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During a fierce sword battle in the 1500s, Connor MacLeod, a simple Scotsman known as a poor fighter, is mortally wounded -- but he does not die. MacLeod learns from the mysterious Ramírez that he is of a race of immortals. These rare knights never age and never reproduce, they can only meet death by the blade of another of their kind. Leaping back and forth through the centuries, MacLeod once again meets the evil Kurgan who nearly killed him 500 years ago. <b> There can be only one.</b>
For more about Highlander and the Highlander Blu-ray release, see Highlander Blu-ray Review published by Dr. Svet Atanasov on June 26, 2009 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.0 out of 5.
Starring: Christopher Lambert, Sean Connery, Roxanne Hart, Clancy Brown, James Cosmo, Beatie Edney
Director: Russell Mulcahy
» See full cast & crew
Highlander Blu-ray Review
Reviewed by Dr. Svet Atanasov, June 26, 2009
Russell Mulcahy's classic adventure picture "Highlander" (1986) arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of British distributors Optimum Home Entertainment. Amongst the supplemental features on the disc is a long documentary, an interview with Christopher Lambert and a Feature commentary with Director Russel Mulcahy. The film and all of the supplemental features are perfectly playable on Region-A hardware.
The last of the immortals are preparing for The Gathering. As their numbers dwindle, they begin to sense their presence. At the end, there can be only one, so when they occasionally meet, someone always dies.
Medieval Scotland. Connor MacLeod (Christopher Lambert, Subway) does not know yet that he is immortal. While fighting his clan's arch rivals, led by the evil Kurgan (Clancy Brown, The Shawshank Redemption, also an immortal, MacLeod is fatally wounded. Instead of dying, however, he quickly recuperates. Convinced that the Devil has taken over his body, his clansmen banish him.
Egyptian nobleman Juan Sanchez Villa-Lobos Ramirez (Sean Connery, Never Say Never Again), a skillful swordsman, befriends MacLeod and teaches him how to defend himself. He also reveals to him that he is immortal and that the only way he would die is if his head is decapitated. Ramirez warns MacLeod that one day he will have to fight Kurgan, the strongest of the immortals, who wants to rule the Earth. Shortly after, Kurgan kills Ramirez.
New York City, 1985. MacLeod has met a beautiful woman, Brenda (Roxanne Hart, Pulse) and fallen in love with her. Kurgan reappears and challenges MacLeod. It is time that a centuries-old feud is settled. There can be only one.
During the mid-80s, Highlander was a lot of people's favorite film. It was an impressive flop at the box office but a shocking success on video. It was one of those films which the more the critics dismissed, the more people liked. Unsurprisingly, a number of copycats appeared - Highlander II: The Quickening (1991), Highlander III: The Sorcerer (1994), Highlander: Endgame (2000) and Highlander: The Source (2007), all terrible films having little in common with the original.
Despite its numerous flaws, however – problematic script, unimpressive editing, technical gaffes – Highlander maintains a type of atmosphere one cannot easily dismiss. For example, the marvelous soundtrack, courtesy of British rockers Queen, effectively negates many of the issues in the film. One of the most memorable scenes in Highlander is past the hour mark, where we see MacLeod's aging wife uttering "I wanted to have your children" and dying in his hands. Without the music, the scene would have hardly been as effective as it is.
Still, many of the time travel sequences are quite problematic. Early in the film, there is a scene – which was suspiciously missing from North American releases of Highlander for a number of years – where MacLeod saves a little girl from a Nazi officer. To this day, I remain unsure why it was kept in the film's final version.
Generally speaking, the cast is not as poor as many critics have claimed it is. Admittedly, a lot of the lines in Highlander are too rough, but there is good chemistry amongst the leads. For example, Christopher Lambert and Sean Connery's time together in front of the camera is one of the high points of the film. Clancy Brown is also entertaining. I remember a lot of people being unhappy with his nun-mocking.
Highlander Blu-ray, Video Quality
Presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.85:1, encoded with VC-1 and granted a 1080p transfer, Russell Mulcahy's Highlander arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of British distributors Optimum Home Entertainment.
