Long before directors like Spike Jonze and Michel Gondry made the jump from music videos to movies, Russell Mulcahy innovated on MTV and directed Highlander. What would movies even look like without him?
Mulcahy is still around and still directing movies — he directed Resident Evil: Extinction, which was a much, much better film than it had any right to be. But his heyday was the 1980s, when he directed Razorback, the tale of a giant mutant pig attacking people in the Australian Outback. And of course, Highlander and the ill-fated Highlander II. (Cue legions of fans insisting that no such movie exists.)
Highlander contains so many beautiful images of the craggy landscape, and the roiling blue sky overhead, that it elevates the material and makes the swordplay and lightning-flashes seem that much more epic. It's Turner-esque. By the time he made his defining film, Mulcahy had already worked on tons of the most famous music videos of all time, and had crafted the art of the four minute image bomb, detonating with visuals and then disappearing.
Mulcahy deserves a place in the hall of fame just for his work on Highlander, but his music videos probably had more influence on cinema in the long term. I honestly was gobsmacked when I found out, from Wikipedia, that the same person had directed so many of the videos that saved MTV from being a wasteland. Those videos pioneered a whole new visual language. His seven-minute-plus version of Duran Duran's "Wild Boys" is one of the greatest dystopian (take a drink!) movies of all time:
Here's the music video he directed for Queen's "Princes Of The Universe," featuring scenes from Highlander. Look how easily some of these action sequences (in the second half of the video) lend themselves to the music-video format. I love it when Christopher Lambert steps out of the movie and onto the stage with Queen:
Bonnie Tyler's "Total Eclipse Of The Heart" video (directed by Mulcahy) has so many bizarre images, they had to create a "literal video version":
Berlin: Sex (I'm A...)
Duran Duran: Rio
Elton John: Fascist Faces
I could go on and on. Just check out the list over at Wikipedia. It's really amazing how many of his music videos are indelibly painted on my brain. And Resident Evil: Extinction was actually surprisingly great:
Highlander screencaps from Hundland.org.