Mimsy Were the Borogoves

Movie and DVD Reviews: The best and not-so-best movies available on DVD, and whatever else catches my eye.

Mimsy Review: Highlander

Reviewed by Jerry Stratton, May 10, 2000

There can be only one!

Special features

Commentary Track6
Director Cut7
Photo Gallery3

A great movie, with a good commentary, and poor video quality. Recent price drop makes it a worthwhile purchase.

DirectorRussell Mulcahy
WritersGregory Widen, Peter Bellwood, Larry Ferguson
Movie Rating7
Transfer Quality3
Overall Rating4
  • Letterbox

I was at Walmart the other day and saw that they were dumping a bunch of movies at $10. I quickly picked up about five of them, and then put them all back except one when I realized they were almost all pan & scan. But I did decide to finally take the plunge and get Highlander.

I notice that Highlander has also dropped to $10 at Amazon.Com, although they had, for a while, an $8 "special fee". I suspect this means that the price has officially dropped to $10 and they weren’t willing to sell current stock at that price! Why the official price has dropped, I don’t know. We can hope there’s a better transfer coming, but it might just be that they want to free up their warehouse space.

Highlander is a wonderful movie. If you haven’t already seen it, you owe it to yourself to do so. Christopher Lambert, Clancy Brown, and Sean Connery have a wonderful presence playing immortal warriors. Clancy’s character (“the Kurgan”) was the least developed, but they certainly made him look evil! Connor Macleod (Christopher Lambert), however, we get to see from his ‘birth’ as an immortal until the present time. Very little about the technical aspects of what it means to be an immortal is delved into. But there are some interesting forays into the social aspects of being an immortal—especially in the extended release that we get on this disc.

The disc is called a “director’s cut”, but what it really is, is the European version, which ran longer than the American version. If you’ve already seen the European version, nothing in here is going to surprise you. But if you’ve only seen the cut version, you’ll get quite a bit more out of the movie after watching this.

Now, what about the disc?

First, the reason I haven’t gotten Highlander already is all the talk about how bad the transfer is. I figured if the transfer was really that bad, it would eventually drop to $5 to $10. I’m right: while Amazon was ‘surcharging’, other on-line retailers are further discounting the disk to $7-$8, and even Amazon has dropped the surcharge as I write this. I’ve even heard that Target is selling it for $7 in their brick-and-mortar stores.

The complaints about the transfer are mostly true. The transfer really is pretty bad. The quality is variable but in general very grainy and VHS-like. If we’re lucky, it's being dumped in preparation for a new release, but if the original has degraded that badly over time, I’m not sure what they’re going to be able to do.

However, if you have only seen the American version, I recommend at least renting it, and, at that price, consider picking it up (barring a new release in the works). This is the “director’s cut”, with about six minutes added in from the European release. Those additional six minutes are fairly important six minutes, especially regarding the relationship between Connor and his ‘secretary’.

The commentary is very interesting. They talk about changes made because the Hockey association didn't want their sport portrayed as violent, and flashbacks deleted because someone “higher up” thought that Americans were easily confused (in my opinion, dropping those initial flashbacks made the pan-to-above-ground flashback more confusing).

The disc also includes a “photo gallery”, which is interesting but oddly put together. It not only includes some production photos, but also some of the telexes that went back and forth between the producers, and some of the early press releases. However, when you first watch it you might think they were being overly artistic: for the first what must be hundreds and hundreds of images, they flash by far too quickly to read. Then, for the final 300 or so, they go by much more slowly. I don’t know if it’s a bug or it was designed that way, but what you have to do is hit ‘pause’ and then use your ‘step forward’ button to go through each still. They may have done this because there are hundreds, and it would be really bad to have to hit ‘forward’ to go through each still and get the one you want. But if would have made a lot more sense to simply categorize the stills and provide a selection of menus.

Don’t read the box too closely (read it enough to make sure you’re getting Highlander I, however, the other movies were really, really bad). It states that the original theatrical ration was 2.35:1; it wasn’t, it was 1.85:1 and the movie is presented as such. It lists the ‘slide show’ and the behind-the-scenes photos as separate extras. They aren’t, they’re the same thing. And it lists THX certification for “superior sound and picture quality”. I don’t feel qualified to judge the sound on my setup, but if the picture is obviously bad on my cheap 27 inch television, it’s pretty bad. Now, it might be that the picture is the best they could do with the original, but it’s still not “superior”. It galls all the more that you are forced to watch the THX ‘certification’ every time you stick the disc in. You’re not allowed to fast forward or skip the THX intro.

All complaints aside, if you haven’t seen the extended release, you really should. I’m currently glad I picked it up, and am also glad I didn’t buy it at normal price. I recommend picking it up if you can find it for less than $10. At $7 it’s hardly worth renting. Buy it, and if you don’t want it, hand it to a friend.

Recommendation: Purchase

DirectorRussell Mulcahy
WritersGregory Widen, Peter Bellwood, Larry Ferguson
ActorsChristopher Lambert, Roxanne Hart, Clancy Brown, Sean Connery
Spoken languageEnglish
SubtitlesEnglish, Spanish
Special FeaturesCommentary Track, Director Cut, Photo Gallery, Trailer
More links

If you enjoyed Highlander…

For more about Clancy Brown, you might also be interested in The Shawshank Redemption.

For more about fantasy, you might also be interested in Excalibur, The Hobbit, Ladyhawke, Pan’s Labyrinth, A Princess of Mars, Mistress of Mistresses, A Fish Dinner in Memison, The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, and The Worm Ouroboros.

For more about Queen, you might also be interested in Flash Gordon.

For more about role-playing games, you might also be interested in Excalibur, Ghostbusters, The Road Warrior, and The Seven Samurai.