Original style-A poster
|Directed by||Russell Mulcahy|
|Produced by||Peter S. Davis
William N. Panzer
|Distributed by||20th Century Fox|
|Release date(s)||March 7, 1986|
|Running time||U.S. Theatrical Cut:
French Theatrical Cut:
European Theatrical Cut:
|Gross revenue||$5,900,000 (USA)|
|Followed by||Highlander II: The Quickening|
Highlander is a 1986 fantasy action film directed by Russell Mulcahy and based on a story by Gregory Widen. It stars Christopher Lambert, Sean Connery, Clancy Brown, and Roxanne Hart. The film has inspired a franchise that includes film sequels and television spin-offs. The movie is set between several time periods, but concentrates on 1985 in New York. The movie launched Lambert to superstardom and is considered one of his best roles yet. A remake of the film was announced in 2008 with a 2010/2011 release.
Connor MacLeod(Christopher Lambert) was born in the year 1518 "in the village of Glenfinnan on the shores of Loch Shiel." In 1536, his clan is in conflict with the Clan Fraser, and Connor rides along into his first battle. The Frasers are working with a seven foot giant of a man known as The Kurgan (Clancy Brown), who has recognized that Connor is a fellow Immortal and hopes to use the battle to kill Connor before he becomes aware of his abilities. On the battlefield, Connor feels a strange sensation especially when he sees the Kurgan on top of a hill and thunder and lightning appear. As the battle rages, Connor wonders why none of the Fraser's forces will attack him, until he comes across the Kurgan and is struck again by an odd pain (from sensing the proximity of another immortal, though he doesn't know it at the time). This leaves him open to attack. Connor was no match for the Russian and The Kurgan mortally wounds Connor and prepares to decapitate him, but the MacLeod kinsmen intervene just before this occurs, with the Kurgan vowing to return. The clan mourn Connor, but he miraculously revives shortly after his "death." Accusing him of witchcraft, Kinfolk and loved ones turned their backs on him and beat him up and prepare to burn him, but his cousin Angus (James Cosmo) persuades them to exile Connor instead. Connor escapes with his life but is banished forever from his clan and birthplace vowing never to return again.. MacLeod eventually becomes a blacksmith in Glencoe, where he marries Heather (Beatie Edney). In 1541, he is located by a much older Immortal, who introduces himself as Juan Sánchez Villa-Lobos Ramírez (Sean Connery). He explains that the pain he feels in the Kurgan's and Ramírez's presence is "The Quickening," which compels Immortals to battle each other. Ramírez appoints himself MacLeod's tutor in the ways of being Immortal, their pursuit of The Prize, and the rules of an age-old "Game," which will end when the few who remain participate in "The Gathering," noting that "in the end, there can be only one." Immortals can only die by decapitation and can only avoid battle on holy ground. Ramírez later explains that his own name is just his current alias, being Egyptian by birth. He adopted it while serving as Chief Metallurgist for Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor (also King of Spain between 1516-1556). His sword is a katana he received in Japan in 593 B.C., made by his (then) father-in-law Masamune. Masamune, a genius far ahead of his time in the forging of swords, was the father of Princess Shakiko, Ramírez's third wife. Ramírez also takes it upon himself to improve MacLeod's swordsmanship, which he declares is "no better than that of a clumsy child." Ramírez warns MacLeod to leave his wife or face heartbreak, explaining that "I was born 2,437 years ago. In that time, I've had three wives. The last was Shakiko, a Japanese princess... When Shakiko died, I was shattered. I would save you that pain. Please, let Heather go." He also explains that Immortals are incapable of having children. MacLeod refuses to leave his wife, though he continues to train under Ramírez, who also explains the origins of the Kurgan and the risk for the world if he wins the Prize. One night, the Kurgan arrives at MacLeod's home while MacLeod himself is absent, though Heather and Ramírez are there. The Kurgan and Ramírez duel, with the frightened Heather their only spectator. After an extended duel, which destroys the house, the Kurgan manages to decapitate Ramírez. MacLeod soon returns to find his home in ruins, his mentor killed, and his wife alive but traumatized. MacLeod remains with his wife until her death from old age. Dying in MacLeod's arms, she confides that her only regret was not having his children. After burying Heather, MacLeod burns their residence and wanders the world.
