The ultimate Matrix box set? Peanuts. The Alien Quadrilogy - nine discs? Nothing.
The Immortal Collection of Highlander the television show that arrived at my door today weighs in at a cool 55 discs. Containing each of the six seasons of the successful syndication fantasy adventure (plus a six-disc �greatest of' package), this Immortal Collection is twenty pounds of pure sci-fi nerd glory.
Start at the beginning if you'd like - or start from the tail and move your way up. McLeod doesn't care. As adventures turn into adventures and Roger Daltry shows up and takes off again, the essence of the Highlander series is that while there can truly be �only one' (the slogan of the Highlander universe), there is clearly not just one.
Yes, Duncan MacLeod (Adrian Paul) is an immortal, but he always finds a worthy adversary to combat. Everybody knows that he's going to win every time, but that doesn't stop the nasty bad guys from doing their damnedest. And Paul makes a great leading man: With Euro-sleek sensibilities and hair that obviously takes hours to keep up, he infuses the role with both implicit aggression and passion as well as a hearty sense of goofy fantasy role-playing.
As a whole, the Highlander series has its ups and downs, but a collection like this allows for it all to sink in with a fervency that individual season-sets don't. Knowing that you have the entire Highlander TV universe in front of you (with the exception of the odious Highlander: Raven series that gets released June 14 on DVD - see the review here ) makes the act of sifting through it that much more fun.
And these editions all have an impressive load of extras and nice transfers that make the trip worthwhile. DVDFile has reviewed three of the seasons and these are some excerpts from those reviews:
From Season One:
� Highlander : Season One is a monstrous nine-disc set containing every ounce of the surprisingly popular show's rookie season with more time traveling, old-world combat and dynamic horseback riding than you can shake a sword at.�
From Season Six:
�Compared to the relative goofiness of Hercules: The Legendary Journeys and Xena: Warrior Princess , Highlander is a bit leaden in its incarnation as a moderately successful TV show from the 1990s. This isn't to say that the show is a complete bust; while the last four Highlander movies have been uneven (to say the least), the fact that Highlander the series has a relative consistency to it makes it more rewarding of a fantasy/action viewing experience.
The long and the short of it is that even in this last season of the series (it's the show at its most figuratively grandiose), the show knows what it does well. It doesn't go out of its way to stage potentially cheesy set pieces and extensive action scenes. Sure, there is more than a bit of staccato motion to the mostly-talky narratives here, but even more than the films, this Highlander seems genuinely happy in its own skin.
Budgets are smaller, scripts are shorter - it's of no matter. Adrian Paul and his on-screen cronies here bring a perfectly legitimate mix of serious fantasy and irreverent witty banter to the show. Yes, it's quite corny, and yes, it's very difficult to take a serious this outlandish as seriously as it seems to want us to, but Highlander remains, at the very least, a moderately engaging form of escapism.�
From Season Five:
�Of Anchor Bay 's recent fantasy/sci-fi TV box set releases of the past few months, Highlander is definitely the title that takes itself most seriously. Xena: Warrior Princess and Hercules: The Legendary Journeys are shelf-mates of this Scottish saga of Duncan MacLeod and his immortal adventures through time and space � all of these series have received exemplary DVD releases � but for one reason or another, Duncan is, well, crankier.
However, from a certain perspective, this sadness (resignation, I suppose, is a better term) is inherent to the �Highlander� saga: Trapped in an immortality this character didn't choose, Duncan is basically fated to wander the roads of the world fighting other immortals. And this isn't like having an �American Gladiators� bout every episode or two � the mythos at the center of �Highlander� is that it's either Duncan's head on a stick or somebody else's. Conquer or be conquered, so they say.
As I said in my review of the first season's DVD release: �To this day, the film has a fervent fan base - even the original film's lame third sequel earned a surprisingly strong opening weekend a few years ago, and all of the various DVD incarnations of the flicks continue to move plenty of units.�
So what if the guy at DVDFile says it's a silly show?�
As I wipe an alligator tear from my cheek as I write my last review of Highlander the series on DVD, I think that's a perfect way to sign off: Silliness and pretense abound in the Highlander universe, but if you have a hankering to witness of the �one', this is your golden opportunity.
The Video: How Does The Disc Look?
These transfers are all similar in quality. From my review of the first season on DVD:
"Each episode is presented in its original 4:3 full screen broadcast aspect ratio, and the results are strong. Colors are represented quite well here, with greens and dark blues benefiting from an especially strong luster. Blacks and contrast are just fine, although detail is sometimes lacking. The show can look a little smeary, with shadow delineation often poor. On the plus side, there is little edginess and only minor artifacting. All in all, these are pretty good transfers."
The Audio: How Does The Disc Sound?
Ditto with the 5.1 Dolby Surround mixes:
"Kudos to Anchor Bay for coughing up the dough to remix the show in DVD-friendly 5.1 Dolby [Digital]. While the 2-channel mix of the original show is also presented here, the 5.1 is the way to go. Separation is more readily apparent, even expertly realized, on the 5.1 track and dynamic range is noticeably improved. Some of the dialogue still sounds a bit tinny and a lot of the music (especially the obligatory Queen songs that show up every once in a while) are mixed too loud. Low end is better than expected if still not quite up to today's big action spectacle standards."
