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Highlander Parody Essay

In the summers, vines encroach upon a historical marker several miles from the Sewanee Review offices, threatening to hide a tribute to the Highlander Folk School. The folk school’s history resides in an equally-obscured part of the American memory, and I knew very little about its importance, despite the marker. Sewanee Professor and Highlander historian Emily Senefeld filled me in on the forgotten space. The school, she explained, was the epicenter of the Civil Rights Movement: the Walcott sit-in at Greensboro, the Montgomery bus boycott, Citizenship Schools, and Pete Seeger’s rendition of “We Shall Overcome” grew out of the three-building operation in Grundy County, TN. “The Highlander Folk School was creating grassroots activism models decades before the most famous instances of the civil rights era,” she told me. Its existence first garnered loud dissent—billboards declared it a “Communist Training School;” state governments funded anti-Highlander newspapers; bomb threats poured in from across the nation. In 1961, however, anti-integrationists chose to silence, rather than to battle, the institution. Highlander Folk School lost its charter to trumped-up charges of illegal alcohol distribution, closed its doors in Grundy County, and moved to Knoxville under a new name. The land was seized by the state, then divided and sold, casting the original school—and its influence—into the furthest corners of the American memory. Only in recent years has the Folk School resurfaced in the American consciousness, largely aided by historians like Senefeld.

These stories came to mind when I began reading Claudia Rankine’s Citizen. Rankine’s National Book Critics Circle Award-winning collection combines photography, prose, and poetry into a single narrative of today’s racial climate, revealing the same discriminatory tactics that relegated the Folk School to historical silence. The racial injustices of the twenty-first century—profiling in stop-and-frisk practices, parodies of the black body in sports, and racially-charged murders—appear alongside photos of lynchings and William Turner’s painting, The Slave Ship, intimating that discrimination is interwoven with the black American experience. In Citizen, Rankine argues that silence is central to the perpetuation of racism; she notes that these injustices—which surprise the white Americans in her book—are merely status quo for African Americans. Differing reactions between white and black characters in her book reveal that the American political and the public sphere are largely deaf to or silent about overwhelming racial injustice. For Rankine, Citizen isn’t a list of grievances; it is an outcry against an invisible but imminent obliteration.

To Rankine, however, silence initially appears to be the only option afforded African Americans, lest their outcry be labeled “insane, crass, crazy” and ignored. In one telling example, Rankine writes that “there exists a medical term— John Henryism—for people exposed to stresses stemming from racism. They achieve themselves to death trying to dodge the build up of erasure . . .  You hope by sitting in silence you are bucking the trend.” But these responses are ultimately unacceptable to the poet. She argues that using silence to deny or move beyond America’s past is no means of ending the trauma of black oppression. Whether or not the resistance is by protest or other means, the American legacy of racism must be remembered, because, as she states, “[the past is] buried in you; it’s turned your flesh into its own cupboard.” To ignore our present state, to turn from it and from the suffering of the past would be equivalent to placing the black experience, its struggles and its victories, back within the wilderness of silences, back to Appalachia with the once-unspoken legacy of Highlander Folk.

Highlander: The Source
Directed byBrett Leonard
Produced byAdrian Paul
Peter S. Davis
William N. Panzer
Screenplay byMark Bradley
Steven Kelvin Watkins
Story byMark Bradley
StarringAdrian Paul
Music byGeorge Kallis
CinematographySteve Arnold
Dmitrij Gribanov
Edited byLes Healey
Distributed byLionsgate Films

Release date

September 15, 2007

Running time

US domestic version:
86 minutes
Original version:
99 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budget$13 million

Highlander: The Source, released in some countries as Highlander 5: The Source, is the fifth installment of the Highlander film series, directed by Brett Leonard, and was intended to be the first film of a planned trilogy on SciFi Channel though no further direct sequels are currently planned. Adrian Paul reprises his role as Duncan MacLeod from the television series and the fourth film, Highlander: Endgame. Highlander: The Source is the first Highlander film in the franchise not to be released in American theatres. Instead, it was shown on the Sci-Fi Channel on September 15, 2007.


In the near future, a group of Immortals quest to locate the mysterious "Source" of immortal power. One member of the group, Zai Jie, breaks into a communications tower in Eastern Europe and contacts his associates to give them the location of the Source. The Guardian of the Source, who has supernatural speed, confronts and decapitates him. Reggie, another group member, discovers that the planets are moving from their orbits into a cosmic alignment.

Former Immortal WatcherJoe Dawson is called by group member Methos to find their mutual friend Duncan MacLeod. Joe finds MacLeod in a fight with the Guardian, shoots Duncan, hauls him into a truck, and drives off. They rendezvous with the others at a monastery in order to meet with an ancient being known as the Elder so they can locate the Source.

