I’ve previously confessed that, while I like music, I’m not a music Fan-with-a-capital-F. That’s why, to commemorate the passing of Freddie Mercury on this day in 1991, I’m going to stick to something I do know about – geeky movies. And if you’re going to link Freddie to geeky movies, there are really only two candidates – Highlander and Flash Gordon, both of which have a soundtrack by Queen.
Now, it would be unfair to both movies to say that the music is the best thing about them (when in fact the best thing about Flash is BRIAN BLESSED and the best thing about Highlander is Clancy Brown), but let’s not kid ourselves, the music to both is fantastic. I love the opening sequence to Flash, a repeating dum-dum-dum beat behind images taken from the original comic strips, then the near-iconic “Flash! Ah-ah!” before sampling ominous, pulpy dialogue from the movie (“This morning’s unprecedented solar eclipse is no cause for alarm… Only Doctor Hans Zarkov, formerly of NASA, has provided any explanation…”). From the prologue, you’d imagine the film to be a cheesy camp-fest, and you’d be right, but the opening titles? They make the film feel epic, probably only one of two elements that try to give the thing any weight (the other being Timothy Dalton, treating it like Shakespeare and getting away with it).
And then there’s the campest version of the Wedding March ever recorded, because it accompanies the nuptials of Ming the Merciless and it’s played on electric guitars and when things get really bad it shifts into a minor key. If you’re not completely committed to the film at that point then it’s time to give up and do the laundry instead.
Then there’s Highlander. You know, the film that stars the French Christopher Lambert as a Scotsman and the Scottish Sean Connery as an Egyptian. Again, Queen’s soundtrack is fantastic, the contrast of modern rock and 16th century Scottish swordfights playing into the film’s themes of immortality and its combination of different historical periods. Princes of the Universe is a fantastic theme song, but the stand-out track is Who Wants To Live Forever, which is beautiful and epic. It’s impossible to imagine Highlander without Queen; the music is in the bones of the movie.
And, I guess, looking back, Who Wants To Live Forever takes on another meaning. You can’t help but think of Freddie Mercury himself when hearing it nowadays, and that gives the whole thing an added poignancy – nothing lasts forever, but it lives on in memory. You hear a song, and remember, and that gives it a kind of immortality; the singer may be gone, but the memories and music? They go on forever.