No subtitles or alternate language tracks are included, but there are closed captions .
Supplements: What Goodies Are There?
Bless them, Anchor Bay started minimally but turned their Highlander DVDs into extra feature powerhouses.
From my review of Season One:
�Each disc offers some character profiles , with most of the other extras on the last disc. However, the included behind-the-scenes series promos, interviews, and bloopers leave a bit to be desired.
The promo is cool and everything, but it has been transferred from a VHS master, with all the ugly video noise you'd expect from such a (thankfully) declining format. The bloopers suffer the same fate. These two extra features admittedly still wouldn't have been mind-blowing even if they were pristine, but I couldn't help but get distracted by the sheer ugliness of the low-grade transfers.
We also have some interviews with executive producer Bill Panzer that theoretically should be provocative, but the DV footage seems like it was shot next to a busy street. Sure, Panzer's anecdotes are revealing and informative, but it often sounds like he's delivering his monologue in front of a wind tunnel. Again, it's nice to have the extra in this package, but it could have been presented better.
Oddly, an entire CD-ROM disc with all of the season's scripts is included. It certainly is easy to use, but it probably would have been even better had it just been a ROM feature, since you have to have a computer to access the CD anyway. Still, it's great to have the scripts at all. Rounding it all out is an 8-page booklet with the some rather slim production notes.�
Then on Season Two we get the typical video interviews as well as The Watcher Chronicles text info about the characters, places and events within each episode. Additional footage like bloopers and rehearsal are also smattered through the edition.
We also get two screen-specific audio commentaries from Adrian Paul for �The Return of Amanda� and �Revenge of the Sword� on Disc Three ( video commentaries with Adrian on these episodes is also available). We also get a featurette on Disc Four about the making of the show (30:00) and a bonus CD-ROM disc with trivia , filmograhies, production info and notes .
Season Three also comes with various screen-specific audio commentaries and video commentaries as well as a few still galleries , a blooper reel (it's the same reel on the Season One edition), a promo for a documentary about the finale of the show as well as some DVD production credits and the obligatory CD-ROM disc.
Season Four also has quite an arsenal of bonuses: We get deleted/extended scenes , interviews , a photo gallery , screen-specific audio commentaries from Jim Byrnes, Anthony Delongis, Peter Ellis, Gillian Horvath, Stan Kirsch, Don Paonessa and Adrian Paul as well as production designs and sketches , bloopers, outtakes and a CD-ROM full of goodies.
Disc Five also has a ton of goodies. From my review:
�Disc One houses interviews on �Prophecy� and �The End of Innocence� as well as a screen-specific audio commentary (as well as an optional video commentary ) with director Peter Ellis on �Manhunt�, a slew of photos from the show, a weblink to the show's official site and credits for this DVD edition. Disc Two has interviews on �Glory Days� and �Money No Object�, while Peter Ellis again contributes an audio/video commentary to �Dramatic License�.
Actors Stan Kirsch and Don Paonessa contribute both an audio/video commentary and some interviews for �Haunted� on Disc Three, and in addition to this, we get interviews on �Little Tin God� and �The Messenger�. Adrian Paul gives us an audio/video commentary for �The Valkyrie� on Disc Four, and he's joined by interviews for �Comes Horseman� and �Revelation 6:8�.
Writers Anthony Delongis and Gillian Horvath offer an audio/video commentary and an interview for �Duende� on Disc Five. Also on this disc are interviews for �The Ransom of Richard Redstone� and �The Stone of Scone�. Disc Six offers interviews for �Forgive Us Our Trespasses� and �The Modern Prometheus� as well as an audio/video commentary and an interview from actor Jim Byrnes on � Archangel �.
Disc Seven offers alternate cuts of �Comes a Horseman� with optional commentary from Gillian Horvath, and �Revelation 6:8� with commentary from writer Donna Lettow, as well as a lengthy bloopers reel. We then get two featurettes � �Duels� and �The Romances of Duncan MacLeod� � and some production drawings , to boot. The Eighth disc of this collection is a CD-ROM that houses information on scripts, biographies, trivia, as well as production-related memos and materials.�
And finally, from my review of Season Six:
�Even more so than in previous DVD incarnations, this sixth season of Highlander boasts a plethora of extra features in the form of documentaries, interviews, commentaries - wow.
First of all, each episode comes with a text feature called "The Watcher Chronicles", which are text-based biographies and histories of characters featured in each episode of this season. For uninitiated Highlander -ites like myself, these were extremely useful.
