Highlander 30th Anniversary Blu-ray Review
There certainly wasn’t only one.
The first – and universally accepted as best – in a long and expansive film and TV franchise, Highlander is certainly a fun product of its time, even if these days it would have been a DTV Uwe Boll flick.Where else would you find Christopher Lambert playing a Scotsman, crossing swords with Sean Connery, playing an Egyptian who has been living in Spain? Borne from the undeniable popularity of swords and sandals dramas at the time and a desire to infuse them with more modern trappings, Highlander was far more successful than say, Masters of the Universe, in trading its very particular wares. With Lambert’s immortal MacLeod we gain insight into a character who has been alive for hundreds of years, and who has outlived any and everybody he has ever loved; and who has been battling the same adversary across the ages.Sure, it’s nicer in terms of idea than it is in terms of delivery, but director Russell Mulcahy and star Christopher Lambert somehow make it work, and aside from Connery’s questionable methods of supporting Scotland, even he adds weight to the otherwise lightweight proceedings. Clancy Brown goes suitably over the top as the immortal adversary, and a combo effort from composer Michael Kamen and none other than Queen leaves the film in the same camp as other fun romps like Flash Gordon; if you don’t think about it too much, it’s actually an unpretentiously silly but very enjoyable little film.
Picture QualityThis 1080p/AVC-encoded High Definition video presentation, framed in the movie’s original theatrical aspect ratio of 1.85:1 widescreen, is a considerable upgrade over its predecessor. Detail is marvellous in key sequences, with the close ups in particular looking superb; grain is more stable and far better resolved, whilst DNR feels far less obvious than before.
Remastered in 4K for its 30th Anniversary, Highlander gets an impressive restoration.
The colour scheme appears far more natural and healthy, with strong primaries and deep, rich blacks. Indeed some of the flashback sequences retain such deep daytime black levels that it almost looks like the contrast has gone off the charts, although, more likely, this was inherent to the source material. Similarly inherent, there are some truly awful shots. In particular, one zoom out of an eye looks VHS through and through. But these moments are relatively few and far between; the softness is held at bay; the grain is consistent and the detail – more often than not – will impress.
Audio QualityOn the aural front, things are also fairly impressive.
Although there’s no official word on whether this is a new track, the DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 offering included is certainly a strong accompaniment. There’s also a solid DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 track which does the job, but the six-speaker successor is the better option, delivering dialogue clearly and coherently across the frontal array, and disseminating effects around the surrounds with aplomb. Sure, some key sequences – from the opening pan across the Madison Square Gardens to the final act electricity-infused rooftop fight – stand out above others, but it’s still nice to see a 30 year old flick of this budget delivering some decent directionality and atmosphere, even if it’s far from a contender for modern day equivalents. The LFE channel is not without expression either, and overall it’s a decent aural accompaniment.
ExtrasAside from all the old extras – including an Audio Commentary from the Director Russell Mulcahy, a series of good quality but music-only Extended Scenes, an Archival Interview with Christopher Lambert, and the Original Theatrical Trailer – this new edition sports three additional offerings: a pair of 20 minute retrospective Interviews with the Director and Star, discussing this key entry in their respective filmographies; and an extended Making Of Documentary, which is now four parts long and about half an hour longer than the previously included one.
VerdictAlmost nothing about this movie should work, but, strangely, it largely does.
It was never going to win any awards, but Highlander is solid, camp, fun; a romp through the ages with an earnest Christopher Lambert and an unintentionally hilarious Sean Connery. Hell, most of the movie is unintentionally hilarious, and still a fun ride. This 30th Anniversary should please many fans, improving on the previous release courtesy of a quality 4K scan and some nice new extras.
You can buy Highlander on Blu-ray here
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