THE ESSENTIAL GUIDE TO ALL THINGS HIGHLANDER
John Mosby (A JM2 Publication)
By rights this encyclopaedic reference work to the films and TV shows of the Highlander franchise should have the word ‘ultimate’ in its title. But the author is clearly wary of attaching such a tag to his work. Instead it falls to reviewers to do it for him.
British writer John Mosby, now domiciled in the United States, spent the best part of 30 years watching and reviewing the various elements of the Highlander series. He met and interviewed a wide array of cast and crew members, visited sets and locations, hosted aspects of conventions all around the world and became a walking, talking repository of all manner of arcane information about the long life and never-ending legacy of the clan MacLeod.
Fearful Symmetry is a chronicle of those times. Moreover it packs into a mighty 324 pages all of those interviews, conversations, snatched moments and friendships that have defined John Mosby’s appreciation of all things Highlander. It’s a book for fans written from a fan’s perspective.
That’s not to say it’s hopelessly subjective. Quite the opposite. Mosby was close enough to the makers of the TV series to witness it morphing over time. He was a confidante to writers, directors and actors who strove for one thing but were sometimes forced to accept another. But he also had a foot in the producers’ camp. Thus the book manages to strike a balance between the creative and the commercial, lifting up stones to peer underneath and taking note of what’s there whilst deftly sidestepping the politics of the studio floor.
The list of interviewees is impressive. Some talked at length and with raw candour. Others gave brief, pithy summations of their involvement in movies and the TV show. The eclectic line-up includes Russell Mulcahy, Roger Daltrey, Michael Ironside, Donnie Yen, Deborah Unger, Peter Briggs, Christopher Morahan, the late Bill Panzer, Peter S. Davis, Elizabeth Gracen, the late Gerry Fisher, Adrian Paul and Christophe Lambert.
Mosby was definite about one aspect of his book: it would be his content alone. He writes about not having had the opportunity to speak with Sean Connery and Clancy Brown about their participation in the original Highlander movie and so their voices do not illuminate the story. From this reviewer’s perspective that’s a shame. But every word of Fearful Symmetry is courtesy of Mosby’s dogged investigations. Incorporating extant material from other writers or sources might have diminished that.
The content covers the various movies from 1986’s Highlander through to Highlander: The Source in 2007. All six TV series are synopsised and given appropriate background information, much of it immensely thorough. There is even a look at the unfilmed Highlander: Archangel and the animated off-shoot Highlander: The Search for Vengeance. Plus companion sections on comics, tie-in paperbacks, games, audio releases, soundtracks and online fan productions.
What often read like mini production diaries are peppered with lengthy interviews as Mosby’s close association with cast and crew blossomed into genuine friendship based on trust and respect. There are in-depth conversations with Brett Leonard, Adrian Paul, Peter Wingfield and Jim Byrnes. Mosby travels to Vilnius in Lithuania and gets exclusive access to the location shoot of Endgame. And not just exclusive access. Free and open access. With camera at the ready, he snaps away. His pictures populate the book.
Other rare and sometimes previously unseen illustrations come courtesy of Russell Mulcahy, swordmaster Bob Anderson, Anthony De Longis, Doug Aarniokoski, Donnie Yen, Elizabeth Gracen and ace artist Brian Bysouth who provided pre-production artwork of his poster designs for Highlander.
A mighty book that offers Highlander junkies a once-in-a-lifetime insight into a film and TV phenomenon, Fearful Symmetry is a summation of one writer’s quest to tell a story definitively and for all time. It’s the Real MacLeod. If you’re seeking an insight into all things Highlander, this book is it. No other comes close. And as the old saying goes… there can be only one.
Fearful Symmetry: The Essential Guide to All Things Highlander is a large-format 324-page softback with black-and-white illustrations throughout. It is available from JM2 Publishing.
Star rating: 4 out of 5
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