Film & Water #91 – Highlander


Episode 91: HIGHLANDER

Rob officially gives in and has David "Ace" Gutierrez back on the show to discuss the movie David has been asking about since Episode 2, 1986's HIGHLANDER! There can be only one!

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35 responses to “Film & Water #91 – Highlander

  1. Great to see the HIGHLANDER love on the site. I just know Rob is now gearing up for a TV series marathon while saving up his 20s for a replica sword.

    During my first Comic-Con experience in 2009, there was word of Denzel Washington being available for autographs but nuts to that. My brother and I instead got pictured with Adrian Paul, freaking Duncan MacLeod!

    My own order of film preference:
    Highlander: The Search for Vengeance
    Highlander III
    Highlander: Endgame
    Highlander II
    Highlander: The Source

    1. I just know Rob is now gearing up for a TV series marathon while saving up his 20s for a replica sword.

      Um, no.

      THE SOURCE is lower than THE QUICKENING? That must be one bad movie.

      1. SOURCE took the worse elements of ENDGAME to the nth level. Pretty much to the TV series what QUICKENING was to the first film. Since the TV series was my gateway to the cult franchise, I was extra pissed.

      2. The Source was damn-near unwatchable & you know I have a higher tolerance for movies than most, Rob! 🙂 (see Man-Thing)

  2. I can honestly say that I don’t think I’ve ever enjoyed anything in my life as much as David appreciates Highlander. His enthusiasm for the film is infectious (in a good way). Like Rob, I somehow missed out on this franchise other than seeing a few moments of the movies here and there on cable TV. What I like about pop culture is that there are intense fandoms out there for practically everything. David’s response to Lambert reminded me of this classic moment from The Venture Bros. where the team encounters the the legend himself:

    1. It was DAG’s enthusiasm for this movie that drove me to review it at all. As I admitted on the show, I just didn’t care about HIGHLANDER after seeing it that one time in the 80s, and was always confounded by its fandom and endless spin-offs. So I was glad I had a chance to reevaluate!

  3. Such a great episode!! Rob finally caving to peer pressure along with David’s unbridled enthusiasm makes this a complete win! I’m proud to say I was an early adopter of HIGHLANDER fanaticism. I’m not sure how I managed it, but I convinced my father to take me to this movie while it was still in the theaters. My 14 year old brain exploded with the concepts of immortals and sword play. When I turned 16, that album by Queen could often be found blasting from my car speakers (mainly just the Highlander tracks, not the other ones. Sorry David).

    Then when THE QUICKENING came out, we were there opening night. You hear tales of outraged fans, that was us. During the film Connor says, “I’m Connor McCloud from the planet Zeist”. My friend stood up in the theater and shouted at the top of his lungs, “Bullshit! You’re from Scotland” and the entire audience applauded. That film actually damaged my love of the franchise and I have only followed a few subsequent iterations (primarily dropping in and out on the first TV series).

    Overall, the original film still stands as a masterpiece. You can forget all the rest that came later and still love this movie. I would like to echo the love you guys gave to Clancy Brown. Wow! He was amazing.

    Thanks for a great episode! We’re wearing Rob down! Up next… Transformers! 🙂

    1. I’m glad that David was able to show that my hounding (or in his head, threatening) Rob to do my favorite movie wasn’t a fluke. Quick! Everybody dog pile Rob until he relents! It works!

  4. Highlander is one of my go-to examples of a “cult classic”… or it would be if it hadn’t inexplicably spawned a series and spin off material that tops out at being merely ok for the time (that would be the series and the anime, the rest of it can piss off.) But it’s a film with flaws and just flat out strange decisions being made in the process of making it, but it’s all forgivable for having a scrappy unique feel that you really can’t find anywhere else. It’s a lightning in a bottle film, but not one that it is an unassailable classic, just one where the unique alchemy of the best parts couldn’t be replicated.