In 1985 New York City, the few surviving Immortals are participating in "The Gathering", a final series of confrontations to determine the winner of "The Prize". Eventually, the last two surviving are MacLeod, under the alias of "Russell Edwin Nash" and the Kurgan, under the alias of "Victor Kruger." Meanwhile, the spike in what appear to be murders by decapitation has drawn the attention of the police, One night while attending a wrestling match in Madison Square Garden, Connor senses an Immortal closeby and leaves. He goes the the garage under the garden where he is confronted by Iman Fasil (Peter Diamond) who lunges at Connor with his sword. But Connor counters this move and kicks Fasil and takes out his katana and fights him. The fight swings back and forward, Fasil eluding MacLeod amongst the cars, rushing at him out of the shadows. Then the momentum swings to Fasil, as he separates MacLeod from his sword, but he cannot press his advantage and MacLeod vanishes. Out of sight, MacLeod recovers his sword and then steps out to face Fasil. This time, there is nowhere to go and Fasil is the one disarmed. The two look at each other for a last moment, before MacLeod beheads Fasil and recives his quickening. Picking himself up, Connor hides his sword in an overhead grating before driving out of the garage. But he is not quick enough and is arrested by police arriving to investigate the disturbance. The police question him but he denies killing Fasil or Vasselik(Another Immortal killed in New Jersey a few nights ago) and with no evidance, they let Connor go but still consider him as thier prime suspect. Among the investigators of the case is forensic scientist Brenda Wyatt (Roxanne Hart), who is well-versed in the provenance of swords. Samples taken from the crime scene reveal the sword used is more than 2000 years old (MacLeod is now using Ramírez' sword) and she begins investigating him, primarily over interest in the sword. MacLeod returns to Madison Square Garden to collect his sword, but finds that he is not the only one searching. Brenda Wyatt is also there collecting samples. Connor later follows her to a bar but strikes a nerve with her and she leaves. As Connor does the same, Brenda follows him and is amazed when the Kurgan attacks Conner. The fight is interrupted by a police helicopter and both men flee, the giant’s parting shot being that they will meet again. Brenda follows MacLeod, asking what the giant meant. Why did he call him “Highlander”? And if there can be only one, only one what? Connor tells her to go home and leaves her standing on the street corner. More determined than ever to find out what is going on, Brenda uses a little subterfuge to confirm that the man she followed from the bar is Russell Nash, the antiques dealer questioned over Fasil’s death. She goes to his antiques store, but is stonewalled by Nash’s secretary, Rachel (Sheila Gish) until the man himself appears, inviting himself to dinner at her apartment. That evening, as he prepares to go out, Rachel confronts him about what he is doing. She is more to him than a secretary, being his adoptive daughter and confidant. Connor found her orphaned amongst the ruins of the Second World War and the young Rachel saw him killed, only to come back to life and save them both. For her, on many levels, this man has a kind of magic and she is concerned at his eternal isolation and loneliness. Connor goes to Brenda’s apartment, already knowing that she is with the police. He lets her know that he knows by giving her a copy of her own book on the metallurgy of swords. He accuses her of trying to set him up with the cops, but she is desperate to find the sword and only that. She demands answers, but he tells her she has no right to them. He leaves, but as he walks away, Ramirez’ voice comes unbidden to mind. “You must leave her, brother. Days later Connor meets his best friend and fellow African Immortal Kastagir(Hugh Quarshie) in Central Park and the two men share a night of partying one last time. Later, Kastagir challenges the Kurgan in an Alley There are a street full of witnesses to the fight and one of them, a