In 1980 Queen provided one of the best-known examples of a rock band providing significant amounts of music for a genre movie, the grand pulpy-sci-fi flick Flash Gordon. Several years later they did a similar task for an equally pulpy and campy epic fantasy film, 1986’s Highlander. Oddly, in terms of greater cultural visibility, Flash Gordon is probably better known than Highlander, despite the fact that Highlander actually spawned a franchise that may or may not still be going strong, where Flash went sequel-less and then the property has just kind of sat there, occasionally getting revisited but never in a big way. It’s weird how this stuff works.
Highlander has never been my favorite flick–it’s kind of thick and ponderous and its tone is, for me, wildly inconsistent (it would have benefitted greatly, I think, from the kind of commitment to camp that Flash undertook)–but its music, consisting of a score by Michael Kamen, is a grandly epic score full of sweeping melodies that are often better than the sequences they accompany. And then there are the songs by Queen, which aren’t quite as strongly central to the film as the ones for Flash; in the earlier film, the songs are part of, if not the main part, of the movie’s music in general. For Highlander the songs are more in the background. But they’re still good, because they’re by Queen. I don’t think Queen had it in them to do bad songs.
Here’s “Who Wants To Live Forever” by Queen, from Highlander, a movie about immortal combatants who can only dispatch each other by beheading, until only one remains to claim The Prize. (That’s about as much sense as it makes in the movie, I swear.)
I love Highlander, and I have no idea why. Its story is ridiculous. Its acting and directing atrocious. Its cinematography and editing equally bad. Add to that the original master has been lost or destroyed, so every example in existence is a desperate remastering of someone’s old VHS copy, so visually and aurally, it is crap, crap, crap. But somehow it works for me. I own at least two DVD copies of it, and watch them regularly.