I DON’T know where to begin with this week’s Icon as it doesn’t know where to begin with itself. Every time I try researching the plot of the film Highlander, my brain tries to escape through my ears.

More fool me for, though sometimes assigned to the so-bad-it’s good genre, Highlander is to many a “cult classic”.

As reported in yon Herald this week, it’s being rebooted (and, boy, does it need booting), with locations in Scotia being scouted even as we speak. The original was number one in the Scots Magazine’s “most Scottish films”, which may or may not be an accolade.

But it began in the brain of an American. Gregory Widen wrote the original script as a class assignment while on a screenwriting course at the Yoonie of California, Los Angeles.

His inspirations were Ridley Scott’s 1977 film The Duellists and a visit to Scotland and the Tower of London armour display, which inspired him to muse: “What if you owned all this? What if you’d worn it all through history and were giving someone a tour of your life through it?” Good questions, at least compared to “Where’s the restroom?”.

Widen sold the script for $200,000, and it became the first draft of the screenplay. So, what’s it aboot? You had to ask. Right, there’s this bloke. He leaves a wrestling match in New York and, obviously, gets into a sword fight in an indoor car park with this other bloke.

All right so far? The first bloke – Russell Nash, a high-end antiques dealer played by Christopher Lambert – beheads the second bloke, setting off a tsunami of energy that ruins several cars. 
Stuff ensues but the gist is that, as you’d expect, Russell turns out to be a Scottish bloke called Connor MacLeod, born at Glenfinnan in the 16th century.

Back then, before football was invented, Scotland’s main entertainment was fighting, so Connor’s clan was having a pagger with the Frasers, who were aided by a sadistic and murderous outlander called the Kurgan.

This Kurgan clown fatally stabs Connor, but is prevented from beheading him, which turns out to be a blessing. Connor makes a miraculous recovery, causing his lover Kate and cousin Dougal to accuse him of being “in league with that Lucifer”. 

Not unnaturally, the clan wants to burn him at the stake, but the chief – another cousin – mercifully exiles him.

Spanish butcher
Five years later, MacLeod is tracked down in the Highlands by Juan Sánchez-Villalobos Ramírez (Sean Connery), an Egyptian by way of Spain, as you can tell by Shir Sean’s Scottish accent. The swordsman explains that he, Connor, the Kurgan, and others are immortals (of different ages, oddly enough) destined to fight each other, though they’re invincible unless beheaded.

Sean Connery 

As with football’s Euros, “in the end, there can be only one”, with the remaining few taking part in the Gathering, the final battle for … the Prize. If yon Kurgan wins, humanity will suffer an eternity of darkness and still have huge energy bills.

Ramírez becomes Connor’s mentor, teaching him swordplay, and the two become besties until, one night, dastardly Kurgan finds Ramírez and parts him from his bonce.

Connor wanders hither and yon aboot the planet, then we leap forward four centuries and Brenda Wyatt, an NYPD forensics expert investigating all the beheadings in the city, finds shards of Connor’s ancient sword in that car park and tracks him down. 

They end up having nookie, so the Kurgan kidnaps Brenda to draw Connor out.
After a long scrap, Connor decapitates the Big K and returns to Scotia with Brenda. 

Now a mortal who can age and have children, his dream is to encourage co-operation and peace among humanity. Aw! Puts Miss World to shame.

Surprisingly, the film, released in 1986, was at first a commercial failure, grossing $13 million worldwide against a production budget of $19m. 

Reviews were, er, mixed. Variety said that, despite “entertaining moments”, overall it was “a mess”.

Lost the plot
HALLIWELL’S Film Guide described it as “muddled, violent and noisy”, with the plot not explained “until most people will have given up”. A BBC review in 2000 notes its “weak narrative” and “pompous macho posturing”, while on Rotten Tomatoes it has an average rating of 6.30/10, with the site’s critical consensus averring: “People hate Highlander because it’s cheesy, bombastic and absurd. 

“And people love it for the same reasons.”

It gets some good punter reviews on IMDb, with many complaining the sequels drag the original down. Highlander II: The Quickening, released in 1991, is sometimes called the worst film ever made.

Highlander III (1994) sought to erase Highlander II, acting as an alternate sequel. Highlander: Endgame (2000) and Highlander: The Source (2007) were based on a spin-off TV series and, accordingly, were panned by fans of both original film and TV show. 

Anime movie Highlander: The Search For Vengeance (2007) received largely positive reviews, though not as good as those for Carry On Don’t Lose Your Head.
Throughout all this, sales or rentals of videos, DVDs and Blu-rays mysteriously soared, so all was not lost.

And so we come full circle, with filmmaker Chad Stahelski – famous for the John Wick series – scouting Scotia for the remake’s locations. Scenes for the original were shot at Eilean Donan Castle, Glencoe, Glen Nevis, Loch Shiel, Torridon and Skye, not to mention London, New York and Wales.

Henry Cavill will play lead in the remake, though you’d think the star of The Witcher might have had enough experience of problematic plots.

We leave you with nuggets of trivia from the original. 

Eight minutes of footage was cut from its US theatrical release, some involving Scottish humour, such as Connor being repeatedly head-butted by a clansman.

Come what May
ROCK band Queen recorded several songs for the soundtrack. Guitarist Brian May wrote Who Wants To Live Forever in a taxi home after seeing the movie.

Brian May

Connery insisted on having a crate of whisky delivered up the side of a mountain where they were filming.

The opening voiceover by Connery has an echo effect because it was recorded in the bathroom of his Spanish villa.

Having done Highlander, Connery later turned down a role in the hugely successful Lord Of The Rings because he “didn’t understand it”. 

For pity’s sake: it’s about elves an’ that. Man had obviously lost the plot.