There Can Be Only Monday! Talking About Highlander …A Lot, Part 6

Last time: stabbing!

So the flashback ends and we’re back to our hero Connor, who’s just killed Fasil, blown up a parking deck with a Quickening, and made us all try to pretend we weren’t just handed the information that immortals are basically cosmic orgasm junkies—something that was easier to ignore before the bit with the hose coming loose and spewing fluid. (I simultaneously adore all the blatant phallic/sex imagery in this movie and dread admitting that to other people. Hello, internet!)

And it looks like he was smart enough not to have his fight on the same level where he parked, because we see him attempting to speed away in his (very nice and undamaged) car, only to be greeted by what looks like at least a dozen police. It makes you feel sorry for all the New Yorkers whose murders weren’t accompanied by semi-intentionally camp explosions.

Let’s try to reconcile this image—a guy fleeing a loud crime scene at top speed, tires squealing, an entire fleet of squad cars shutting him down—with some of the words we see in the prologue:


The Queen song is perhaps a thematic hint, since there’s nothing “silent” or “secret” about the beginning of “Princes of the Universe” either.

Connor is a guy who’s supposed to have been carving out a nice anonymous existence for himself for the better part of 450 years, and who may in fact have been hunting Fasil (see TCBOM part 1). What the hell is he doing? Perhaps some sort of plan would be in order?

Caught, he gets out of his car and is slammed against a police cruiser and searched by a bunch of cops who, in any other ’80s movie about New York, would have been a street gang. They’re so obnoxious you expect Charles Bronson to turn up and start breaking heads, and they introduce a recurring theme of stupid policemen in the movie. Later we’ll be introduced to Lt. Moran, who is played by Alan “the captain on Police Squad!” North, and by then there’s no hope, even though it’s not really fair to fault the police for not realizing a bunch of immortal duellists are running around.

As he is frisked, we get another flashback of 16th-century Connor’s last rites and revival, with bagpipe music just mournful enough that I have no idea who won that damn battle.


Read the next one: Future love interest: 1, Huge number of cops: 0.

Next time: Found-Again Friday visits the land of shoulder pads and a surprising number of argyle sweaters with the first four seasons of Dynasty.

Next time on TCBOM: Enter the nerd girl…and Alan “the captain from Police Squad!” North.




There Can Be Only Monday! Talking About Highlander… A Lot, Part 5

Last time: Improbably, none of the people involved in this battle had ever heard a ballad before, or were just too polite to mention it. There’s something about staring at a skull helmet that just encourages good manners, I guess.

Also, I promised we’d get to the good stuff.

5. Did somebody have a primitive insurance policy out on Connor or what?

Finally, the plan is working and all the Frasers avoid stabbing our hero, who is standing on the battlefield with an extended look of consternation. Why he is standing on the battlefield, I’m not sure: earlier we see Connor and his kinsmen Angus and Dougal all riding horses. In Connor’s flashbacks during the wrestling match, it’s clear Angus has been unhorsed, and we see the same happen to Dougal in the course of the battle scene.

If no one is attacking Connor, where did his horse go?

Perhaps that explains the look.

I have to think that an ordinary guy raised in a culture of frequent clan warfare, who is in battle for the first time, would take more initiative—if not to attack the Frasers, then to help his friends and relations who are getting walloped on the battlefield for the greater glory of the MacLeods.

That's it. That's his move.
That’s it. That’s his move.

Instead, after a few abortive efforts, Connor stands and gapes—at least until the Kurgan, after a bit of a blood-soaked warm-up, rides up on his/Zorro’s horse, dismounts with a snarl, and with minimal effort (and further snarling) stabs the ever-loving shit out of the Highlander.This part seems to go on forever and reminds me what I like best about the Kurgan: he loves his job.

I assume Connor raises his shield that high because the Kurgan was on a horse and he got momentarily confused, but if you watch this often enough, you begin to wonder if no one taught him what shields were for. The fact that Ramirez later has to train Connor in a lot of swordcraft only makes it odder that the people who presumably love him would send him into battle with so little training: the whole thing looks like the olden-day equivalent of someone raising  a defensive arm and getting stabbed in the armpit with the kitchen knife. Connor is left weltering on the ground (bleeding from a wound that doesn’t look like it’s quite where it’s supposed to be, but that’s movie magic for you), and the Kurgan raises his sword and falls victim to what a wise man once called one of the classic blunders: he says something.