    For me a big part of why I love this original film (besides stellar casting choices all over the place) is the economy of the story telling. It’s not weird to me that Ramirez knows about the Quickening and the holy ground rule but has no clue where the immortals come from. Because it doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter to his life, and it doesn’t matter to the story. The outcome is still going to be the same regardless of the reason for why there are immortals, so if it doesn’t impact anything why even bother with it? I love this kind of economy, the knowledge that sometimes details don’t enrich the world but only bog down the narrative. (Wait, how did Batman get back to Gotham in The Dark Knight Rises? WHO CARES!! He was always going to get back, did you really need another 5-20 minutes devoted to how he got his ass on a flight home?) And that kind of economy is everywhere. What’s the deal with Connor and his assistant? The details aren’t important. The fact that she knows what he is gives flavor to the world and the characters. A full detailed history would just have eaten up time.

  5. With Highlander, I always say “There Should Have Been Only One.”

    The first film is great. To me, it’s a classic action movie. We didn’t have HBO growing up, but my friends did, and they turned me onto this at the video store shortly after it’s release. It entered heavy rental rotation to the point where we could all quote it and playfight out all the important scenes.

    When the first sequel came out, we ripped it out of the VCR and pretty much threw it across the room. Years later the “Renegade” version helped…but not much. Highlander 3 is decent but a weak remake of one as David pointed out, and 4 honked me off because a sleepwalking Conner gave way to TV guy. One of my few movie theater experiences where I walked out of a film angry. Total dismissal of the original character just to appease the current production. Think of an even worse version of Star Trek: Generations.

    The TV series had it’s moments, but it’s a 90s syndicated TV show, so quality is varied from episode to episode. My sister got REALLY into the franchise and my nephew’s middle name is Conner for that very reason!

    So, for the most part, I’m right there with you Dave. Not my favorite film, but A favorite, nonetheless. I even shared it with my son late last year, and he enjoyed it quite a bit. He finally knew what Cindy and I were talking about, since we quote it often (and I get to do my bad Connery impression).

    But you have now forfeit coverage of Flash Gordon if you only love it for the soundtrack. I love me some Queen (and Pod Save the Queen is a show I’d subscribe to NOW!), but I love ALL of Flash Gordon, 1980.

    Oh, and good on you Rob for making little David’s dream come true, like a podcasting Make a Wish Foundation or something. You’re good people. You’d be even better if you’d finally cave on Smokey and the Bandit. It is back in theaters in May!!!


    1. III is high up in my rankings for, despite its rehashed material, being relatively harmless to the franchise… which is a sad way to look at things. Its directing, cast, and the delectable Deborah Unger were also pluses.

      While I’m more a Duncan fan than Connor, I left IV feeling very deflated because it wasn’t the Alan Scott / Hal Jordan team-up I was hoping for. That film had a lot of things going for it but a palatable plot wasn’t one of them.

    2. Yes! Highlander & The Matrix – both should have just stopped at one. I can find pieces of enjoyment in most all of their sequels, but the 1st films of both franchises are far, FAR superior to any follow-ups.

    3. Franklin, I was recently asked why I loved Flash Gordon so much, and 90 percent of my answers revolved around Queen. So I can’t honestly say I love the movie like I believed I had.

  6. I was living in Europe when this movie hit big, so this film has always been interesting to me since I returned to the states in 1990 to find that it was really an underground, cult film here – that felt so weird! But it was a real pleasure to share Highlander to all the film buff friends who would come through my life. I’ve probably introduced 20+ people to Highlander (I call it giving them the quickening…which is fairly creepy to say out loud) & none of them have ever regretted it!

