Reviewed by: Brett Willis
Starring: Christopher Lambert, Clancy Brown, Sean Connery, Roxanne Hart, Beatie Edney, Alan North, Jon Polito | Director: Russell Mulcahy | Writer: Gregory Widen | Distributor: Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation
This film was slammed by critics, but was a huge hit. It spawned several film sequels and a long-running TV series, and gave us the most popular occult super-humans since Vampires: namely, the Immortals. The Web has a large number of Highlander/Immortals sites, many of them connected with specialized fan clubs.
The original film explains that Immortals have always been among us; they are born of ordinary human parents but cannot die except by being beheaded, stop aging when they reach adulthood, cannot have children, and must fight each other until only one is left to rule the world. Connor MacLeod (Christopher Lambert) discovers his Immortality in 1536 when he receives a deadly wound in battle, but recovers. For this, he’s driven out of his superstitious Scottish Highlander village with his arms tied to a crossbar (creating a visual image of Jesus on the way to crucifixion). He’s befriended and instructed by another “good” Immortal (Sean Connery) who is really an ancient Egyptian (the fact that Connery’s character is older than Jesus suggests the idea that perhaps Jesus was just another Immortal and was not resurrected because the cross didn’t really kill Him). The film hops around from the 16th to the 20th centuries, but is filled with violence, coarse language and supernaturalist special effects in both eras. When one Immortal takes another’s head in battle, he receives the power of the other; this causes telekinetic effects (flying objects, breaking glass) nearby. In the tradition of Eastern mysticism and “Star Wars”, here’s another example of an impersonal “force” which can be used for either good or evil. As the number of Immortals dwindles, we are encouraged to root for MacLeod because compared to his strongest adversary, the evil Kurgan (Clancy Brown), MacLeod would make a pretty nice Antichrist.
There are two instances of brief female partial nudity, one in a sex scene. The Kurgan rapes MacLeod’s 16th century wife (off-screen); later, he abducts MacLeod’s 20th century girlfriend in order to finally draw him into battle. I have a strong stomach for weird material, but the occult special effects in the final outcome are extremely offensive. I had to turn away from this scene.
Since the original film wasn’t written with sequels in mind, some inventive backtracking was needed to create them. I haven’t seen any of the sequel films; but according to the reviews, it is explained that Immortals are actually the spirits of beings from the planet Zeist. In the TV series (I’ve seen all or part of about a dozen episodes) another Immortal from the Clan MacLeod is the lead character, and the storyline and action mimic the concept of the original film: all kinds of people (Christians, witches, historical persons such as Lord Byron, a prehistoric “Four Horsemen”) are shown as Immortals. This suggests to the viewer: “Hey, anybody could be an Immortal, even me!” Who was it that first told people they could be as gods? (See Genesis 3:5)