survivalist, tries to gun down the Kurgan after he kills Kastagir but is impaled on the Kurgan’s sword and thrown against the wall. Unable to move, he has a front row seat as the Kurgan receives Kastagir’s Quickening. The Kurgan makes his escape, leaving the survivalist to give a description to the police, who are less than pleased that their mysterious head-hunter isn’t Russell Nash. Later, Connor goes to church, his yearly remembrance of his promise to Heather, but his reflections are disturbed by the Kurgan, gloating in the death of Kastagir. They are the last and the Kurgan has every intention of taking Connor’s head and the Prize. He mocks Connor, telling him how Ramirez died on his knees and how he raped "His woman". Connor’s reaction tells him that his long-held belief that she was Ramirez’ woman was wrong. The Kurgan gloats, believing that he has wounded Connor, but he soon realises that all he has done is light a fire under MacLeod. Now, the Highlander has a reason to want him dead that goes beyond mere survival. Connor returns to the store to find Brenda demanding to see him. When she tells him that she knows the truth about Nash, he tells her the rest of it. And kills himself to prove it. sees a way to distract the Highlander. As Brenda returns home, the Kurgan is waiting and forces his way into her apartment, kidnapping her. He terrifies her with a high speed rampage through the New York traffic, playing chicken with trucks and mowing down pedestrians. When he finally has her cowed, he leaves a message for Connor, inviting him to come get her. Rachel knows that, win or lose, Connor is not coming back and says her goodbyes to both Russell Nash and Connor MacLeod.
Connor goes to the abandoned movie studio where the Kurgan is waiting and finds Brenda tied to the neon sign on the roof. As he tries to free her, the Kurgan comes out of the dark and attacks him. Connor eludes the Kurgan, who smashes through the supports for the neon sign, causing it to crash down. As it does, it brings down the water tower next to it and floods the roof. Brenda scrambles from the wrecked sign in time to see Connor and the Kurgan fall through a roof light into the building below. Both men are winded, but the Kurgan is quicker and kicks away Connor’s sword. He is ready to finish the Highlander when Brenda hits him with a piece of pipe. Distracted, he turns his attention on her, giving Connor time to retrieve his katana and blocks the Kurgan's sword from hitting Brenda. "What kept you?" Connor says to Brenda and continues the fight. The two of them face off for a final time, but each time they clash, it is the Kurgan who feels steel slicing through his skin. The two stare at each other, but for the first time fear mingles with the madness in the Kurgan’s eyes and Connor steps through, and with one stroke of his sword taking the Kurgan’s head. The final Quickening is unleashed and Connor is lifted into the air as the power of the Prize rages around him in the empty building. When it is finished, Connor leaves New York, taking Brenda with him, and returns to Scotland. He knows the thoughts of all men and can guide them as he wishes, he can live, grow old and have children. He is at one with all living things. He has power beyond imagination and, in his mind, he hears Ramirez urging him to use it wisely. And not to lose his head.
|Christopher Lambert||Connor MacLeod / Russell Nash|
|Roxanne Hart||Brenda Wyatt|
|Clancy Brown||The Kurgan / Victor Kruger|
|Sean Connery||Juan Sanchez Villa-Lobos Ramirez|
|Beatie Edney||Heather MacLeod|
|Alan North||Lieutenant Frank Moran|
|Jon Polito||Detective Walter Bedsoe|
|Sheila Gish||Rachel Ellenstein|
|Hugh Quarshie||Sunda Kastagir|
|Christopher Malcolm||Kirk Matunas|
|Peter Diamond||Iman Fasil|
|Billy Hartman||Dugal MacLeod|
|James Cosmo||Angus MacLeod|
|Celia Imrie||Kate MacLeod|
Gregory Widen wrote the script to Highlander, then titled "Shadow Clan", as a class assignment while he was attending the workshop of Richard Walter, chairman of the screenwriting department at University of California, Los Angeles. Widen sold the script in 1982 for two US$10,000 paychecks.