  7. Guest hosts to talk Highlander? There could only be one, and that’s David Ace.

    When I was a teenager, everyone talked about Highlander. I saw it on TV once and only once, and didn’t really give it my full attention, so I just nodded along at the pop culture references when someone in my D&D group would make them (and after all, it did spawn more films and a couple of TV series). Almost 30 years later, I finally watched it again, as if for the first time, and in my subsequent research, discovered public opinion of it had gone from cult favorite to disliked piece of dreck in the interim. Well – and I can say this without the rose-colored glasses of nostalgia – I’m going to defend it. Okay sure, it’s got 80s affectations, like an action star who uses accented English and minimal acting skills, and dated clothes, hair and special effects. The B-movie clichés, like sometimes lame sword fighting choreography (Clancy Brown can’t fake it) and the gratuitous sex scene, are less forgivable. But I can’t agree with those who say the direction is terrible; it was the best thing about the film. On that score, it felt like Russell Mulcahy was drinking from the same water many Hong Kong directors were. It had cool transitions – especially when flashing back to MacLeod’s history – and hid its choreography problems relatively well with atmosphere, surprising camera shots, and expressionism. Of course, the stuff even detractors DO like – the Queen soundtrack, the premise of Immortals fighting across history – is still great. It doesn’t mean I’m going to run out and find the sequels and TV series – there can be only one – but the original is a fun, watchable product of its time that nevertheless has some modern style to it.

    So not as enthusiastic as David is – that doesn’t seem possible – but impressed by it.

    1. “Who Wants To Live Forever” was my favorite contribution of Queen to the soundtrack but, while their songs made the film so memorable, kudos also to composer Michael Kamen for his instrumentals.

      The Highlander mythos has a lot of appeal for the degree of invulnerability the Immortals possess and their exposure to history only read of in books. As a mortal, I would hesitate to spend years studying the martial arts or getting involved in anyone’s questionable/dangerous affairs. In other words, don’t be a hero. That’s what the series afforded watching a modern swashbuckler in fashionable attire not letting injustice slide and drifting around the world.

  8. I’m in the midst of listening to both the new Midnight and JLI podcasts, but they immediately had to be set aside for coverage Highlander: There Can Be Only One Good Anything Related To This Franchise!

    The family got our first VCR in late ’86 or ’87. I had what in my brain at that age qualified as a “hot streak” of choosing one great rental after another, which included Highlander, Big Trouble in Little China, Howard the Duck, and maybe Lifeforce (that might have been a loaned copy of a cable viewing.) I don’t recall what movie broke the streak, but I still love each of those movies to this day (yes, all.)

    The film was my introduction to the odd, quirky charm of Christopher Lambert, and I’ve watched more of his films than anyone should. That continued to Subway, a stylish early work by Luc Besson, also featuring Isabelle Adjani and Jean Reno, and probably my first foreign language film. Some of the less bad ones were Knight Moves (where he for real hooked up with Diane Lane) and the surprisingly fun Gunmen (his first and best pairing with Mario Van Peebles.)

    I believe Highlander was my first Sean Connery movie, after previously knowing him only as that other guy who played James Bond in those dull older flicks. I was immediately a fan and stayed one for many years after (though that was tarnished by all the stories of him being a swaggering dick.)

    I’d already seen Clancy Brown in The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension without paying him much attention. Then came The Kurgan, which defined Brown’s career forevermore and remains one of the greatest villainous performances in screen history.

    I only had a vague sense of who Queen was, sort of knowing a number of their songs , but not connecting them to one band so much as the general sound of the times. After hearing “Prince of the Universe” and seeing their credit on this film, I finally began to give them my ears and the credit they deserved.

    Without knowing it, I had been a fan of Russell Mulcahy’s direction since Duran Duran’s “Hungry Like the Wolf” video, and I enjoy his aesthetic. While he’s never come close to matching Highlander, I did enjoy his work on The Shadow and Resident Evil: Extinction.

    Highlander is a glorious action flick that’s well cast for its funky melding of times and cultures. The premise is excellent and it’s an audio-visual feast. It’s the perfect film for a late teen/early twenties dude who’s growing out his ponytail and hangs his collection of throwing stars over his tarantula case. It inhabits a space on the geek culture spectrum lateral to The Crow, the sort of movie that inspired guys to dress as Brandon Lee for like seven Halloweens in a row without ever quite tipping over into actual nerdom. In the days before geek chic, you could be super into those types of movies and reasonably expect to not only still get laid, but potentially find a girl that got turned on by Connor McCloud, Eric Draven or Neo. I nearly walked out of the two Highlander sequels I endured theatrically and bailed on the lame TV show early on, but I still automatically confer more respect and interest toward a Highlander fan than a Warsie or whatever they call people who claim to enjoy the DCEU.

