Highlander: 15th Anniversary Edition (1986)
Main Menu Audio & Animation
Scene Selection Anim & Audio
Filmographies-Cast & Crew
Interviews-Cast-Christopher Lambert (8:25)
|Year Of Production||1986|
|RSDL / Flipper||RSDL (70:25)||Cast & Crew|
|Region Coding||4||Directed By||Russell Mulcahy|
Universal Pictures Home Video
|Pan & Scan/Full Frame||None||
English Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
English Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
|Widescreen Aspect Ratio||1.78:1|
|Video Format||576i (PAL)|
|Original Aspect Ratio||1.85:1||Miscellaneous|
|Annoying Product Placement||Yes, but only once|
|Action In or After Credits||No|
Christopher Lambert plays Connor Macleod, an immortal. There are a number of immortals, but in the end "there can be only one". Connor is helped along his way by Ramirez (Sean Connery), allowing him to meet his most formidable foe, The Kurgan (Clancy Brown).
I must say that the basic premise of the story is simplicity itself - a bunch of immortals who battle it out until only one remains. In the hands of a less imaginative director, there would be no story. The way this story is told, with superbly seamless transitions between the present and the past, is what makes it so enjoyable. The actors are all perfectly cast. Christopher Lambert is perfect as Connor, Sean Connery plays his scenes with refreshing vim and vigour and Clancy Brown is sublime as the unbelievably menacing villain of the piece.
There is more to it than this, however. The amazingly stylish sets, the superb cinematography, the music video style editing, the over-the-top score, the moments of humour, the amazing sword-fights. In the end, there is no one factor which makes Highlander work so well, but merely that rare fusion of all aspects of film-making that make the whole greater than the sum of its parts.
The transfer is presented in a measured aspect ratio of 1.81:1 and is 16x9 enhanced. This is essentially spot-on to the theatrical aspect ratio of 1.85:1.
The sharpness of this transfer in general is a sight to see. Remarkably sharp and clear, there is a phenomenal amount of detail on offer in this transfer most of the time. Fine, subtle foreground and background details are beautifully rendered, particularly in the more naturally lit sequences, such as many of the Scottish Highland sequences. The transfer falters slightly, but only occasionally, in conditions of low light or where there is copious amounts of smoke in the frame. Nonetheless, the transfer consistently gives the impression of having extracted every bit of detail possible from the source material.
Shadow detail is variable, varying from none at all where this was intended artistically, to a moderate amount of available detail. It is never superb, but that is not a reasonable expectation to have of a 15 year old film. There is no low level noise, although some scenes are quite significantly grainy, such as the surface of the lake sequences at around 40:30.
The colours are spectacular. The Scottish Highland scenes are rich and vibrant, with glorious greens and browns on offer, as rich as any contemporary transfer that I have seen. Present-day scenes have a far more muted colour palette, rendered faithfully. Notably, the opening credits and title slide, presented in a vibrant red (notorious for causing problems for video transfers), do not bleed at all. There is perhaps a slight amount of oversaturation at around 45:10, with Sean Connery's skin being a tad too red. Having said that, a snippet of this same sequence appears towards the end of the movie with the same colour timing, so perhaps this was a deliberate saturation choice.
MPEG artefacts are non-existent. There were a few scene transitions that looked at first glance to be pixelated, but on closer inspection these all turned out to be grainy special effects.
I noted a mild amount of edge enhancement in use (at 17:19 on the background structure and at 31:00, outlining Connor), although it never became a significant distraction. Aliasing is more-or-less non-existent, with the only trivial aliasing being at 21:30 on a detective's suit and between 70:25 and 70:40 on a bridge. I am, however, convinced that this transfer has been actively processed at some stage to minimize aliasing. The transfer is extremely sharp, and many shots of Venetian blinds and other sharp edges look to be on the verge of aliasing. However, just when the image moves, and you expect wholesale aliasing to break out, the image subtly decreases in resolution and there is no aliasing. Don't get me wrong - this is a subtle effect, but once noticed, you cannot ignore it. It's almost as if they cranked the edge enhancement/sharpness setting as far as it would go, and then compensated for the resultant aliasing by filtering that out.
Film artefacts are rare and quite unobtrusive.
