Lambert, Connery and Mulcahy make an interesting change from the usual static screen, but may be a little difficult to read. Rounding things out, are a theatrical trailer and a music video clip of Queen's Princes of the Universe, one of the songs written for the film.


Add this to the list of great films that receive a less than perfect treatment on DVD. It's a good disc, but it could have been so much more - with the additional extras that exist on the alternate Highlander DVD it's a pity that some arrangement could not have been reached.

If both discs were avialble (I am unsure of the status of the older "Director's Cut" disc) it would be a hard call as to which one to choose. The older disc has more meatier features, but the picture quality of the newer disc is definitely superior, if cropped somewhat. In either case, this film is well worth adding to your collection.

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