Nick Maley talks about an ill fated "Kurgan creature" that he designed for the movie HIGHLANDER....... Ergo

The Lost Kurgan

The Kurgan was one of the most memorable super-villans of the 80's. It was one of the film's few pleasures for me to have been involved in his creation and despite an absurd schedule the prosthetics for the Punk Kurgan were surprisingly effective.

If you read The introduction to the HIGHLANDER stories you will be aware that I worked with Director Russell Mulcahy, (and my regular storyboard artist Tony Beesley), to produce drawings for the Quickening, the Prize and the beheading sequences. Amongst others, we did storyboards for the final rooftop fight, incorporating many of Russell's concepts and adding the electrical elements, the fall through the skylight and the pause & grin before the Kurgan's head rolls off.

Russell's felt that the sequence needed something more at the end. We had seen so many sword fights and beheadings that he wanted something "new" for the climax. He suggested something with worms or snakes since they symbolized decay and evil. I devised a sequence where a monstrous snake-worm Kurgan burst from the decapitated body and continued the fight..... the inner spirit of the Kurgan representing the embodiment of immortal too would have to be beheaded before the Prize could be attained.

Costume Designer James Acheson had created a wonderful armored costume for the Kurgan when we first see him...... in the battle sequence. The helmet was shaped like an animal skull with the Kurgan's face leering from it's mouth. I liked the idea of drawing a parallel between the first and last time that we see the Kurgan and incorporated elements of the armour into The Kurgan creature for the end sequence.

In our extension of the sequence The Kurgan creature was made of snakes which formed a shape that echoed the armor previously seen. The area where the Kurgan's face had been and an area below the breast plate were to be hollow and empty and as he fought you would be able to see right through him. Since we had no CGI in those days I was planning to blue matt those areas and the background for addition later.

On top of James' armored helmet was a dark plume. I thought it would be wild if at some point where McLeod has the creature down the plume itself emerged from the head like a giant parasite that snarled and snapped at McLeod and allowed the creature to regain the upper hand again. Of course it will be no surprise to learn that the parasite and the Kurgan creature both finally lost their heads and McLeod still won the day.

Russell really liked the sequence and on my one day off I did two drawings of the creature based upon the storyboards I had worked out with Tony that week. Russell kept one and I kept the other. For over a week we thought that the new ending would be included, however, the screenwriter ?????? was less than enthusiastic. In fact, he hated the idea and since he had retained approval of the final script (a very rare occurrence), the whole sequence was abandoned.

If you are a collector of HIGHLANDER memorabilia may like to know that 8 x 10 prints of The Lost Kurgan artwork, (matted to 11 x 14), are available. Each one is autographed by me and comes with a certificate of authenticity.. You can order here via our encrypted order form. A recreation of the storyboard for this sequence is planned for next year. If would like an update when that is available you should email.


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