HIGHLANDER II: THE QUICKENING
Turns out not even the director likes this movie.
There’s a piece of trivia about Highlander II: The
Quickening that’s repeated so often on the internet it sounds like it must be an urban myth. But no. Director Russell Mulcahy confirms to SFX that he did indeed walk out of the film’s world premiere after 15 minutes. “I think I heard a few rumblings in the audience, like, ‘ What the fuck’s this?’” he recalls with a self- mocking chuckle. “To be fair, I was thinking the same thing and I knew the worst was yet to come. I didn’t want to be there at the end. I left for safety reasons because I would have been murdered.”
Highlander II is a regular fixture in “Worst Movies Of All Time Lists” and you won’t find Mulcahy – who also directed the first film – defending it. The man who made his name shooting some of the most memorable pop videos of the ’ 80s for the likes of Duran Duran, Ultravox ( oh, indeed yes, Vienna) and Queen – describes the shoot as “hell on wheels” and claims never to have watched it again since that premiere. Which may surprise owners of the radical Renegade Cut version of the movie released on DVD in 1995, which purports to be a “director’s cut”.
“I may have given the producers some notes,” says Mulcahy, revealing that he had little direct involvement with that release. “I think I said, ‘ I don’t really know what you can do to save it.’ I definitely asked them to get rid of that Planet Zeist stuff.”
Ah yes. Zeist. Poor, ultimately retconnedout-of- the- franchise Planet Zeist, a severe symptom of unwanted- sequelitis, eventually cured by surgical removal. In a way it stands for everything that’s wrong with Highlander II – a plot decision driven by that basic human urge: to make more money.
Because nobody behind the original really wanted to make a sequel. Highlander – the tale of immortals who must battle each other through the ages until only one is left – had become an unexpected cult hit in Europe but had tanked in the US, so its distributor, 20th Century Fox, had no interest in making another one. But as producer Peter Davis recalls in the making- of documentary
Seduced By Argentina, “We got such support from the foreign distributors. We would go to Cannes and they would come up to us saying, ‘ When are you doing this? We want this for our marketplace.’”
Eventually funding was raised through a private bonding company. The trouble was, as Mulcahy points out, Highlander was a film that didn’t lend itself to sequels. “It was written as a complete story. There can be only one. He got a prize when he won – he became mortal. Blah, blah, blah, end of story, ‘ It’s A Kind Of Magic’. But then it became a hit in Europe and suddenly there was a scramble for a sequel.”
The producers, Bill Panzer and Peter Davis, had to find a way to bring the characters and concepts back, including Sean Connery’s Ramirez who was inconveniently dead (“the distributors were not interested in Sean Connery being a cameo; they wanted him as a major character in the piece,” says Davis.) Mulcahy remembers being sent various concepts: “One was like Rollerball meets The
Hunger Games. They were all futuristic.”
“Get ready to run – here come the reviews!”