    I only recently started listening to The Projection Booth, stumbling upon it because I was trying to find a tweet about the Worst Collection Ever episode covering The Further Adventures of Ford Fairlane. It seems like the definitive podcast for any given film. I finished their Invasion of the Body Snatchers show and am slowly making my way through the Blow Out and Trancers episodes. They’re hours long deep dives with supplemental interviews besides, so they’re really not made for single setting listening.

    1. The Series is worth another look. Yes, it is very much a syndicated 90s series – but so was TNG and DS9, and all three of these range from glorious excellence to must-unsee-tv.

      I truly hope you didn’t see Howard the Duck for the same reason(s) so many of us saw Lifeforce.

      1. After I saw Howard the Duck, I needed to see All The Right Moves for one of the major reasons I loved Lifeforce so much (but didn’t know was coming, because I saw that movie knowing next to nothing going in.)

  9. Late to the comment game.

    First off, let me echo that David’s enthusiasm is the high point. I suppose given this community of people writing tomes about Aquaman, Firestorm, Martian Manhunter, etc – that passion fits right in. And, I suppose my ability to talk at length about all of the Hellraiser films would be a decent comparison film wise.

    My story very much mirrors Rob’s. My friends all LOOOVVEED Highlander. While I thought it was a decent movie with a very good premise, I didn’t think it was spectacular. Their constant praise of the movie made me feel like I needed to knock it down to have it fall into the ‘not bad’ category. But it never worked. They continued to love it. And over time, I have sort of inched it a little higher on the Anj-o-meter for what it is. I never went past the first one but I have also heard my buddies trash Highlander 2 with both glee and anger.

    Perhaps my favorite thing about the cast is Rob’s semi-flat responses to some of David’s musings. I don’t know if Rob was filling space or completely befuddled by what he was hearing or just shocked at David’s knowledge.

    David: I like Lambert’s acting in Fortress 1, not so much in Fortress 2.
    Rob; (deadpan) wow.

    I don’t know if that ‘wow’ is that there were 2 fortress movies, that david had seen them both, that he liked the acting in one of them, or a combination of all of it.

    Anyways, loved this podcast. When Rob wants to tackle Pinhead, I’m here.

    1. Perhaps my favorite thing about the cast is Rob’s semi-flat responses to some of David’s musings. I don’t know if Rob was filling space or completely befuddled by what he was hearing or just shocked at David’s knowledge.

      A little bit of all three. Mostly, I just didn’t want to rain on DAG’s parade. I appreciate how much he loves this movie, and even though I have a better appreciation for it now, I’m still kinda baffled at the devotion people have for the Highlander franchise, but I know that people feel that way about stuff I love, so I try and be a receptive audience.

      1. Oh, you better believe I heard all of Rob’s sighs and asides, Dr Anj. I’m familiar with his “….yes?” and other Robisms, usually reserved for Shag when he exhausts RK’s patience.

        But that’s okay. Listen, years ago, a man reportedly tried to bring about peace and change and love through his teachings, but there were those that doubted him, too. And today, all those doubters are dead and we now have a thing called Highlander.

        1. This was not meant to be an insult.

          I had no idea about 80% of what was discussed here so I would be completely flummoxed.

          And trust me, I preach about Robotech so I know about talking about something from love to a narrow audience.

  10. Mac has been wanting to do a Highlander podcast episode on Rolled Spine for a while now, so we’ll indulge in that eventually. Now if I could only get him to commit to an Adventures of Brisco County Jr. limited run show. Or pin Fixit down to do a one-off Profit series overview. And I’m going to start actively soliciting people to help me cover each of the Milla Jovovich Resident Evil movies…

  11. Great podcast! I really like Highlander. The first time I had seen it I was 17 and it was playing at the common room in a college dorm. I remember at the time that the beheading and quickening was so cool, it really felt more of a 90’s film than an 80’s film. Very EXTREME feel to everything.

    Sean Connery was great in it and while watching it I never questioned that he wasn’t Spanish. At the time the assumption was that Spaniards were better swordsman. I am not sure, perhaps the “Princess Bride” effected it. Hello. My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die.

    Anyways back to the podcast it was a lot of fun!

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