Directed by: Russell Mulcahy
Written by: Brian Clemens and William N. Panzer (story), Peter Bellwood (screenplay)
Starring: Christopher Lambert/Connor MacLeod, Sean Connery /Juan Sánchez Villa-Lobos Ramírez, Virginia Madsen /Louise Marcus, Michael Ironside/Katana, John C. McGinley/David Blake
Synopsis: We are in the future. Connor MacLeod is now an old man and our world is drowned in darkness due to The Shield; an artificial ozone layer which MacLeod help build to protect the earth. But all of that changes when MacLeod's old enemy General Katana travels to the future to whack him. MacLeod becomes young and immortal again, he tags up with environmental activist Louise Marcus (who believes the shield is no longer necessary and that it needs to be shut off) and Ramirez returns to help both their asses out.
To quote the evil Katana: "Lets have some fun!"
RUSSELL MULCAHY’S 1986 HIGHLANDER is a favorite of mine; I can say its one of the films that first made me aware of editing and how much of an impact it has on the flow and feel of a picture. On that front it was ahead of its time. So on November 1, 1991; I was the first in line to catch the sequel HIGHLANDER 2: THE QUICKENING. And man was I pumped for it! The trailers were badass, Russell Mulcahy was back behind the camera and Christopher Lambert & Sean Connery returned as well to give us more MacLeod and Ramirez loving. How can you go wrong? As I sat through the screening, my mouth was agape the whole way and I remember coming out of that theatre completely BAFFLED as to what I had just witnessed.
The train wreck in Highlander 2, echoes the soul of the film itself...
What the f*ck was that all about I thought? Like really! Was there a bong on set and everybody partook in its it herbal pleasures? It made NO SENSE TO ME. But the thing is, we’re now 19 years later and Highlander 2 is still lodged in my noggin... it has somehow become a morbid fascination. Why? Well how many movies do you know that had the director (Russel Mulcahy) walk out of the film’s world premiere 15 minutes in? That saw its creator shoot new footage 4 years later to re-tackle another cut of his work? A film that's been re-edited three times after its theatrical release, hence totaling 4 DIFFERENT RELEASED versions in total? Not many. HIGHLANDER 2 stands alone as one of the most fascinating cinematic train wrecks to ever grace the silver screen; which is why I watched all 4 cuts back to back to write this drivel and give it the LOVE LETTER it deserves.
The voice of Don Corleone; the agility of Bruce Lee... go figure!
This is a movie that was so OFF THE MARK, that the entire Highlander universe (sequels, TV show) ignored it like a red headed, STD plagued, step whore and its"so bad its good" aura was so strong, that crappy cinema junkies such as myself now revere it. To be honest, all four editions of Highlander 2 share some of the same problems: dumf*ck villains (those bird dudes were a joke), MacLeod as an old man doing a poor's man Don Corleone impression, a simpleton (he wants MacLeod dead - never kills him when he gets the chance) main bad guy (Michael Ironside) in overacting overdrive, cars from the 50s slapped in a futuristic setting, a subway massacre bit that makes no LOGICAL sense and a love story that was FAR from credible. But, some cuts were better than others, so lets go on a bareback adventure mofos and mofettes; lets take a gander at all four versions of Highlander 2 and become better people for it!
The first part of this editorial will focus on the two "they are aliens" cuts of the film. Here we go!
Theatrical Cut (1991) - Run Time: 90 minutes
GET HIGHLANDER 2 THE QUICKENING ON VHS HERE!
Anybody that’s seen HIGHLANDER knows that by the end of the film; that was that on that. All the best, love and kisses. MacLeod was now “mortal” and able to read the population's thoughts and there was nowhere to go from there…the story was over. In fact we had all the answers except for one: Where do the immortals come from? And when money talked and this sequel walked; the creative forces decided to address the query; proving once again that sometimes NOT KNOWING is the best way to go. So in the US theatrical version of HIGHLANDER 2 THE QUICKENING (and its UK counterpart); the immortals were aliens from the Planet Zeist. Yup, you heard me, space men, E.Ts, take it, roll it and smoke it. And the flick was set in the future, hence deviating from the fantasy vibe of the original and taking the sci-fi highway instead. Kind of ballsy if ya think about it; has to be respected on some echelons. Although the Blade Runner-esque sets hit home and the action sequences were well staged for the most part; the Theatrical version of The Quickening was simply a mess.
How the f*ck did we get in this mess??? Connery and Lambert think...
