Highlander III: The Final Dimension (1994)

The original Highlander is one of my favourite films while its sequel Highlander II: The Quickening is one of my most hated films. So where does that leave Highlander III? Somewhere in the middle…

At the end of the first film, Connor MacLeod had managed to win the the “prize” by being the last Immortal standing. What that prize actually consisted of was only vaguely explained — something about knowing everything and being able to help advise world leaders — but it was an ending that seemed pretty final since there was nothing left to fight for.

However, this didn’t stop the producers from hatching a sequel. Highlander II is the only film I’ve ever seen at the movies that had me seriously considering walking out. Not only did it not make any sense,  it undermined the basic premise of the much-loved first film. Despite being almost universally reviled, it still managed to make a tidy profit and another sequel soon followed.

That sequel was titled Highlander III: The Final Dimension although it is also known in various countries as Highlander III: The Sorceror, Highlander III: The Magician and Highlander III: The Final Conflict. It seems the only title they didn’t use was Highlander III Goes to Monte Carlo.

Highlander III wisely ignores the events of Highlander II and kicks off a few years after the first movie. It flashes back to a battle MacLeod (played once again by Christopher Lambert) had with an immortal baddie named Kane (Mario Van Peebles) who was buried alive during the fracas. An archeological dig unearths Kane who immediately sets out after MacLeod because in order to win the prize, there can be only one immortal.

What I don’t understand is that if another immortal was still alive, how did MacLeod win the prize in the first film? This contradiction is never addressed and the rest of the picture sets out to copy every major scene of the original. It’s obvious the producers took the reception to Highlander II seriously. The storyline ignores anything that happened in second film and then try to recreate whatever worked in the first.

Ultimately, this just makes Highlander III boring. Highlander II may be rubbish but at the very least, it’s different. Mario Van Peebles dons a gravelly, growly voice like Clancy Brown did in the first film, even down to copying his mannerisms. Everything about the film predominately plays out more or less exactly as it did before making it an exercise in pointlessness.

Score: 2.5 out of 5There can be only one.

Jackson County Jail (1976)

You know those days where nothing seems to go right? Los Angeles advertising exec Dinah Hunter (Yvette Mimieux) is having one in Jackson County Jail.

Fed up with her unsatisfying job, she heads to home to find her boyfriend cavorting by the pool with a naked girl. She makes a vague attempt to kick him out but he reminds her that he owns the house so she decides she may as well leave for New York.

Rather than take a plane, she decides to drive cross-country. The troubles begin immediately: she stops at a diner and the cashier tries to rip her off. Then, after conning her into picking them up, a pair of hitchhikers rob her at gunpoint, smack her around a little and drive off in her car leaving her stranded in the middle of nowhere… at night.

Walking the highway in search of help, she comes across a diner. It’s just closing up but the sweaty lavisicous redneck owner lets her in. She wants to use the phone and he ushers her into his little living area behind the counter. Once inside, it’s painfully clear he’s a sicko, judging from the multiple dead stuffed animals littering his kitchen.

Soon as the opportunity presents itself, he tries to maul her and she fights back… just as a cop walks in who also happens to be a friend of the owner. The owner accuses her of trying to steal and since she can’t produce any ID (the hitchhikers stole it), the cop immediately takes to her jail.

It gets better. The cop tries the New York phone number she asks him to ring but he can’t get through. He tells her she’ll need to spend the night in the lock-up until her innocence can be proven. Meanwhile, she’ll be watched over by the night shift cop, who happens to be a hillbilly drooling spazmo in a uniform.

One rape later, she’s beating the hillbilly cop to death with a stool. A fellow prisoner informs her that now she’s a cop-killer, there’ll be no way they’ll listen to her explanation of what happened. It’ll be a case of “shoot first, ask questions later”. Consequently, she high-tails it and is now a wanted fugitive!

This Roger Corman flick would have been the bread and butter of drive-in movie theatres during the 70s. I found it pretty entertaining and it moves at such a pace that there really isn’t a minute to get bored. The rape scene is uncomfortably graphic but I suppose that’s par for the course with an exploitation movie. The film is probably more note-worthy now for the presence of a young Tommy Lee Jones playing a fellow fugitive.

SCORE: 2.5 out of 5  — Trashy stuff but it moves so quickly and with such energy, you can’t help but get drawn in.

 

The Invasion (2007)

The Invasion is one of those movies I’ve seen floating around the DVD bargain bins for ages and finally decided to take a chance on. A big budget remake of Invasion of the Body Snatchers starring Nicole Kidman and Daniel Craig sounded pretty appealing to me so I thought I’d give it a go.

Out of the previous versions, I really like the 70s one starring Donald Sutherland. The 50s version is good but a bit dated and I’ve never seen the other version made in the 90s that was simply titled Body Snatchers

The Invasion abandons the “pod” concept of the previous films where people fell asleep and were then reborn out of an alien seed pod as an emotionless duplicate. This film treats the alien spore like a disease that is passed from person to person, similar to a cold or the flu. This allows for some gross-out, Exorcist-style spitting scenes. At one point, Kidman is held down while an alien duplicate infects her by explosively vomiting in her face. It’s not what you’d call subtle.

Scenes like that would suggest a full-on horror film but it’s mostly played like a standard thriller with Kidman engaged in a constant race to rescue and protect her young son from infection while fighting the need to sleep and be taken over herself. Daniel Craig’s role seems fairly redundant. The film hints at some sort of budding relationship that’s supposed to be happening between them but Kidman’s too busy running around to give him any proper attention.

The producers were apparently unhappy with the original version that director Oliver Hirschbiegel turned in and Matrix writers/directors The Wachowski Brothers were hired to give it a rewrite. Hirschbiegel declined to participate in reshoots and director James McTeague took over. This behind-the-scenes turmoil does seem to have an effect on the film in that it feels a little confused.

Whatever the case though, I found it entertaining, if not particularly memorable. If it had had a clearer direction, I think it could have been something more worthwhile. When it was released in the US, it tanked at the box office. The Invasion is still worthwhile watching but it could’ve been more.

SCORE: 3 out of 5  — It’s a little muddled but there’s enjoyment to be had if you don’t think about it too hard.