Film grain. Scratches. Matte lines. Your reaction to these celluloid artefacts will affect how you feel about this HD outing for the sword-fighting immortals desperate not to lose their heads.
For many aficionados, these ‘flaws’ will be instantly evocative, transporting them back to the 1986 thrills of Christopher Lambert’s ‘French’-accented Scotsman clashing broadswords with Clancy Brown’s throaty Kurgan.
Hi-def fans will simply ask, “Why hasn’t this transfer been cleaned up?” Because for every sweeping shot of Scottish highland beautifully photographed and vividly served by the extra pixels, there is a hideous ’80s-music-video flourish from Russell ‘Wild Boys’ Mulcahy to make you wince.
Fans will recall the fish-eye-lens shot that moves from a stabbed Connor McLeod on the field of battle, then out of Lambert’s modern-day eyeball. Well, for those who’ve never seen Highlander in cinemas, that shot has been flattered by low-res formats – VHS cloaked it; DVD only alluded to its hideousness; Blu-ray slaps you about the face with it.
But, for better or worse it’s part of the original film. Which, with rose-tinted specs on, is awesome. Kind of. Well, no – but it’s a decapitated-head-and-shoulders better than the rest of the flaccid franchise.
This is the same package as Optimum’s strong Immortal Edition DVD, with the reasonably in-depth extras remaining in standard def. The three-part doc – from Kinowelt’s original German release, so sprechen sie Deutsch in the doc’s titles – is decent enough, while the ‘Parlais vous Français?’ interview with Lambert nicely preserves his unique mumbling mystique – the hugely entertaining Mulcahy’s rambling, potty commentary is a nice counterpoint.
It’s all about the HD upgrade and, once again, whether the quality increase is worth the re-buy. The only true new addition is a selection of deleted scenes, alternate versions and excised footage uncovered when they were mastering the film for HD.
They’re all without sound, so they offer curiosity value only, even if the music used to underscore is nice as they employ a canny “familiar footage in black and white; new bits in colour” presentation. However, the extra footage from the final scene does show off the colour range of the HD transfer more than the rest of the dark and gloomy film.
How ironic that this newest of home-entertainment formats grounds Highlander forevermore as an artefact of the ’80s. If there can be only one release, chances are you already have it. Not worth chopping a head off for.