According to Bill Panzer, producer of the Highlander franchise, " Gregory Widen was a student at film school, and he wrote this as his writing class project. (...) He was apparently travelling through Scotland on his summer vacation and he was standing in front of a suit of armor, and he wondered, 'What would it be like if that guy was alive today?' And that's where everything fell into place - the idea that there are Immortals and they were in conflict with each other, leading secret lives that the rest of us are unaware of.
Gregory Widen's original draft of the movie was very different from the movie version in many ways. The first draft of the script was darker and graphically violent. The main characters are also different in a number of ways; Connor was born in 1408 instead of 1518. He lived with his mother and father. In the draft, Heather (Connor's beloved wife in the film) does not exist; Connor was promised to a young girl named Mara whom he loved with all his heart, but who later rejects him after he becomes immortal. Connor leaves his village instead of being banished. His alias in the draft was Richard Tupin and his weapon was a custom broadsword. Ramirez was a Spaniard born in 1100 A.D. instead of being an ancient Egyptian born 2437 years ago. The Kurgan was known as the Knight using the alias Carl William Smith. He was not a savage but a cold blooded killer. Brenda was known as Brenna Cartwright.
Other major factors that were later changed during the rewrite. Initially, immortals could have children; in the draft Connor is said to have had 37. In a flashback in the first draft, Connor attends the funeral of one of his sons. His wife (in her 70's) and his two sons, who are in their mid 50's, see him revealed as an immortal. Also, there are no quickenings in the first draft. When an immortal kills another, nothing happens. There is no mention of the Prize either. When Connor finally kills the Knight, he feels a sharp burning pain. We are not told if he is still immortal or not.
The role of Connor MacLeod was allegedly offered to and turned down by Mickey Rourke. Marc Singer was also allegedly offered the role, but turned it down due to his commitment on the original miniseries V.
According to Roxanne Hart, Brooke Adams was the original choice for Brenda Wyatt. Rosanna Arquette, Jennifer Beals, Jodie Foster, Tatum O'Neal and Jennifer Jason Leigh auditioned for the role of Brenda.
Virginia Madsen auditioned for the role of Heather. She later appeared as Connor's love interest in the second film. The wrestling match in the beginning of the movie involves the tag team "The Fabulous Freebirds".
Filming began in April 1985 and ended August 30, 1985. It took place in Scotland, England and New York City.
Director of Photography Arthur Smith filmed the scene where fish fall out of MacLeod's kilt, but Lambert's kilt was too short. Smith says, "I stuck part of a drain pipe above Chris's kilt out of camera range, and fed live trout down the tube." Smith also had difficulties shooting the scene where MacLeod meets the Kurgan. It was raining and the crew had to use umbrellas and hair dryers to prevent the water from hitting the camera lenses and appearing on the film. Smith also remembered that Lambert, who is near-sighted, "kept forgetting to take off his glasses as he came over the hill on his horse."
The filming of the parking garage scene took place in two different places. According to New York location manager Brett Botula, "the garage exterior is Manhattan, across from Madison Square Garden, and the interior is 'somewhere in London.'"
The location for the scene where the MacLeod clan sets off to battle is Eilean Donan Castle, which is in the same general area where the action is supposed to take place, but is really on the shore of Loch Duich, a sea loch near Kyle of Lochalsh and the Isle of Skye.
According to the DVD commentary, the film's climax was originally intended to take place on top of the Statue of Liberty. Then it was changed to an amusement park, and finally changed to the rooftop of the Silvercup Studios building. The opening sequence was originally intended to take place during an NHL hockey game. But the NHL refused to allow the crew to film there because they were intending to emphasize the violence of the match.
The church scene involving Kurgan (Clancy Brown) was filmed at Augustines C of E in Kilburn London at night time with the permission of the priests in charge. Still, Brown's lines were ad-libbed and were reportedly considered so sacrilegious that the priests off-camera were making the sign of the cross as he said them.
The scene in the alley where the Kurgan (Clancy Brown) beheads Kastagir (Hugh Quarshie) and then stabs the gun nut, followed by the explosion, was filmed in an alley in England even though it was set in New York. The director was reluctant to set off the explosion in the alley because the windows were full of Victorian glass, but he was given permission to do so because that particular site was going to be destroyed in a few months anyway.