As villain monologues go, “There can be only one!” is quite short, but not short enough, as the Kurgan is tackled and Connor gets to keep his head, at least until a later movie and a more popular MacLeod.


Read the next one: The cunning of an immortal. We’re bound to see some eventually, right?

Next time: I will play the sap for you, sweethearts.

Next time on TCBOM: Why you should never watch Highlander and Police Squad! close together.




There Can Be Only Monday! Talking about Highlander… A Lot, Part 4

Last time: The Kurgan invents an early form of Where’s Waldo?

4. Why would anyone expect this to work: The Musical!

There’s a case to be made for calling this part 3a, because it’s hard to let go of just how silly this plan is. Even setting aside that we’re expecting an entire clan of rough ‘n’ ready Scots to ID one of their bitter enemies’ D-list from a name (or a photo shared through the Google Glass skull helmet, but somehow I have doubts), the middle of a battle is a terrible place to do this. Ballads are written about it, for heaven’s sake.

Admittedly, ballads will also give you the impression that half the soldiers are actually women who disguised themselves to loyally follow the other half, but that’s my point: confusion reigns, and someone as smart as the Kurgan is supposed to be—we’ll talk about that later—should know better.

Heck, here’s a song in which adverse weather conditions cause a guy to mistake his girlfriend for a game bird, no battle needed:

Listen to this, then look at the sky in the battle scene in Highlander and tell me what’s about to happen has any real chance of happening. It’s probably statistically less likely than the existence of immortals.


Read the next one: Connor flails and is impaled.

Next time on TCBOM: Finally, stabbing (Kurgan) and weltering (Connor)!


There Can Be Only Monday! Talking About Highlander… A Lot, Part 3

We last left off in a battle in 15-something Scotland, where we met the Kurgan and wondered how you hire the Big Bad to fight your little wars.

No matter how you do it, the MacLeods’ enemies have pulled it off. The Kurgan’s price: Connor, whom he names by name.

This seems improbable for several reasons, the biggest of which is the question of how much immortals can sense about each other; the movie’s Wikipedia page implies a lot of leeway here, which would explain several things in the movie, but has the side effect of making Connor look a bit underpowered.

We know from the opening scenes that they can sense each other’s presence, but anything else is uncertain. Later, when Ramirez catches up with Connor, he knows things about him, but so much that it gives the impression Ramirez has been doing some good old-fashioned detective work in addition to any superpowered knowledge. Connor can sense other immortals to the extent that he knows when one’s around…sort of (I understand the scene late in the movie where dude, he’s like twenty yards away from you! We can all see him! may have originally been cut from the US theatrical release and then added back to the version on my DVD), but there’s no suggestion that he’s getting any sort of comprehensive telepathic news wire.

How, then, does the Kurgan get this information? By asking around? About some 18-year-old kid nobody knows from Adam, and who at the beginning of the battle scene it is strongly implied has never really been anywhere? Because nothing says “unobtrusive surveillance” like a large, ferocious barbarian?I can’t even imagine him beating the information out of people for once, because I can’t imagine anyone having the information.

My frivolous fanwank explanation is simplicity itself: early adopter, Google Glass Skull Helmet.

So the whole thing is like a word problem from hell. “A train leaves Chicago, may actually be a stack of pancakes, and crashes off a bridge. How long until the entire opposing army figures out which one is Connor?”

Read the next one: Connor Is Not Well-Known: The Musical!

Next time: It might still be Pumpkinhead.

Next time on TCBOM: More on this, possibly with reference to balladry. Hey, I’m as eager to get to the stabbing as anybody.




There Can Be Only Monday! Talking About Highlander… A Lot, Part 2

Notes: It occurs to me that last week’s introduction neglected one detail, which is that I will be trying, as much as possible, to take the movie as it comes. I’ve listened to the DVD commentary—though not for a long time—and turned in confusion to the movie’s Wikipedia entry a few times before deciding to do this project. As the sort of person hardwired to turn into a research monkey when I encounter something I like, this will likely not be as easy as it sounds.

I’m also going to skip over the initial swordfight between Connor and Fasil, even though a) Why the backflips, really? and b) If I were 500 years old and nonetheless dressed like Lt. Columbo, I like to think I’d be begging somebody to cut my head off. Instead, we’ll head for one of the best parts of the movie: the Highlander’s origin story. We’ll be spending a bit of time here, so make yourself comfortable.



