As much as I like to shake my fist with elder rage at the Hollywood studios for daring to remake the classics of the seventies and eighties, I’ve recently been rewatching a lot of the old films. Much of our childhood wonders and delights don’t always hold up under the harsh glare of post-collegiate life. Like Atari games, they still have some charm and novelty, but are they really as good as we remember them? I recently got a copy of Highlander: The Director’s Cut and decided to go through the DVD to see if it was still as awesome as I remember it to be.
Highlander was such an awe-inspiring concept when it first came out in 1986. A group of Immortals battle each other to the beheading, gaining the strength of their fallen foe, until the last one received The Prize. And while we were still wielding cardboard wrapping paper tube lightsabers, at least one of those fights would end with a neck slash and a scream of “There can be only one!” The Director’s Cut only has about six minutes of extended sequences that really don’t add much to the original except a few extra headbutts and flashbacks.
00:00:35: “From the dawn of time we came, moving silently down through the centuries, living many secret lives, struggling to reach the time of the gathering when the few who remain will battle to the last. No one has ever know we were among you…until now.” This is how every fucking reality television show should begin. It’s also the premise to “Desperate Housewives.”
00:00:48: QUEEEEEEEEENN! Goddamn, you forget how much you love Queen’s music. It’s anthemic pop, the kind of music you play in the car before you’re about to go drinking or punch someone in the face. “Princes of the Universe” trumps even “We Are The Champions” or “Another One Bites the Dust” for soul pumping. It’s like the St. Crispin’s Day speech committed to rock.
00:02:30: Opening with a wrestling match. And not one of those scary Mickey Rourke on a barbed wire table matches, but the even scarier yellow tights and big haired rednecks with Confederate flag capes turnbuckle bouncers. I swear to God that the guy wrestling the Fabulous Freebirds is Jimmy “Superfly” Snuka. That man is single-handedly responsible for more couch-diving bonebreaks than Dominos deliveries to eager shut-ins.
00:04:45: Uh-oh. Christopher Lambert sulkily leaves the match for the parking garage. Nothing good ever happens in a parking garage. Lambert crushes a Coke Can with his exceptionally white tennis shoes. I think more product placement should involve destroying the products.
00:05:40: And his opponent is….a German accountant? Homeboy looks like he belongs in the crew of the bad guy from Lethal Weapon 2. Ah, katana vs. rapier. This should be a good fight.
00:06:00: The swords spark up whenever they clash. Allegedly, this effect was achieved by hooking the metal swords and actors up to a car battery, one sword with the positive charge and the other with the negative. Most of the sword fights take place during rainstorms or in water. Back in the days before John Landis and his reckless helicoptering.
00:07:15: Hmm, I remember the sword fighting as being so much more devastating. I guess you don’t pay attention to detailed choreography when you don’t know any better. When you’re a kid, you’re just psyched there are two dudes duking it out with swords.
00:07:40: Oh! MacLeod loses his sword. Fat chance they’ll be icing the star of the movie in the first scene. It makes me wonder though. Is there an Immortal rule that you have to behead them with a sword? Can you use a chainsaw? Or the wheels of the 3:15 out of Newark? Fucking science.
00:08:00: The freulein keeps doing gymnastics and flips all over the place apropos of nothing. More slashing and less sashaying, goddamn you!
00:09:09: Nice. No witty reparte. No mercy. No clever catch phrase. Just straight up Chancellor of Stuttegard decapitation. Booyah!
00:09:10: Alright! The exciting Weird Science 80’s special effects! Lightning and ev’rythin’.
00:10:00: Apparently, the Quickening is best achieved as far away from windows as possible. Cars and windows explode and bright light envelopes everything. Probably shouldn’t have dueled in a parking garage during a wrassling match.
00:10:43: Why’s he hiding his sword in the pipes in the garage? I forget if it’s a rule that you have to ditch your slaying stick?
00:11:00: Braveheart! Clan MacLeod! Back in the 1536. Because rounding years off makes it easy.
00:11:59: And Lambert speaks for the first time. Jesus. A Scotsman with a French accent. This was Lambert’s second English speaking movie. The first was Greystoke. He played Tarzan. He had about three lines. This will only be trumped later by the arrival of our Scottish Spaniard.
00:13:10: Apparently, the MacLeod’s are fighting the clan of the double bullheads. It’s the great clash of red plaid vs. blue plaid.
00:13:28: Behold the Kurgan. Clancy Brown is quite possibly the greatest villain actors every to be on the screen — large or small. It’s not even that the Kurgan is particularly evil (well, he is. Incredibly so.) It’s just that Clancy Brown looks subhuman, like a shaved gorilla.
