Jonathan Melville’s A Kind of Magic shows that important combination of being an invested fan and a good researcher. In some cases the attention to detail will appeal more to a die-hard Highlander fan than a casual cine-buff, but he draws in accounts from stars and day-players and treats them all alike, examining not just the journey from concept to screen but also the whole experience of all those who contributed. From Christopher Lambert, Sean Connery, Clancy Brown, Russell Mulcahy and those in the foreground through to those who were drafted in from Job Centre adverts to enact centuries-old conflicts in the background, Jonathan weaves a Glenfinnan tapestry that stretches from wooded Scottish glenns to vast capital cities and back again.
This isn’t the first book examining the phenomena that is Highlander (modesty forbids you glance at the link on the upper right of this page!) but it’s arguably the only one that selects the first film of the long-running franchise and dissects it so deeply. Fans will likely know some of the basic details the book contains – after all, various aspects have become legendary over the years – but it’s the pulling on those threads that creates the most interesting moments here – the underlying whys that accompany the basic whats and the various perspectives that give a better overview. Connery may not be giving interviews nowadays and was unavailable for comment for this tome, but his presence is felt and there are plenty of anecdotes from those who worked with him. From clever contract negotiations to errant golf balls, the reader gets a real sense of the moods on set while avoiding the ups and downs of the landscape’s famously transient weather patterns.
Jonathan’s last tome was an overview of the Tremors franchise and here he continues in a similar style. He scores a rare interview with Brian May and Roger Taylor of Queen, the band whose work on the film is undeniably part of the film’s success and longevity and it’s interesting to hear their experience ‘first-hand’ rather than the accounts that have sometimes been described by others. There’s also delightfully anarchic moments such as desperately trying to get neighbourhood residents to leave their lights on for a sense of scale in the Silvercup roof scenes near Manhattan and detailing a knock-on car-crash scene where the final car went the wrong way and hit a parked car on the edge of the set… which unfortunately belonged to the all too real Chief of Police who was monitoring traffic. (Needless to say he was none too pleased).
A film somewhat notorious for disagreements between the various creative talents involved, there’s also a lot of details about the way it continued to be pulled backwards and forwards during the editing and publicity phases – where metaphorical battles over the actual ones on screen were fought. Jonathan picks his way through the maelstrom carefully and allows the reader to decide whose version is closer to reality
Ultimately, A Kind of Magic feels like an essential book with which any self-respecting Highlander fan should book-end their collection and in the long wait for a promised/threatened reboot, this should prove some originals live forever…
A Kind of Magic: The Making of the original Highlander is now available through Polaris Publishing, with a special limited-edition including an additional photographic booklet…