Production Studios: Davis Panzer Productions
Distributed By: TC Entertainment
Blu-ray Release: June 3, 2015
Director: Andrew Morahan
Reviewed By James M. Dubs
I’ll watch anything…especially Highlander: The Final Dimension.
TC Entertainment has recently released new blu-rays in the Japanese market for Highlander 2 and Highlander: The Final Dimension (Highlander 3). Lucky for Americans, Japan shares the same region coding (Region A) for blu-ray playback. I recently picked up both “Highlander 2 / revived warrior [HD New Master] Director’s Cut Complete Edition Blu-ray” and “Highlander 3 / super warrior Great Battle [HD New Master] Collector’s Edition Blu-ray” for comparison against their American blu-ray counterparts.
For this review I will reference multiple versions of the same film. A brief history of the second Highlander sequel is as follows:
- December 9, 1994 – Highlander III: The Sorcerer is released outside US market. This version includes violence and sexual content that would earn MPAA rating equivalent to an R-rating.
- January 27, 1995 – Highlander:The Final Dimension is released in US theaters. New special effects added and film edited to earn PG-13 rating.
- June 5, 1996 – Highlander: The Final Dimension “Exclusive Director’s Cut” released on VHS, and laserdisc. Released later on DVD. This version retained the new special effects and added violence and sex back into the film.
After the critical and financial 1991 disaster that was Highlander II: The Quickening, most producers would close shop and find new opportunities for work. Bill Panzer and Peter Davis were not typical. They had a brand and they would be damned if anyone was going to stop them from driving this train off the tracks.
A little over one year later (October 3, 1992), Davis and Panzer would bring Highlander: The Series to syndicated television and the process to fix the tarnished film brand began. Bolstered by the moderate reviews and reception of the TV show, 1995 would see the creation of Highlander 3: The Sorcerer, later re-titled to Highlander: The Final Dimension in order to properly ignore part 2 and “conclude” the Connor MacLeod story.
This time around MacLeod (Christopher Lambert) would square off against the evil immortal Kane (Mario Van Peebles), who gets trapped inside a mountain cave. Flash forward to 1995 and Kane gets released by an excavation party lead by the beautiful Alex Johnson (Deborah Unger). The rest of Highlander 3 can be summarized as a poor carbon copy of the original, but paling in comparison.
Highlander: The Final Dimension was my gateway film into the Highlander universe. I remember seeing the original trailer in front of another Dimension Films release (Was it The Crow?) and immediately thought it looked pretty awesome. My best friend and I visited the local video store (Giraffe Video) and rented Highlander, Highlander II: The Quickening, and Highlander: The Gathering (Two episodes of the TV series stitched together as a feature) in order to get caught up before the January 27, 1995 release.
That evening was a roller coaster of experiences as we fell in love with the fantasy of the original, crashed with the disappointment of the sequel, and scratched our heads at the continuity of the TV series. How was this all supposed to fit together? Fortunately Davis/Panzer were well ahead of the marketing machine pushing Christopher Lambert out as the spokesman to assure fans that this was “the true sequel.” None could be happier.
When the film first came out, I loved it. But I loved it in a way Star Wars fans love Episodes I-III. It was deeply flawed, but I didn’t care. Variety’s Derek Elley called it “An unbelievably trashy meltdown of the tartan warrior franchise.” Unbelievably trashy? I wouldn’t understand what Elley meant until a cardboard video store display advertised the VHS release of the “Exclusive Director’s Cut” that included more violence and sexual content excised from the PG-13 theatrical run. My best friend and I fell to our knees and bowed.
Years later I would agree with Elley’s statement. Highlander 3 is a hollow sequel and as a film I actually prefer its predecessor. And like Highlander 2, Highlander: The Final Dimension has seen multiple cuts and versions. This most recent version appears to be an amalgamation of a couple of different versions. This version is not entirely the same as the R-rated “Director’s Cut” but more closely resembles the Highlander 3: The Sorcerer cut which doesn’t include some of the fancier special effects seen in the American theatrical and home video release. On the other hand some minor dialogue was changed between Sorcerer and Final Dimension cuts and this blu-ray retains the Final Dimension dialogue.
Confused? Does any of this really matter? Not really. But it’s my guilty pleasure and I love it, flaws, changes, and all.
Video & Audio Rating:
Since there is no existing domestic blu-ray to compare against, this disc is an automatic upgrade. However, before you buy, if you need any indication of how the film will look and sound, the transfer is identical to the HD presentation found on streaming services such as Netflix or Vudu. There is one small framing change on Netflix, as that streaming service opens the aspect ratio to 1.78:1 instead of maintaining the 2.35:1 aspect ratio found on Vudu or the blu-ray.
Audio includes an English language lossless DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 track as well as the Japanese language counterpart.
Highlander fans, rejoice! Are you sick and tired of all the sub-par, bare-bones DVD releases of Highlander 3? That ends now! TC Entertainment has done something I never expected to see. They actually accumulated a great series of extras to create a true “Special Edition” release of Highlander: The Final Dimension. Why we haven’t seen these before, I can only assume (I’m looking at you Davis/Panzer Productions). Where the hell have these extras been kept all these years? And how did TC Entertainment get their hands on it for release? Who cares?! They’re here!
- Christopher Lambert Press Junket Interviews (12:50) – Included are two interviews with star Christopher Lambert that cover very general topics to help promote the film’s release. The source video image has some video tracking problems, which may partially explain why this footage hasn’t been seen. The quality would not be good enough for broadcasts but is perfectly fine as a blu-ray bonus.
- The Making of Highlander 3, Electronic Press Kit (6:17) – A series of on-set interviews with stars Christopher Lambert, Deborah Unger, and director Andrew Morahan. Also includes general behind the scenes footage of production and filming.
- The Highlander Saga, Narrated by Leonard Nimoy (22:21) – I nearly wet myself when I saw this! A Highlander featurette chronicling the first three Highlander films and narrated by Spock? Does it get any more geeky crazy than that? No sir. No it does not. This near half hour treat was clearly produced to get people introduced to Highlander and generate buzz before the January 27, 1995 U.S. release of Highlander: The Final Dimension. This featurette would have been perfect for people like me who had heard of Highlander but had never seen it. It includes interviews from nearly everyone, cobbled together mostly from Highlander 2 and 3.
- Original theatrical trailer for Highlander 3: The Sorcerer (1:31)
- Original Japanese theatrical trailer for Highlander 3: The Sorcerer (1:31)
Sadly there is still no audio commentary by the director or producers. After this release, I’ll hold out hope that someone will piggy-back off of the work TC Entertainment has done to create a proper North American release.
I won’t pretend to be unbiased. I love Highlander 1-3. Most people won’t care about this Japanese import, but Highlander fans should, and I presume will. The bonus features make this a slam dunk for fans. Technically, it is the best the film has looked and sounded outside of a movie theater. However, if you just want to watch the movie, there are much easier ways to find it, namely Netflix or Vudu. But for those of you seeking the most definitive “Special Edition” blu-ray that Dimension films never gave us stateside, then rush on over to Amazon.co.jp and pick up this little surprise.