Wednesday, May 6, 2020

[Roll Your Own Life] The Movies That Made Me (Part 10)


Here we are! Born to be Kings!! We're the Princes of the Universe!

Highlander was an odd one. Released the same day in the UK as ALIENS, I honestly can't remember which one I went to see first. The poster definitely caught my eye, with its cool sci-fi typeface, and some guy in a trenchcoat carrying a sword.  

Often, the best movies are experienced like this. I had seen some very brief ads on the TV for The Matrix before going to see it, completely unaware of what it was about. Sometimes, in fact often, not knowing can be part of the fun.

The publicity images mixed 80's New York with scenes that are better suited to Braveheart. There's about three words said in the first ten minutes, and it's not until over forty minutes into the movie that you discover why we keep flashing back to the Scottish glens and the clan MacLeod. I always remember a classic TV listing for the movie in the Radio Times calling it a "time travel epic". Well, I guess the characters do travel through time, but linearly and at the same speed as everyone else! Maybe that guide's reviewer wasn't paying attention.

As a teenager, I was hooked. Amazing visuals, one of the coolest and most iconic villains in cinema with Clancy Brown's gravel voiced Kurgan. A fantastic soundtrack peppered with Queen songs. And Christopher Lambert playing the hero who mouths off to the cops, takes crap from no one, and has mastered the art of hiding a katana in his trenchcoat.

What's not to love? 

The more you look at the movie, the more you appreciate the visual flair of director Russell Mulcahy. From the opening panning shot swooping over the audience of a wrestling match at Madison Square Garden, long before the existence of drones that make such shots so easy now. To the brilliant transitions from present to past, from aquarium water level to Scottish loch, from the incapacitated and dying form of MacLeod in ancient Scotland suddenly being the subject of police camera flashes. Everything about it is beautiful, inventive and brilliant.

I bought the novelisation, bought the "A Kind of Magic" Queen album. Highlander was one of those movies that stayed with you. I watched it so many times on VHS that I could quote it almost word for word, and eagerly awaited the release of Highlander II.

I remember asking a girl out to go and see Highlander II, but she turned me down. I think she dodged a bullet that day. We ended up dating in the end, but we'll come back to that further down the line - there's a tale to tell there relating to another movie involving grubby guys in violent movies.

Many years later, when I met my future wife, and discovered she could recite the movie just as well as me I knew it was destiny. Our first real holiday away together we drove to Scotland and took in the locations, from the stunning Glencoe, to Castle MacLeod itself, Eilian Donan. We were both so sad to cross the border south again on the way home. 

I still love Highlander. One day I'll drum up the courage to see the Renegade Cut of Highlander II, but that experience was possibly one of the most disappointing of my cinema-going life. After such a brilliant first movie, there really should have been "only one". 

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