There are no subtitles present on this disc for the movie itself.
This DVD is RSDL-formatted. The layer change is placed at 70:25. This is in a natural fade-to-black and is only detectable by the momentary lapse in the music at that point.
There are two audio tracks available on this DVD; English Dolby Digital 5.1 at the higher bitrate of 448Kb/s and English Dolby Digital 2.0 surround-encoded. I listened only to the 5.1 audio track.
Dialogue is generally reasonably clear. It is, however, also very frequency limited at times, with no top or bottom end, making the dialogue sound very thin at times. This has been compensated for somewhat in this mix by mixing the dialogue in at quite a high level. This improves the intelligibility, but does not improve the spatial integration - it was very much a case of the dialogue sounding very front-and-centre and separate from the rest of the audio mix. I would say that most of the limitations of this dialogue track are inherent in the source material, and thus this is as good as it is going to sound. It was odd on occasion to note two actors in a given scene having a different background audio timbre to their respective voices, presumably because their lines had been ADRed in post-production.
Audio sync is marginally problematic. Those who are extremely sensitive to audio sync, as I am, will notice the odd bit of dialogue that is just ever-so-slightly behind the visuals. The rest of you will merely notice the odd bit of very ordinary ADR work. For those interested, an example can be seen at 80:30.
The music for this movie can be divided into two distinct areas; Michael Kamen's fine, lush orchestral score and the driving rhythms and songs provided by Queen. Highlander would not be Highlander if it were not for the presence of Queen's music providing a hyper-real, driving force to the score. The musical score has been rendered superbly by this soundtrack. Aggressively surrounding from the word go, it places you firmly in the centre of the mix and never at any time collapses this soundfield, not even down to stereo. This is full-on, aggressive surround musical score mixing. Adding to the enjoyment of the music is the fact that it has spectacular fidelity for something that is 15 years old. It sounds fresh, vibrant and exciting and is guaranteed to get the pulse racing or the heart soaring depending on the moment. Despite my extreme temptation to crank this one right up, I restrained myself and left the volume set at my normal reference level. The next time I watch this movie, the sound's going to 11...
As mentioned above, the music aggressively fills the soundfield, which allows the not-quite-so-aggressively mixed special effects to float in the midst of this ambient field. Many of the special effects are panned mono effects, but the music carries them and makes them sound more immersive than they really are. The end sequence uses surround sound effects extremely aggressively.
The subwoofer is superbly utilized by this soundtrack. Whilst aggressively used, it is never over-the-top, but rather appropriate to the mood of the movie and the soundtrack.
|Surround Channel Use|
The Region 4 version of this DVD misses out on;
The Region 1 transfer is horrible. It has got to be the grainiest transfer that I have ever seen, particularly in the Scottish Highland scenes. It is all but unwatchable. If I were to give the video a rating, it would be 1 star or perhaps 1.5 stars, it is that bad.
The Region 4 transfer, on the other hand, as described previously, is superb. There is no comparison here between the two - the Region 4 version is so far superior visually to the Region 1 version that it isn't even a vaguely close contest. But...
The Region 1 extras are undoubtedly better. The commentary track is a very good one, and the photo gallery is excellent. What to do?
Undoubtedly, the Region 4 version is the version of choice for the transfer, but if you can source a Region 1 copy, it is worth buying for the extras alone. You'll never watch the Region 1 version for the transfer as it is horrendous in comparison to the Region 4 version, but you will enjoy the extras.
|DVD||Denon DVD-3300, using RGB output|
|Display||Loewe Art-95 (95cm). Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 576i (PAL).|
|Audio Decoder||Denon AVD-2000 Dolby Digital decoder and Denon AVD-1000 dts decoder. Calibrated with Video Essentials/Ultimate DVD Platinum.|
|Amplification||EA Playmaster 100W per channel stereo amplifier for Left & Right Front; Marantz MA6100 125W per channel monoblock amplifiers for Left & Right Rear; Philips 360 50W per channel stereo amplifier for Centre and Subwoofer|
|Speakers||Philips S2000 speakers for Left, Right; Polk Audio CS-100 Centre Speaker; Apex AS-123 speakers for Left Rear and Right Rear; Hsu Research TN-1220HO subwoofer|