The editing here was sloppy and all over the place. The two more OBVIOUS examples of that would be: 1- They actually took two separate sword fights between MacLeod and Katana and cut them together as one. Embarrassing! 2- They had two scenes that happened at a different place (The Shield Corporation building and the security prison) unravel one after another making it look like it was the same location (the scene of MacLeod and Louise leaving the security prison to go to the Shield Corporation was absent here but found in future cuts). This surely didn't help the already rushed and patch job-ish narrative flow feel more organic or cohesive. Moreover; the usual Highlander flashback motif (spread throughout) was ruined here; they put out all of the flashbacks in the opening, the flick didn't play by its own rules (MacLeod promises to return to Zeist if he wins the prize...ummmm... he won that shite but yet stayed on earth, overpowered by Virginia Madsen's pussy) and the story itself went against what the first film had established (MacLeod and Ramirez met as adults in old Scotland in the first Highlander; so how the f*ck are they grownz up buddies in a past that is set before the original's time frame? COME ON! Work with me over here!)
Sadly; every cut of Highlander 2 has this cackling nitwit!
It should be said that the latter complaint is present in all of the HIGHLANDER II cuts; bottom line; they didn't know how to bring Sean Connery back without spitting on the original. And it was that type of ineptness that jacked Highlander 2 to turkey gold status. Granted we can’t FULLY blame the producers or the director for this first particular cut. Ya see they shot in Argentina, and the country’s inflation got so high at a certain point, that they went over budget and the insurance company eventually took the picture hostage and did whatever the frick they wanted to it. This theatrical cut was their doing as Mulcahy and the producers were locked out of the editing room. With that said, Evil Argentinians or not; them being aliens was in the original script and so was Ramirez coming back with little to no sense as to what the first picture had set up. Of all the HIGHLANDER 2 versions - this was, is without a doubt the WORSE.
The original HIGHLANDER 2 THE QUICKENING theatrical trailer.
HIGHLANDER 2: THE QUICKENING The UK Cut (1991)
- Run Time: 101 minutes
Which bring us to the UK cut of HIGHLANDER 2: THE QUICKENING (only available now via bootleg BTW - I picked up a VHS of it at a convention like 5 years ago and it sometimes plays on TV) which came out at around the same time as the US cut but on UK and some Europeans screens. For this version Mulcahy and the producers were back in the creative driving seat; trying to salvage the stick up the ass they got via the 'out of their hands" US release. This was a first step in the right direction. Here, 10 minutes or so of new footage was slapped back in to flesh out the characters and the happenings; hence bringing the film an inch closer to what it was supposed to be. Although the token Highlander flashback structure was ONCE AGAIN ignored in favor of having all of the past scenes spat out in the beginning; the whole thing was edited in a much more coherent fashion (the two sword fights that were spliced together in the US version were separated here as the two individual battles they were always meant to be), the story was focused on further (they actually go above the Shield here to get proof that mankind is being deceived) and we also get more meat as to the MacLeod character and his pathos driven history (we witness his last wife Brenda from the first film die here... nice touch).
At least they got the sword fights right in this now rare UK cut.
On the flip side; some pretty damn tight scenes that were in the US cut, were omitted here for reasons that only the forever clairvoyant Burt Reynolds knows for sure. Namely Katana and MacLeod having a tete a tete while Katana fondles (and then chokes) a heel and MacLeod visiting Brenda's grave to then find Katana in the house, who goes on to diss him and his lost love's grave. Those two scenes amped up the animosity between both men, defined it to some degree and they should have been kept in this cut in my opinion. It wasn't to be at the time; but that would be rectified down the road in the RENEGADE CUT (more on that in part 2 of this editorial). Now that I think of it; much like any director in the cutting room; Mulcahy was trying to nail a final cut of Highlander 2 here and with the RENEGADE CUT that was to follow. Thing is, he did it in PUBLIC, for all of us to see. How often does that happen in the biz? To witness a work in progress evolve before our eyes as opposed to behind closed doors? Rare shite!
But the aspect that truly defined the UK cut was that it was the only version that sported the initially planned ending of the film, as originally scripted. MacLeod and Louise vomit romantic marmalade to each other and then BAM fly off together in the stars; destination? Planet fucking Zeist. YEAH BITCHES! The ending was so awful, tacky and ridiculous that it never re-surfaced anywhere else but in the British Cut. Don’t believe me as to how SHITTY it was? Watch it below and HURL AWAY!
STAY TUNED FOR A GANDER AT THE RENEGADE CUT AND THE MORE RECENT SPECIAL EDITION VERSION OF HIGHLANDER 2!