I am very pleased with Optimum's transfer. Contrast is very strong, clarity terrific and detail about as good as I hoped it would be. The color-scheme is also surprisingly strong – reds, blues, greens, browns, blacks and whites are stable and natural-looking. Furthermore, with the exception of a few selected scenes where a bit of noise filtering has been applied, the transfer conveys plenty of healthy film grain. The daylight scenes in particular look quite strong. I did notice a bit of edge-enhancement popping up here and there, particularly during the first half of the film – most notably when Sean Connery's character, Juan Sanchez Villa-Lobos Ramirez, first appears - but, overall, this transfer is undoubtedly a serious upgrade over practically every single release of the film that I have seen during the years. This being said, I noticed a few tiny specks on the print, but dirt, debris, or major scratches are nowhere to be seen. All in all, given how poorly Highlander was treated on DVD, this Blu-ray release will certainly make fans of the film quite happy. (Note: Even though the disc has been marketed as Region-B, it is in fact Region A/B. Therefore, you will be able to play it on your North American PS3 or SA without a problem. You could also set up the main menu in one of the following languages: English, Portuguese, Danish, German, Spanish, French, Italian, Japanese, Dutch, Norwegian, Finnish, or Swedish).
Highlander Blu-ray, Audio Quality
There are a number of different audio tracks on this Blu-ray release - English Surround DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0, English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, German DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, Spanish Mono DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0, Italian DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 and Portuguese DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0. I opted for the English DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 track and later on did a few random comparisons with the English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track for the purpose of this review.
Though many would probably conclude that the English DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 track is average at best, I would like to state that it is in fact very good. If you have the old Anchor Bay edition of Highlander (the one with the metal case), I urge you to do a quick comparison with the Blu-ray disc when you get a chance - there are notable improvements on the English DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 track in terms of balance and fidelity. Additionally, Freddie Mercury's voice is a lot clearer and I definitely did not detect the high-frequency distortions that I hear on the SDVD. This is not to say that the English DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 track is flawless – treble certainly could have been improved – but it is without a doubt very pleasing.
This being said, I did a few random comparisons with the English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track. Well, just as I was not impressed with all those DTS tracks different companies put on different SDVD editions of the film, I am not overly impressed with the English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track. Simply put, there is something very artificial about it - there is no depth in it, though the dynamic amplitude is obviously better. This being said, the dialog on the English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track is as crisp and clear as it is on the English DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 track. For the record, Optimum Entertainment have provided optional English, German, French, Spanish, Italian, Portuguese, Dutch, Swedish, Norwegian, Finnish, Danish and Japanese subtitles for the main feature.
Highlander Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Highlander Documentary – divided in three chapters ("A Legend is Born", "The Visual Style", and "A Strong Woman") this rather long documentary focuses on the production history of the film, its success and legacy. A number of cast and crew members share their thoughts and recollections. With optional German, French, Spanish, Italian, Portuguese, Dutch, Swedish, Norwegian, Finnish, Danish and Japanese subtitles (480/60i, 85 min).
Christopher Lambert Interview – the actor talks about his character and what it meant to him to be part of the film. In French with optional English, German, French, Spanish, Italian, Portuguese, Dutch, Swedish, Norwegian, Finnish, Danish and Japanese subtitles. (480/60i, 9 min).
Deleted scenes – the producers of the disc have included five scenes that are not available on the final version of the film. Because there was no audio for these scenes, they are offered with a musical accompaniment. (1080p, 6 min).
Feature commentary with Director Russel Mulcahy – I've listened to this commentary a number of times and even though it is quite informative, I personally never warmed up to it. If you are interested in hearing more about the history of the film, you should certainly listen to it. However, I personally like the old commentary with Peter Davis and William Panzer better.
Trailer- (1080p, 3 min).
Highlander Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
I am very pleased with Optimum Home Entertainment's Blu-ray disc. After their terrific Hardware release, we now have a solid upgrade for Highlander. I sincerely hope that this is the beginning of a trend - as little noise reduction and as much natural grain for older films arriving on Blu-ray as possible. I cannot wait to see how their August/September catalog releases would look. Recommended.
Highlander: Other Editions
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Highlander Blu-ray, News and Updates
• Studio Statement on Highlander Season One Blu-ray - December 23, 2009
In response to the concerns voiced by the first buyers of the Blu-ray edition of 'Highlander: Season One' (namely, that this was a 720p upconvert of a standard-definition source), Davis-Panzer has sent a statement (as a comment to blu-ray.com's news post of December ...
• Highlander UK Special Edition Blu-ray Gets Detailed - June 4, 2009
Optimum Home Entertainment has listed the bonus features for the 'Highlander: Special Edition', which is due to hit UK store shelves on Blu-ray on July 6. Video will be 1.85:1 1080p. Audio specs haven't been listed, but going from the details of the concurrent ...
• Optimum Unleashes Blu-ray Deluge - June 2, 2009
Optimum Home Entertainment has added nearly forty catalog titles to its Blu-ray schedule, for release between July and September 2009. Titles run the gamut of genres, from Hong Kong martial arts to European arthouse classics, and more Luc Besson than you can ...
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