Friday, October 13, 2023


[Back in 2018, there was a social media challenge on Facebook in which a person posted a picture a day for 10 days of 10 films that made an impact on them. However, I went a step beyond and posted an explanation as to why they made that impact. For the sake of posterity, they're being reposted here in their entirety (with some modification where warranted)]:

Day 4 of 10 movies that had an impact on me. 10 films that inspired you, 10 days, one image. I was nominated for this challenge by Andrew Baldwin. Do or do not, there is no care.

What started out as a class thesis project turned into one of the most maligned and mocked film franchises in modern cinema. Where to begin? Gregory Widen’s original soulful and earnest screenplay about the inherent tragedy of immortality undermined by money-grubbing producers and a too-cool-for-school director hoping for a quick buck; a lead who at the time barely knew English, much less emulate a proper Scottish accent; a proper Scot cast as a Spaniard with an Egyptian pedigree; a film that was clearly meant as a “done-in-one” branched out into ever-worsening film sequels that only marred the original’s legacy.

Yet for all that, “Highlander” (1985) captures the imagination with it’s barely-scratched mythology of Immortal beings living among humanity “down through the centuries, living many secret lives, struggling to reach the time of the Gathering, where the few who remain…will battle to the last.” Christopher Lambert’s performance as “Connor MacLeod of the Clan MacLeod” may have been wooden, but his screen presence perfectly fit the film’s milieu and zeitgeist; his unique accent totally appropriate for an individual having lived throughout the world for four centuries. Looking at those feral-yet-haunted eyes (an unintended-yet-welcomed consequence of the lead's myopia), one could imagine all the joys and tolls of those lifetimes lived. Despite only being available for a week of shooting, none can deny that Connery made the most of it, imbuing a much needed levity to balance the gravitas a character like “Juan Sanchez Villalobos Ramirez” would carry.  Clancy Brown, a fine actor in any production, had been hampered by Peter S. Davis & William Panzer’s desire to make the fearsome “Kurgan” into a stock, cartoonish ‘80s nutjob (in the original screenplay, the Kurgan was as weighted down by his immortality as much as Connor was, fighting for “the Prize” only because it was all that was left to him, which would have made for a much more meaningful and powerful take).

Say what you will about director Russel Mulcahy, his MTv-generation sense of style gave this film its own distinct identity, and the one-two punch of Michael Kamen’s score along with the stirring soundtrack by Queen elevates what could have been B-movie fare to something close to mythic. Case in point, Brian May was inspired to write “Who Wants To Live Forever” after watching the montage of MacLeod watching his beloved wife, Heather (Beatie Edney), whither and die while he remains unchanged…it’s this sequence that elevates the entire film, and presents a glimpse as to Widen's narrative intentions. Be that as it (Brian) may, the soundtrack and orchestrations perfectly underscore the sense of weariness and loss an unending lifetime can evoke, yet at the same time provide a stirring, rollicking sense of occult adventure. This film is (despite it's flaws) "a kind of magic"...and it is felt throughout the film. Without embarrassment I can say that, for a time, I was obsessed with this mythology. As with the Immortals, the film stands outside the fringes of the every day. Much of the mythology wouldn’t be properly (in varying degrees) explored until the series it inspired several years later. But here, just a hint of that world was enough to incite the imagination. 

The image above is the climatic shot, representing not only the receipt of “The Prize”, but also a moment of orgiastic catharsis: Pain, pleasure, power…release...the culmination of a nigh-interminable existence…all embodied in one image. 

The film’s most famous tagline is “There Can Be Only One.” In truth, there should have been only one for, marred though it be, “Highlander” achieved all it had to do in one.

(And for the record…to this day I absolutely LOVE that Masamune katana).

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