In flashback to the 16th century, young Connor rides off with the other MacLeod clansmen to do battle against the Frasers, who seem to have a few advantages:

  • High ground;
  • Superior banners and a better-looking tartan (hey, it could affect morale);

I assume that last one will definitely affect morale.

If you haven’t watched the movie for a while, I suggest at least checking out our first glimpse of the Kurgan, silhouetted against the sky, because it’s pretty transcendent—YouTube has the battle scene here, with Spanish subtitles, but as the precise moment itself is silent, that should work fine.

The armor is magnificent. You hear Wagner playing where there is no Wagner. (You also suspect he mugged Zorro and stole his horse.)

Once the Kurgan ceases posing ominously and joins the MacLeods’ enemies, things begin to get both exciting and odd. I’ll save the fact that he somehow not only knows the MacLeods have an immortal around somewhere, but knows his name! for next week. What I find myself wondering, as the clan leader re-confirms their deal, is how the hell do you hire the Kurgan anyway? Did he approach the Frasers because he knew about Connor—for that matter, is he in Scotland because he knows about Connor—or did they somehow manage to ask for help without the Kurgan singlehandedly wiping out their best fighting men? I find myself trying to imagine this, and the death count is always at least one:

RANDOM FRASER 1: Our leader wants to know if—

KURGAN: * stab*

RANDOM FRASER 2: We could pay you maybe—

KURGAN: * kick, followed by stab *

RANDOM FRASER 3: I like your armor?

At some point, however, an accord seems to have been reached.

Read the next one: The Kurgan: not a detective.

Next time: Complicated relationships with books.

Next time on TCBOM: Where everybody knows your name, but especially that one guy with the skulls and the sword and the voice.

There Can Be Only Monday! Talking about Highlander…A Lot, Part 1

Going back to the old hometown to take care of a relative is, in movies, usually a time for personal growth: you realize you’re on the wrong path, reconnect with a long-lost love, and generally point your life in a better direction.

In my case, I spent my time in the swamp working on stories, running errands for said relative, and watching the movies I’d brought with me over and over. I did uncover a new superpower, however, and one I am going to share with readers: years after initial viewing, I can still talk for hours about the first Highlander movie. This is not necessarily more useful than my other superpower—the ability to fill a Downy Ball to the line without looking—but it is a good deal more bloggable.

My History with the Methos…er, Mythos: That’s the other reason I thought this might be a fun topic to tear into: I didn’t see the movie till the late ’90s, by which time I’d spent years surrounded by people, including my mother, who were fans of Highlander: The Series. I’d watched the series quite a bit. (I’d also seen perhaps ten minutes of the second movie, which, like many right-thinking Highlander fans, I have decided does not actually exist.) Yet I can’t remember the moment I first came into contact with the premise, or the line “There can be only one”: like Star Wars, it’s one of those things that seeped into the collective unconscious of the culture, which I find even more interesting.

When I finally did watch the movie, I became an instant and mildly obsessed fan. I’ve always loved anything with a lot of swordfighting in it—Zorro, Robin Hood—so there was no real chance Highlander would disappoint. And though it still doesn’t, repeated viewings suggest to me that the film has got…issues. In some cases, issues that resist what is popularly known as fanwank; in some others, issues that delightfully adapt themselves to it. And here we are.

A Word of Warning: This is in no way intended for people who haven’t seen the movie: a lot of the things I want to talk about involve patterns, so while I’ll be roughly chronological about bringing things up, there will be references to later scenes. Probably a lot of them. Anyway, why haven’t you watched Highlander? It’s fun. There’s a Queen soundtrack. Go do it.



This is something it took me several years to notice, in part because the conventions surrounding heroes in a movie like this are so strong that you fill in details that are never made clear. When we first meet our protagonist, he is sitting in the audience at a professional wrestling event, looking as if he’d just seen a bus filled with puppies drive off a cliff. (I could instantly relate: this is the exact face I make when I’m at a party I don’t want to attend.) He senses another immortal, and they abscond to the parking lot and have a swordfight that involves pointless back flips. Naturally, the Highlander prevails.

Through the rest of the movie, there’s a sort of implication—during his training with Ramirez, for example—that Connor is at best a reluctant participant in the whole Gathering process, and certainly not someone who stabs first and asks questions later. So what is he doing there? Is he torturing himself by going to watch wrestling that gives him origin-story flashbacks? Does he have an appointment with Fasil for some sort of showdown? Or is he actually hunting the guy?

Read the next one: More intro + our villain.


Next time: Stealth Ken Russell.