Highlander: 15th Anniversary Edition (1986)

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Released 12-Sep-2001

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Fantasy Main Menu Audio & Animation
Scene Selection Anim & Audio
Gallery-Photo-15
Filmographies-Cast & Crew
Interviews-Cast-Christopher Lambert (8:25)
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 1986
Running Time 111:40
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (70:25) Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Russell Mulcahy
Studio
Distributor

Universal Pictures Home Video
Starring Christopher Lambert
Roxanne Hart
Clancy Brown
Sean Connery
Case Amaray-Transparent
RPI $36.95 Music Michael Kamen
Queen


Video Audio
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
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.85:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles None Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement Yes, but only once
Action In or After Credits No

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Plot Synopsis

    I cannot remember the first time I saw Highlander. I do recall that it was some time ago. I also recall that it had a profound impact on me, as it was a movie that was very different. Credited with bringing fantasy back to the fore, it was directed by Russell Mulcahy, a very visual director, fond of aggressive editing and very stylish.

    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.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    The bottom line: this is a fabulous transfer.

    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.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    If one thing can be said about the audio mix of this DVD, it is this: it uses the surrounds aggressively. The quality is, however, considerably more variable than that of the video transfer.

    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.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

    Only a limited number of extras are present on this DVD.

Menu

    The menu features some very slick animation and audio, nicely setting the tone for the movie. Navigation is easy and intuitive.

Scene Selection Animation & Audio

    Nicely done, even though this isn't one of my personal favourite extras (I'd rather see the bits used for the video transfer).

Photo Gallery

    15 shots, seemingly all from the movie. Uninteresting.

Filmographies - Cast & Crew

    Presented as a scrolling list are filmographies for Christopher Lambert, Sean Connery and Russell Mulcahy. Not surprisingly, Sean Connery's goes on for the longest. The scroll is at a reasonable speed, although I personally prefer static lists.

Interview with Christopher Lambert (8:25)

    This is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and is not 16x9 enhanced. Christopher speaks in French and is translated by burned-in English subtitles. It starts off slowly, but gets interesting towards the end, particularly when he speaks about the fight scenes before and after lunch.

Music Video - Highlander - Queen

    Seems more like a musical trailer for the movie than a music video. Visually, it is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and is 16x9 enhanced, although the quality of the vision is not all that good. Audio is Dolby Digital 2.0 mono and very muffled.

Theatrical Trailer

    Presented at 1.66:1 and not 16x9 enhanced, the trailer looks and sounds very dated.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    This one is rather an interesting comparison, at least on paper;

    The Region 4 version of this DVD misses out on;

    The Region 1 version of this DVD misses out on;     The comparison gets complicated because it seems as if the Region 1 version is either out-of-print or imminently about to go out-of-print and hence seems to be hard to get. Having said that, it was being offered for not much more than $10 US not all that long ago. However, based on a direct comparison...

    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.

Summary

    Highlander is more than the sum of its parts. I'd say that you'd either love or hate this movie, there wouldn't be any middle ground. Fans need not hesitate, the Region 4 version of this DVD belongs in your collection now.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Michael Demtschyna (read my bio)
Wednesday, September 12, 2001
Review Equipment
DVDDenon DVD-3300, using RGB output
DisplayLoewe 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 DecoderDenon AVD-2000 Dolby Digital decoder and Denon AVD-1000 dts decoder. Calibrated with Video Essentials/Ultimate DVD Platinum.
AmplificationEA 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
SpeakersPhilips 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

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Comments (Add)
R1 Immortal Edition wins out - Sean A (read my bio)
There is another superior region 1 version -
Can't find any single disc immortal edition -
Here is the link for the single disc Highlander Special Edition -
Is the US DVD still missing scenes? -
Is the US DVD still missing scenes? -
New R4 version of Highlander -
New 2 DVD R4 DVD Out Now! -
New R4 Edition -