00:14:00: During the battle of the tartan tablecloths, I’m shocked nobody is killing off the bagpipers, who sway in the midst of playing their wounded octopi. Of course, this isn’t typical of Scottish battles, when often they used to don full length evening gowns and blind their opponents with luxury.
00:15:00: Nobody’ll fight MacLeod. Except THE KURGAN. And now for Kurgan v. Connor!
00:15:52: Which ended pretty fucking quickly. Basically Kurgan sticks him with the monster broadsword and that was the end of it. At least we get the first mighty utterance of the greatest catch phrase in swordfighting history: “There can be only one!”
00:16:20: MacLeod’s got a sweet ride. Remind me to decrapitate a prime minister in order to get me some wheels.
00:16:40: NYPD on the scene, you know what I mean? Immortally busted. Apparently there was an APB out for a greasy-looking European wearing a trenchcoat. 5-dollar. 5-dollar FOOTLONG.
00:17:49: Bright lights may smite the Gremlins, but they apparently give French Scots flashbacks.
00:19:00: I wonder if the chalk outline guy gets excited when the victims are in pieces. Wahoo! Tonight I gets to draw a bunch of circles!
00:19:30: Ah, Jon Polito, subject of a ponderous debate betwixt Dan Carlson and meself. Fattening up was such a wise career decision. That and the pencil thin pornstache. Otherwise you look like a poor man’s thin Costanza.
00:19:42: Thank God one of the cops thought to make the “Gee, I wonder what the cause of death was?” joke. Because that right there is where comedy is born.
00:20:12: Apparently someone had already been headless but the cop figured “What the hell. It’s Jersey.” Because truly, foreigners are always being mauled by the Garden State.
00:22:40: Lots of tough guy talk. Lots of tough guy gay slurs. Lots of banter and head cracking. Polito can’t take a punch.
00:23:40: Glam rock Clancy Brown is exponentially more frightening than when he’s wearing a skull helmet. More QUEEN!
00:24:54: “You call that a knife? Now’s that’s a knife!” The Kurgan’s broadsword comes in a suitcase and needs to be painstakingly assembled and lubricated with the tears of small children whose pets are murdered before them. True story.
00:25:48: A hooker shows up to his room. “Hi. I’m Candy.” “Of course you are.” I think the reason I like this movie so much is Clancy Brown. Brother Justin made “Carnivale” so fucking awesome to watch. Him and the midget. It just goes to show. You only need a badass villain to make a brilliant action movie.
00:27:19: Lady detective figures out using the magic of Science that the swords must be different. So she goes to the Madison Square Garden parking lot with a medical detector. Oh, CSI, have you come a long way.
00:28:25: The movie is supposedly full of little historical inaccuracies and bloopers. MacLeod, a damn near 500-year-old Scot orders a fine Scotch “on the rocks.” If you’ve been reading your Boozehound, you know that no self-respecting Scotsman would water down his liquor. You also know there’s no such thing as a Scotsman with self-respect.
00:29:05: A good way to pick up chicks? Get accused of beheading someone. Make them think you’re stalking them. Then offer to walk them home. For being a half-millenial, brother’s got zilcho game. How many times has that line worked on a lady? It can be only once!
00:30:30: We’ve gone entirely too long without a sword fight. ENTER THE KURGAN! BOO! Who needs prosthetics? Clancy Brown’s a scary mothafucka.
00:31:44: The police have to have some kind of Immortal working on staff that can track them. There’s no way they’d find a weak ass sword fight that fast. Goddamn Asian cinema has ruined me for appreciating sword battles?
00:32:40: Back in ye old Scotland, nobody likes it when you don’t die of fatal wounds. That and girls who can do math will get ye labeled a witch!
00:33:56: The Scottish have a much more entertaining method of exorcism than Roman Catholics. Breaking a tankard of ale over their heads, and then tying them to an ox yoke and letting the village pelt them with rocks and savage headbutts.
00:37:00: So much of the movie involves MacLeod ruminating on his vast past, rather than swordfighting. I knew there was this element to the film, but I so only recalled a large amount of poorly-lit swordfight.
00:38:20: At last! The arrival of the Lost Musketeer, Juan Sanchez Villa-Lobos Ramirez. Played by Sean Connery. If even you thought it was mindblowing that Connery brogued his way along as a Russian submarine captain, an Irish Chicago cop, or a British secret agent, his Spaniard with a Scottish accent is why Charlie’s father inducted him into the Scottish Hall of Fame.
00:39:02: “Do as I say woman!” Of course Connery approves of this browbeating. Just read his interviews where he says there are plenty of occasions where it’s totally appropriate to strike your wife. This is the same man who’s poor choices in life include turning down the role of Gandalf in Lord of the Rings, The Architect in the Matrix movies, and John Hammond in Jurassic Park.