At the monastery, they meet Anna Teshemka, Duncan's mortal wife, who is having visions. The Elder meets them all as a group and tells of how, in ancient history, another group of Immortals sought the Source. Upon slaying the Guardian, two of the three survivors were cursed with decay, with one of them becoming the new Guardian, and the other being the Elder (the third, a woman, is later implied to have been reincarnated as Anna). The Elder tells them all to follow Anna who knows the way. She, in turn, receives a vision from the Elder. Meanwhile, the Guardian arrives and attacks Reggie and Joe Dawson on holy ground. In an effort to save Dawson, Duncan throws his katana at the Guardian, temporarily wounding him. The Guardian removes the sword from his neck and breaks it before killing Joe with the broken blade and escaping. After burying Joe, they leave to find the Source, which they have determined to be on an island off the coast of Lithuania in the Baltic Sea.

Approaching the island, the boat's captain tells them that the "maniacs", gangs of cannibals, rule the island. After fighting locals who were poised to immolate a man to death, they obtain a van and drive to a deserted house a short distance away from where they believe the Source to be. That night, the Guardian kills Reggie by slashing him to death — the Elder had warned them that the closer they get to the Source, the weaker they would become, meaning that they would lose their immortality. Duncan has replaced his broken katana with a pair of butterfly swords. The group takes Reggie's body with them until they ultimately discover that he will not revive.

After burying Reggie, they continue on their way. During their journey, Duncan and Methos conclude that the expression "there can be only one" was in fact never meant to mean that all Immortals must battle and behead each other until only one remains, and that it truly means that only one Immortal can claim the Source. They then find the road blocked, and are captured by cannibals. While the cannibals are distracted by their drunken carousing, the Guardian frees Anna and forces her to accompany him to the Source. Later, Giovanni escapes and takes a sword, hoping to be "The One." Duncan frees himself and Methos, and sets off to rescue Anna. Giovanni gets recaptured, and Duncan goes in to save him. Methos arrives to assist Duncan at the last moment, and tells him he believes Duncan is "The One" due to his incorruptible nature. He rides off on a horse to distract the cannibals, allowing Duncan to chase after Anna. Giovanni, who had run off when Duncan came to his rescue, is decapitated by the Guardian.

Duncan finds Anna in a clearing by a sandy pit illuminated by starlight. The cosmic convergence is happening directly over them. The Guardian appears and challenges Duncan. MacLeod finds that he now has the same speed and power as the Guardian, and manages to get past the foe to reach Anna. However, an energy barrier appears to bar his way. After continued fighting, the Guardian ends up buried chest deep in the dirt. Bound and defeated, the Guardian demands that MacLeod behead him. Duncan refuses, and the Guardian vanishes in a blast of light. Before he goes, the Guardian screams that he is "cursed forever." Duncan enters the Source, qualified to do so by his pure heart. In the Source, Anna reveals that she is pregnant with their child. Of the child, Duncan declares that "he is the one."



As early as 2001, producers of the previous film in the franchise, Highlander: Endgame, were discussing plans for a fifth film with fans at conventions.[1] However, the production of the film was plagued with several problems. The original rights holders, Miramax films, decided to sell the rights back to the producers due to the lackluster performance of Endgame. Also, Adrian Paul refused to reprise his role as Duncan Macleod, as he was disappointed with the previous film. At this point, the producers decided to ask Christopher Lambert to reprise his role as Conner Macleod (despite the character having been killed off), but Lambert demanded more money. The producers were left with no choice but to renegotiate with Paul again, even offering him a producer's credit as well. In July 2005, Lionsgate Films acquired the rights to the film under the title Highlander: The Journey Continues, with director Brett Leonard at the helm as director, and actor Adrian Paul in the lead role as Duncan MacLeod. Leonard described the franchise: "Highlander is an amazing ongoing story that I can bring my visual style to. Everything I have done has led me to this kind of mythical fantasy."[2] Filming began in October 2005,[3] and concluded the following December. In June 2006, Adrian Paul revealed that Highlander: The Source had been undergoing editing and visual effects work. The actor said that composer George Kallis had been brought on board to create a film score that was recorded by an 80-piece orchestra.[4] production was originally intended to be filming in Africa before it was decided to film in Europe.

Lionsgate had originally planned to release the film in 2006.[5] When that plan failed to work out, several release dates were listed in various places; for example, February 2007 was listed in some official The Source auctions, as well as on actress Thekla Reuten's own website, and March 2007 was listed on composer George Kallis' website. Eventually, even the official auctions began using simply a broad "First Quarter 2007" release date. As of February 14, 2007, producers Peter Davis and William Panzer of Davis/Panzer Productions, in conjunction with Lionsgate Entertainment, were editing and remixing the film.