All of Sean Connery's scenes were filmed in a week due to Connery's schedule. During the filming of this movie, Sean Connery and Christopher Lambert got along even better than their on screen counterparts, even going as far as to call each other by their characters' names when not filming. The two were (and continue to be) such good friends that Lambert threatened to back out of the sequel unless Connery's character was added to the film.. The opening voice over by Sean Connery has an echo effect because it was recorded in a bathroom. It was played for the producers over the phone, and they approved of it because they could not discern the quality of the recording that way.
According to the director's commentary, the animated lightning on Connor's shoulders when he receives The Prize was actually supposed to disguise the wires - ironically, this may have just drawn more attention to them.
The original orchestral score was composed by Michael Kamen, but the soundtrack includes several songs by Queen, like "Princes of the Universe," which was also used in the Highlander television series title sequence. Queen wrote many of the songs specifically to match the mood of the scenes when the songs were played, notably Brian May's "Who Wants to Live Forever", concerning the doomed love of Connor and his wife Heather.
While an album specifically tied to the Highlander movie was never released, Queen's 1986 album A Kind of Magic features most of the songs from the film, as well as other music on the same theme. Notably, Queen's version of "Theme from New York, New York" (playing while The Kurgan drives Brenda through New York) was never released by the band.
A duel sequence that introduced an Asian immortal named Yung Dol Kim was cut from the film and the footage for the scene, along with certain other deleted scenes, was later destroyed by fire. A few stills from the sequence, some in color and others in black & white, did survive and were later used in the collectible card game based on Highlander for cards featuring the Kim character. All that is known about Kim is that he was working as a night security guard in a New York City office building at the time of the Gathering, where he was challenged and ultimately beheaded by the Kurgan. In the continuity of the film, the Kurgan's duel with Kim takes place before his duel with Kastagir.
Other scenes missing include;
In the scene following Connor taking the Kurgan's head, director Russell Mulcahy had originally envisioned an animated dragon with the Kurgan's skull battle helmet emerging from the Kurgan's decapitated body and challenging Connor again. Only after Connor had defeated this Ghost-Dragon would he have received the final quickening and subsequent Prize. This idea was eventually cut due to budget restraints.
The European version of the film contained scenes not found in the U.S. cut. The Director's Cut is based upon this cut, and runs eight minutes longer than the U.S. cut. Even so, there is some missing dialogue that was in the theatrical version, such as the chants of "Kill the MacLeod!" at the beginning, "I want to go home," after Connor receives The Prize and does not contain a short scene shot from inside Det. Bedsoe's car as he stakes out Brenda's apartment during MacLeod's visit. It includes;
In the scene where MacLeod rescues Rachel, the SS-Officer is speaking German, but in the English video versions no subtitles are provided. The text goes as follows:
While the U.S. Director's Cut is based on the European cut, there remain differences in dialogue. In the American cut, when Connor falls from the boat and ends up on the sea floor, he says "I'm alive", whereas the European version expands upon that: "I'm alive... I can breathe... ." Shortly followed by "I'll split you in half!", spoken while drawing his sword under water.
The French theatrical version of "Highlander" is mainly the same version as the U.S theatrical. It does add the World War II flashback but it also removes the interior shot of detective Bedsoe in his car while on a stakeout. This has been issued on 2-disc and 3-disc DVD sets in France with French dialog only.
The film was directed by Russell Mulcahy and scripted by Peter Bellwood, Larry Ferguson, and Gregory Widen. Upon initial U.S. release, it was not well-received, but it gained wide and persistent popularity in Europe and on other markets, as well as on home video. It has since obtained status as a cult classic film in both domestic and non-domestic markets, leading to four sequels, a television series, and various other spin-offs.
The movie made $2,453,021 on its opening weekend and ended up making $5,735,847 domestically. Internationally, the movie made $12,885,193.