00:39:18: I guess Highlander is made of lightning. For no reason, bolts of lightning are striking him during an Irish Spring commerical.
00:40:47: That’s how all wealthy bachelors spend their evenings. Sharpening katanas and reading the large print edition of “A Metallurgical History of Ancient Sword Making.” I guess “Dr. Stabby’s Vast Omnibus of Sharp Cutty Stuffs” was too subtle.
00:40:51: No way! The lady cop wrote the book! And it says, “Born in Scranton, PA.” It fits! She’s obviously the mother of Dwight Schrute.
00:41:33: “You look like a woman, you stupid haggis.” Thems there fighting words, SO START FIGHTING! “You Spanish Peacock!” Wait, hold on. It turns out Juan Ramirez is actually Egyptian. THE FUCK?
00:42:38: Who lives in a pineapple under the sea! Con-nor Plaid-Kilt! Drowning won’t kill them. Also, now he works for Mr. Krabs flippin patties. The fact that this murderous Barbarian does the voice of Mr. Krabs on “Spongebob Squarepants” fills with unending glee.
00:43:35: Ah, Spaniards can disappear when being attacked with swords. It’s in their constitution.
00:43:53: MacLeod just pooped a fish. Almost an hour in and two swordfights? This better get killier faster.
00:45:00: History lesson. You’ll stay young until the Gathering. (He means Paji-Bacon.) Come on people now! Smile on your brother, everybody get together and kill one another right now.
00:45:47: Training sequence! What this needs is a jazzy Queen montage theme. But it won’t get it. Instead, Connery kills a tree and knocks it on MacLeod.
00:46:42: Safe only on holy ground. Goddammit! There were less rules in Gremlins. And they got through them faster.
00:46:59: It just occurred to me that Ramirez is wielding a katana. So he’s an Egyptian, posing as a Spaniard, with a Japanese sword and Scottish accent in the highlands to train an American raised in France how to fight the same style of swordfighting with a katana as a broadsword. By Zeus’ short and curlies! This makes no sense!
00:47:26: Sean Connery thinks he’s a stag. Or else he’s about to rape Connor. Either way, it’s amusing.
00:48:20: Sword fighting on cliffs would make a rad Viagra ad.
00:49:58: You can’t have children if you’re an Immortal. In the womb, there can be only none!
00:50:50: So Connery got his sword by boinking a Japanese princess. Just like Hattori Hanzo.
00:52:20: The Legend of the Kurgan. For amusement they would toss children into pits of starved dogs to fight for the meat. I love Clancy Brown.
00:54:00: Sean Connery vs. Joey Ramone! I mean, the Kurgan.
00:56:17: If I were sword fighting Pwnan the Barbarian, I wouldn’t keep doing it on the stairs of Gargamel’s tower. They keep wrecking up the joint, knocking giant chunks of plastery drywall from the backdrop.
00:57:00: Connery james him with the butterknife. This fight’s a little Douglas Fairbanks-y, but it’s probably going to be the best one until the finale.
00:57:59: “Tonight you sleep in hell!” With the Spartans from 300 apparently.
00:58:03: If you’re going to get decapitated, I highly recommend you do it on a stone staircase to nowhere in the middle of a thunderstorm. I also recommend you have it done by The Kurgan. I wonder if he does brisses?
00:58:35: The chick’s been screaming bloody fucking murder for the entire battle and after watching Grandpa Hamlet get a necklift, not a fucking peep. And where the hell has MacLeod been this whole time? Out finding a better insult than “haggis”?
00:59:37: “What can you tell me about a seven foot lunatic with a broadsword hacking away in New York at 1 AM?” His name is TK, and he lives on the second floor.
01:00:50: He’s lived 500 years and the only time periods we’ve seen are Ancient Scotland and World War II. Is he Mel Gibson?
01:02:05: That’s how all secretaries should be obtained. As a child witness your boss get gunned down by a Nazi only to spring back up and blow him away with his own gun.
01:03:06: I tape record all my dates too. Failure to get laid sounds better when you mix it with some Jay-Z.
01:04:59: Note to potential suitors: Always check for firearms lying around your date’s apartment. It’s eHarmony rule #37.
01:07:56: That’s the second time the “sword expert” called the katana a “samurai.” If this movie existed during the heydey of the interwebs, nerds would be skewering her. 200 folds? A sword can only be folded 16 times realistically, then it’s just getting subatomic. Why do I know these things? Goddamn you, Mother Internet.
01:08:00 Queen love song montage!
01:10:40: Dude. Just because throwing a handful of flour in someone’s face is called “antiquing” does not mean it makes for effective old age makeup.
