Sunday, July 22, 2012
In May of 1986, early on the around-the-world journey that took me to Fiji and Burma and back to Turkey and Europe, I was traveling through parts of Thailand, riding on one of the remarkable long-distance “night buses” that carry folks up, down, and across the Kingdom, from Koh Samui in the far South, to Bangkok mid-country, to Chiang Mai in the North.
So we're barreling along, blasting down the night, when suddenly the driver stomps
And then we wait... nervously... because the roadblock may be manned by bandits, or rebels--or the Thai Army looking to capture bandits or rebels. Though the driver tells us later that there were bandits on this same stretch of road just the night before, we’ve come upon a patrol of soldiers, and in the low-power lights aboard the bus we see they are mostly nervous young conscripts carrying rifles and machine guns. A few Thai men must show their papers, and a couple of hippie tourists have their carry bags inspected.
This was right in the time frame when pot smokers caught on the nearby Malay Peninsula were subject to quick execution. But no illegal substances or suspicious citizens are found in this search, and after some threats and flashlights shown into sleepy eyes, we are told to get on down the road. Our driver knows an exit line when he hears it. He maneuvers around the slight barricade, and on we roll.
Soon he is talking--a Thai man near me translates--mocking the kid soldiers and making us travelers feel less threatened; and about then he reaches up above his view mirror to a small-screen TV set I hadn’t really noticed, turns it on, and shoves in a
Murky darkness on the set and a narrator speaking Thai cause my attention to wander, but loud stadium rock draws me back. “Hunh… sounds a bit like Queen,” I mumble. Then: “What the…?”--we’re witnessing swords brandished in a vast parking garage, and a fight to the (very weird) death--and suddenly it's Scotland
“Now what… gee, that guy in the fancy clothes looks like… wait, it is, it’s Sean Connery! What in the world is he doing in this sword-totin', time-hoppin' obscurity?”
After a while I was starting to believe I’d dreamed it, fitfully asleep after the roadblock. But late that fall, when my future wife and her kids had come over to
Whoa back, Buck! The weird night came roaring back: this sounded too similar not to be possible, and too possible not to be viewed, so off we went, driving 20 miles east to Albufeira, stocking up on hot popcorn, and settling into the plush seats. And there it was at last,
I didn’t care. I was vindicated. If the film later turned out somehow to be more significant than the sum of its crazy parts, well, so be it. Here’s what I mean… some of what I’ve learned since:
Highlander was released in March 1986 in the U.S.--after I’d left the country--and then not until August in Europe; I don’t know the Asian release date but there couldn’t have been legal videocassettes by April. Director Russell
A quarter century later, the sequels and TV versions and cult-film write-ups and long-threatened remake of the original... none of them
There can be only one.
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(...except when there are four--Spivey Bros. Barbecue Sauce; next time!)