Highlander or From Scotland with Love

Ash Isaac


A Frenchman playing a Scotsman and a Scotsman playing a Spaniard? It can only be Highlander. And if you thought the casting was nonsensical, wait till you see the film. Christopher Lambert plays Connor McLeod, a young Scottish clansman who also happens to be one of a hidden race of immortals locked in seemingly never-ending combat, all in the pursuit of a mysterious prize.

The narrative switches between McLeod’s early life in the 16th Century Scottish highlands and 1980s New York, where he currently lives. It’s a strange, unearthly period in history, full of mullets, bad taste, mindless violence as well as ominous lightning in the sky. But enough about Scotland.

McLeod discovers he is immortal after surviving what would have otherwise been a fatal wound inflicted in a skirmish with a neighbouring clan. Rather than expressing joy at his remarkable recovery, McLeod’s own clan decide to banish him; chalking the miracle up to the Devil rather than any divine intervention. Being immortal carries considerable advantages aside from the obvious longevity. They can survive most wounds and afflictions and breathe underwater. They’re a bit like the most annoying cockroach you’ve ever seen, only unlike cockroaches, the only way to kill them is by separating their head from their body.

The drawbacks? Well, they’re infertile and find it hard to hold onto a steady relationship, mainly because their mortal partners invariably end up dying on them. Also, as an immortal, you are expected to seek out other immortals and decapitate them until eventually only one remains. Cue extended sword play sequences and outlandish battle scenes. Running away from your fellow sword-wielding maniac is considered uncouth. Any retreat must be in the form of a series of back-flips preferably in an underground garage with the sprinklers on.

Sean Connery plays McLeod’s mentor, a preening and foppish nobleman who has tasked it upon himself to educate McLeod about the ways of the immortals. Lambert at least makes an effort with his pseudo-Scottish accent rather than Connery whose Equity card should be withdrawn for his portrayal of the Egyptian-born, Spanish immortal Juan Sanchez Ramirez. Ramirez prances about for a few scenes and dabbles in some expository dialogue about what it means to be an immortal and why they’re all killing each other: an unknown “Prize” awaiting the last immortal standing. There’s also some sweeping panoramic shots of Ramirez and McLeod indulging in a sword-training montage; in a stream, on top of a hillock, up a mountain, all the usual places.

In the midst of this burgeoning bromance pops the proverbial cockroach in the ointment in the form of the Kurgan, (Clancy Brown), a muscle-bound, ultra-violent and cruel immortal who decides he’s heard enough of Ramirez’s appalling accent and cuts his head off. McLeod’s wife grows old and dies, but he stays with her till the end because he’s just that kind of guy and also the only other creatures in the vicinity are sheep. McLeod then treats the next few centuries as a massive gap year, travelling around, getting drunk in Regency England, shooting some Nazis during World War II, all the usual stuff.

For the denouement we head to New York where McLeod and the Kurgan unsheathe their swords for a final duel to see which of them attains the elusive Prize. McLeod eventually prevails and finds that the prize is… the loss of his immortality, the ability to have kids and also to hear other people’s thoughts. Unable to ask for his money back, McLeod opts to use his newfound powers to encourage people to find peace and harmony in the world. And if not, he’ll chop their heads off.

“There can be only one”, ran the tag-line, but Highlander managed to spawn four sequels, each increasingly worse than the last, a TV serial, a cartoon series, several books as well as a rumoured reboot. Casting is still ongoing, but I’m casting, (ho ho), my vote for the two Gerards; Depardieu as McLeod and Butler as Ramirez. As far as Highlander is concerned, one is never enough.

About Ash Isaac

I am a contributor of questionable taste, origin and talent. My one claim to fame is that I was born in the same hospital as Cliff Richard. I am still in possession of my soul unlike Sir Cliff who sold his to Samael the Desolate in return for eternal youth and the friendship of Sue Barker.