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Highlander: The Immortal Edition

Is there a dearth of good ideas in the Fantasy and Science Fiction genres? The longevity of the Highlander franchise points to such a conclusion, as it seems astounding that the 1986 film — which was coolly received in its theatrical release but spawned a loyal video following — could seed three sequels (which range from the marginally entertaining to the truly hideous) and a spin-off television show. It's also interesting how it's been expanded to such a degree, considering the premise of the first film should negate the possibility of said sequels. That's not to say the original movie doesn't deserve its place on the Cult Classics shelf at your local video store. As directed by Russell Mulcahy, Highlander is an efficient fantasy effort with a stronger cast than it deserves. The story follows Connor MacLeod (Christopher Lambert), who is in trouble with the NYPD because of a recent beheading. What the cops don't know is that Connor is an Immortal, and Immortals are playing an eternity-long game in which they must fight and kill each other, but can only be killed by another of their kind when their heads are lopped off. As told in flashbacks, Connor didn't know this until he was befriended by Ramirez (Sean Connery, who was paid a cool $1 million for seven days of work), a useful teacher who trains him in the ways of their people. Now all the Immortals are in New York for "The Gathering" — the final fight when one immortal gets "The Prize" — and it looks to be a showdown between Connor and the extra-malicious Kurgan (Clancy Brown). But Connor has weak spot, in that he has fallen for a mortal (Roxanne Heart). Highlander works — even if it has the gloss and editing rhythms of a mid-'80s Duran Duran video — because the premise (a spin on vampirism mixed with a bit of Ten Little Indians) holds enough water to keep the Immortals interesting. The time-hopping nature of the story (it spans four centuries) lends to beautiful locales for sword-fights. And it's always a pleasure to watch Sean Connery play a rogue, and Clancy Brown play a bad guy. The fan-base for this film must be rather large, because not only is that the only way to explain the nonsensical sequels, but it also explains why Anchor Bay has released two versions of the first film to better the initial Republic DVD that suffered from heavy pixelation. The new release comes in both Dolby Digital EX and DTS ES, and in a grainy but improved anamorphic transfer (1.85:1). The extras are almost all holdovers from the original DVD and Laserdisc release: theatrical trailers, still galleries, and an audio commentary with director Mulcahy and producers Peter S. Davis and William N. Panzer. New to this version are three Queen music videos for "Who Wants To Live Forever", "A Kind of Magic", and "Princes of the Universe" (which features an appearance by Lambert). Also included is a still gallery for the band and bios for Connery, Lambert, and Mulcahy. Those who opt for the Immortal Edition with its spiffy metallic slipcase get a bonus CD with the three songs: "Friends Will Be Friends," "One Year of Love (the extended version)," and "Princes of the Universe," and a 16-page booklet highlighting the appeal of Queen. Dual-DVD keep-case.
—DSH



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