Danél Griffin of Film as Art awarded the film four stars (out of four), saying: "The key to Highlander's success is in its approach to its subject matter. What could have been a premise that breathes cliché is given a fresh approach due to Mulcahy’s unique directing style and a cleverly-written script. [...] Highlander is certainly a classic film that will continue to be cherished and watched as the world of movie making continues to grow and change. It is a triumphant example of the art of cinema, and watching it reminds us all of why we like going to the movies in the first place." Christopher Null of FilmCritic.com gave the film four and a half stars out of five, "Highlander has no equal among sword-and-sorcery flicks." Null later called Highlander "the greatest action film ever made," saying that it features "awesome swordfights, an awesome score, and a time-bending plotline that only a philistine could dislike."
Matt Ford of the BBC gave the film three stars out of five, saying: "From the moody, rain-soaked, noir-ish streets of late 20th century America to the wild open spaces of medieval Scotland, Mulcahy plunders movie history to set off his visceral fight scenes with suitably rugged locations. [...] What the film loses through ham acting, weak narrative, and pompous macho posturing it more than compensates with in sheer fiery bravado, pace, and larger than life action." Dean Winkelspecht of DVD Town also gave Highlander three stars out of five, saying: "The film's slow pace and dated look will turn away many a new viewer [...] However, there is a certain appeal to the film that brings back many for a second or third helping. I have learned to appreciate the film over the years, [and] the film's story is unique and entertaining."
Also giving the film three stars out of five, Adam Tyner of DVD Talk said, "The screenplay spots a number of intelligent, creative ideas, and I find the very concept of displacing the sword-and-sorcery genre to then-modern-day New York City to be fairly inventive. The dialogue and performances don't quite match many of the film's concepts, though. The tone seems somewhat uneven, as if Highlander is unsure if it wants to be seen as a straight adventure epic or if it's a campy action flick." IGN, awarding Highlander a score of 8 out of 10, said: "This 80s classic has a lot going for it. The hardcore MTV manner in which it was filmed is common these days, but was groundbreaking then. This movie features some of the best scene transitions committed to celluloid. [...] To this is added some fun performances by Connery and especially Clancy Brown."
The video was a domestic hit in the United States. The theatrical release of Highlander II: The Quickening in 1991 significantly increased the rental activity on Highlander even though the sequel was not a box-office success. Highlander was first released to DVD in the United States in 1996, in a "10th Anniversary Edition" Director's Cut that contained the International uncut version of the film. A "15th Anniversary" edition was released worldwide in 2001, which also contained the International cut of the film. Highlander was again released in 2002 in two editions: a special edition "Immortal Edition" with several extra features and a standard edition, both of which contain the International uncut version. On the 6 July 2009 a Blu Ray version was released in the UK.
A novelization of the film was written by Gary Kilworth. It expanded more on the movie by telling how The Kurgan met his first death, his training with an Immortal Arab only known as "The Bedouin" and eventually killing him. The novel also reveals how The Kurgan gets his customized Broadsword and his battle with an Immortal Mongol before meeting MacLeod in 1536. The novel also expands on Connor's friendship with the African Immortal Sunda Kastagir. There is a flashback of them during the Zulu Natal Wars of 1879 in which Connor was captured by Zulu King Cetewayo's men and Kastagir helps his friend escape and showed Connor the way to the closest British camp. Rachel in the novel is posing as Connor's mother.
On March 2008, Summit Entertainment announced that it had bought the film rights to the Highlander franchise and are making a remake of the 1986 original movie with Iron Man writers Art Marcum and Matt Holloway writing the script scheduled for release in 2010. Actor Kevin McKidd is in talks to play Connor Macleod. In September 2009, Fast & Furious director Justin Lin was announced as director of the film while Neal H. Moritz will co-produce.
Highlander is a 1986 fantasy movie starring Christopher Lambert, who plays Connor MacLeod, the Highlander of the title. The original movie spawned three subsequent theatrical releases and a television series of relative success.