Lionsgate finally released the film as a direct-to-TV movie, which premiered on the Sci-Fi Channel on September 15, 2007. Screenwriter Joel Soisson ultimately won a Writers Guild of America screenplay-credit arbitration, and was listed in the final U.S. release's end credits under the pseudonym of "Mark Bradley." Plans to continue the films with The Source being the first of a trilogy have since been abandoned, as Peter Davis has recently sold rights for a remake of the original film to Summit Entertainment. This company announced on May 20, 2008 that they are planning to make a new version of the 1986 film Highlander. Writers Art Marcum and Matt Holloway, who both worked on the Iron Man film will be writing the script. Peter Davis will produce the new film.[6]

Early releases[edit]


An early version of Highlander: The Source, which had been shown to distributors in October 2006, was released on DVD in February 2007 in Russia, and was quickly copied and distributed online. These copies of the release began to proliferate across the Internet. The same cut was later released in Brazil, Poland,[7] Romania and Germany.[8][9] After this release, producer Peter Davis stated that the Russian version was not the final producer's version, and that Lionsgate would release the finished film in September 2007.[10] This was the TV premiere, eight minutes shorter than the Russian version, and featuring different opening and closing narration.


Another version was released sometime in Spring 2007 as a Dutch DVD.[citation needed]


The Region 2 release was released on 7 January 2008. This is the same version as the Dutch DVD albeit in the incorrect aspect ratio of 1.78:1.

American premiere[edit]

Despite previous announcements and long-standing rumors that a "Producer's Cut" of the film would be released straight-to-DVD and/or theaters in September 2007, the U.S. Sci-Fi Channel aired the film at 9:00 PM and 1:00 AM Eastern, on Saturday, September 15, 2007 as a "Sci-Fi Original Movie."[11]


Critical reaction to Highlander: The Source has been universally negative. Christopher Monfette of IGN gave The Source a score of 1 out of 10, saying: "The worthwhile days of Connor MacLeod, it would appear, are officially over—dead, decapitated, and depleted of their power. The struggle for an immortal to move through life unchallenged has since mutated into an awkward arrangement of mismatched mythologies, TV-to-movie crossovers, and a steady stream of low-budget, direct-to-DVD cash-cows which may, in the end, prove to be the only truly immortal thing about this series."[12]

Brian Orndorf of DVD Talk gave the film one half star out of five, saying: "The Source is nothing less than a parody of what has come before. If you've seen the previous sequels, you already know that's saying something. There is some relief that this franchise will finally be put out of its misery, because nobody in their right mind would try to keep this series going after watching just how boneheaded Highlander: The Source is."[13] Danél Griffin of Film as Art gave The Source one half star out of four, remarking that "it's bad—cheesily bad, colossally bad, monumentally bad, bad enough to make you never want to watch another movie again bad."[14] Keith Breese of gave the film one star out of five, saying: "Not only will Highlander fans be disappointed by the film's nosedive into nonsense, but the average viewer will be stunned by the backyard quality of this film. The acting is uniformly terrible, the special effects are hideous, the sets are cheap and grubby, and the direction is uninspired. The film is an utter failure. ... Surely this is the final nail in the coffin lid for this film series. If it isn't, then something is truly wrong with the universe."[15]

The Sci-Fi Movie Page gave The Source one and a half stars out of five, saying: "Just when you think that this is a franchise that can't sink any lower, along comes Highlander: The Source. ... One gets the impression that The Source was filmed with theatrical distribution in mind but that no sane cinema distributor would touch it with a ten-foot barge pole. Good for them. Instead it went straight to the SciFi Channel and now the DVD shelves where you should let it stay, collecting dust."[16]


  1. ^Harry Knowles (2001-09-17). "Highlander 5". Ain't It Cool News. Retrieved 2007-09-15. 
  2. ^Paul Davidson (2005-08-04). "Highlander: Going to the Source". IGN. Retrieved 2007-01-13. 
  3. ^Paul Davidson (2005-10-21). "New Highlander Starts Shooting". IGN. Retrieved 2007-01-13. 
  4. ^Adrian Paul (2006-06-29). "Scoring The Source". Archived from the original on 2006-12-07. Retrieved 2007-01-13. 
  5. ^Paul Davidson (2005-07-05). "How Many Highlanders Can There Be?". IGN. Retrieved 2007-01-13. 
  6. ^The Hollywood Reporter - Highlander remake
  7. ^Monolith - DVD DetailsArchived 2011-07-22 at the Wayback Machine.
  8. ^e-m-s - DVD Details
  9. ^e-m-s - Blu-Ray Details
  10. ^Highlander: The Source Official SiteArchived 2007-02-25 at the Wayback Machine.
  11. ^Schedule | On Air | SCIFI.COM
  12. ^Highlander: The Source Review, Christopher Monfette, IGN, February 14, 2008
  13. ^Highlander: The Source Review, Brian Orndorf, DVD Talk, March 29, 2007
  14. ^Highlander: The Source Review, Danél Griffin, Film as Art
  15. ^Highlander: The Source ReviewArchived 2008-11-20 at the Wayback Machine., Keith Breese,, 2008
  16. ^Highlander: The Source Review, The Sci-Fi Movie Page

External links[edit]