Disc One houses "Avatar", which comes with interviews ( 6:00 ), and some bonus footage ("Avenging Angel" - a look at Adrian Paul doing his exercise thing) and an extended scene , "Where the Heck is Methos?" (TRT: 6:00); "Armageddon", which comes with interviews (10:00), an extended scene , "Where the Heck is Joe?", some bonus footage ("French Fried Father" - a goofy gaffe-oriented short - "Martial Arts Ballet", a look at a fight scene from the episode, "The Last Temptation of Dawson") (TRT: 13:00), and both a video commentary (20:00) and a screen-specific audio commentary with Richard Martin; "Sins of the Father" has interviews (5:00) and bonus footage of Dara Tomanovich's Spin-off audition (4:00); and there is also a photo gallery , a weblink (to www.highlanderdvd.com), and credits for this DVD set here.
Disc two gives us "Diplomatic Immunity", which comes with interviews (9:00), bonus footage of "Bouncing Willie Off the Hood", a cool look at how a stunt man gets bounced off a car (extremely interesting) (1:30), and both a video commentary (19:00) and a screen-specific audio commentary with Richard Martin; and "Patient Number 7" and "Black Tower" come with interviews (7:00), (5:00).
Disc three houses "Unusual Suspects", which comes with interviews (9:00); "Justice", which offers interviews (6:00), some bonus footage of Justina Vail's Spin-off Audition, and both a video commentary (20:00) and screen-specific audio commentary with Richard Martin; and "Deadly Exposure", which comes loaded with interviews (10:00), and bonus footage of Sandra Hess' Spin-off Audition (4:00).
Disc four gives us "Two of Hearts", which comes with interviews (5:00) and bonus footage of Claudia Christian's audition (4:00); and "Indiscretions", which comes with interviews (13:00), some collections of bonus footage called "Acting With Distractions", "DWA: Driving While Acting", "It's a Long, Long Way to Go", and "Did He Say Bonding?", as well as a deleted scene , "Morgan Menaces Amy (some more)", and some behind-the-scenes looks at some complicated shots in the series: "Pretzel Shaped Magic Sword Pocket", "Filming the Swordfight", and "Last Shot for Highlander" (TRT: 14:00). There is also a video commentary ( 20:00 ) and a screen-specific audio commentary with Jim Byrnes and Peter Wingfield on this episode.
Disc five offers a deleted scene ("Golf Heaven" (1.15)), as well as some interviews (10:00) along with "To Be", while "Not to Be" has extended scenes of "Tessa the Goddesss" and "Methos and Fitz Share a Beer", "The Two Horsemen of the Apocalypse", and "The Fat Lady Sings", as well as some more interviews (11:00). Also included on this disc is a 30-minute documentary on the swordsmanship of Bob Anderson and his contributions to the "Highlander" legacy.
"Finale Backstage" on disc six is a documentary that looks specifically at the ultimate episode of this wild series (25:00), and "Immortal Memories" is a comprehensive featurette that has members of "Highlander's" cast and crew looking back at notable moments in the "Highlander" legacy (22:00). Then "400 Years: The Journey of Duncan MacLeod" is a featurette posing as a veritable history lesson of sorts, a peek at the development and many journeys of the man at the center of the "Highlander" universe (32:00).
Disc seven brings us "Favorite Quickenings", a 27-minute documentary looking back at the most notable and memorable effects-laden quickenings in the series' history. And for those not immensely familiar with the show, here's a quick definition of "quickening":
'The official definition from the producers is "An Immortal can only be killed by beheading. When an Immortal is killed, the Immortal who killed him receives his power and his essence and his knowledge through a mystical process known as "The Quickening." The power of the Quickening is the equivalent to a major electrical storm hitting -- windows explode, lights short circuit, it is almost as if the victorious Immortal is in the center of a lightning storm." Traditionally 'quickening' is a term used to describe the first discernible movement of a baby in the womb, i.e. when the fetus first shows signs of life. It has been theorized that Greg Widen chose this term do describe the peculiar life force of Immortals. As Adrian Paul describes it, "The Quickening is the receiving of all the power and knowledge another immortal has obtained throughout his/her life. It is like the receiving of a sacrament or a massive orgasm. That's my motivation."'
Also on this disc is a 50-minute documentary about "La Carrera Panamericana", a wild car-race that Adrian Paul participated in a few years ago. It's actually a legitimately intriguing look at a crazy-ass contest and the "Highlander"-ites that populate it. Nice.
And the CD-ROM disc included here is quite comprehensive, giving us each script for the 14 episodes included here, as well as biographies of actors, directors and writers, production notes and representations of the show's shooting schedule .�
Then comes the best-of box set and its extras. We get a few incarnations of Under the Kilt� , a set of documentaries that go behind-the-scenes of various episodes considered to be the best of the best, as well as The Watcher Chronicles text info and a CD-ROM filled with scripts from these episodes.
DVD-ROM: What ROM features are there?
At most we get a small weblink to the DVD's official site, and this is only on a few season sets.
This is a behemoth, and only the truly fervent should apply. But if you're a Highlander fan, this is the kind of DVD set that only comes around once in a great while. With all the Highlander -isms you could hope for (as far as the show's TV incarnation goes), this is the ultimate. You'll pay a pretty penny for it, but I don't think you'll be sorry. And there's good news for fans: The set is only available at www.highlander-official.com , and the thing's on sale for $229.00. That's a steal!