01:11:15: Obligatory death of old girlfriend/wife. Sigh. For the ladies, I suppose.
01:13:17: Goodnight, my bonnie hen. God, did the screenwriter learn like four words in Scottish and use all of them?
01:13:40: What the hell? Apparently, his buddy Mace Windu is hanging out with a flask on a bridge in the park.
01:14:42: 1783. A drunken duel where you’re stabbed repeatedly by your assailant, only to finally apologize for the insult and stagger off, all while donning a white powdered John Adams wig. Who hasn’t been in one of those? It’s hilarious though.
01:16:30: Back to the Kurgan, awesoming it up. “Don’t ever speak to me again.”
01:17:39: A Firebird full of assault weapons driven by a nutjob. Every Republican just got a boner. Crazy pants sees a sword fight in the alley. Kurgan v. The Black Jedi. And a scimitar vs. the huge ass broadsword. Damn the decapitations are so friggin’ smooth looking. And now the gun nut’s trying to shoot up the Kurgan.
01:20:52: Why the hell does the Quickening make sewer covers explode with fire? And what does it have against windows?
01:21:38: Who doesn’t love Clancy Brown tearing around in a old person’s car with some old lady clinging to the hood for dear life?
01:24:17: Headline on front cover of New York Post: “Headhunter 3, Cops 0.” Awesome journalism.
01:25:30: Back then in Syracuse, being an unwed mother was a stoneable offense. Back in those malicious 1940s. Nowadays you can be a VP candidate.
01:27:25: The picture of the Kurgan that the police sketch artist posted looks like Andre the Giant.
01:28:28: Oh, every movie should have a church scene with Evil Clancy Brown. Snuffing prayer candles, head shaved looking like the goddamn Alien. “Happy halloween, ladies!” I hope the trend of safety pinning neck wounds becomes popular.
01:32:27: “I’ve got something to say! It’s better to burn out than fade away!” That’s a hell of an exit line.
01:34:51: Lady cop knows his secret. So the way to get a girl to like you is to tell her you’re invincible and then let her stab you. My two and a half year relationship is a testament to this fact.
01:36:00: Every movie should also go from shadowy sex scene to random lion cage at the zoo.
01:37:31: I’ve been his girlfriend for all of seventeen seconds, so it makes perfect sense to kidnap me, Mr. Kurgan. Fortunately this thin wood door should stop your assault. Oops.
01:38:00: Clancy Brown on a murderous car rampage is the only reason to watch this movie. God, he’s awesome. He’s like a goddamn mobile Misfits video.
01:42:10: Why do all dramatic showdowns occur on New York City rooftops with big neon signs?
01:44:14: I think it’s inordinately hilarious that the damsel in distress is shrieking EEEEE! just as a giant neon E falls from the sign.
01:45:00: Why do all the fights take place in water?
01:46:37: Big windowy 80’s loft fight! FINISH HIM! Oops, wrong Lambert movie. He’s going to be in the new Mortal Kombat as Rayden. Because what else does he have to do but being in movies where he gets to carry swords and shoot lightning?
01:48:00: Even while losing the sword fight, Clancy Brown manages to be a billion times cooler than Lambert.
01:49:39: I soooo hope there’s a Flashdance sequence. Dump water! No. Just a steel town girl on a Saturday night getting electrocuted by leftover Poltergeist effects.
01:50:40: When the hell did the Quickening become a Rob Zombie video version of a fireworks show? Now there is only one. This should have been their motto on the sequels. Connery does the second one of these but won’t come back for Indy 4. You could have saved it, old man!
01:51:38: The Prize is knowing everything in the world, vast omnipotence. And I guess you can make babies.
Well, all in all, it wasn’t as great as I remembered. I still love the sword fights, and this is the best of the series. Clancy Brown seriously is the fucking most ridiculously awesome bad guy in this. Hans Gruber evil with total maniacal behavior. It’s great. The sword fighting isn’t terrible, but it’s not as good as child me remembers. It’s still awesome to watch for a hangover theatre stuff, but I just don’t know if it holds up today. There really were less Queen songs than I recall. I thought this was chock full of Queen, but that must have been Flash Gordon.
Brian Prisco is a burger whisperer from the hills and valleys of North Hollywood, by way of the fiery streets of Philadelphia. When not casting his slings and arrows of outrageous fortune in an attempt to make sense of this crazy little thing called love, he can be found with his nose in a book in an attempt to make a grown woman cry when he beats her in the Cannonball Read. You can pick a fight with him via email at .com or decipher his crazy ramblings at The Gospel According to Prisco. Hail Discordia!
Highlander: The Director's Cut Real-Time Review / Brian Prisco
Film | January 13, 2009 | Comments ()