Monsoon-A-Day ‘Outland’ (1981)

Welcome to Monsoon-a-day

Where I watch and review a movie a day. Or whenever I fucking feel like it.

Day 97

 

On the show Key & Peele, there was a skit titled “Gremlins 2 brainstorming” where director Joe Dante (played by Key) is workshoping the sequel to Gremlins with a writer’s room when Hollywood sequel doctor Star Magic Johnson Jr (Peele) suddenly and inexplicably bursts into the room with the proclamation that the writer’s are quote “look’n like a bunch of sad sacks” and that they need to “put a little bit a spice into the mixture.” He then proceeds to let every writer create their own gremlin, each more ridiculous than the last. The punchline to the skit being that each and every one of the absurd ideas pitched actually makes it into the film.

In reality, Star Magic Johnson Jr was probably cocaine but if he was real, he’s the only conceivable explanation as to the existence of Outland. This film is the exact opposite of the phrase “kill your darlings.” Every single thing director Peter Hyams loves is in this film. It’s High Noon meets Alien meets Serpico meets Chinatown set in space starring James Bond.

And since Star Magic Johnson Jr is, in fact, magic–it actually works.

Assigned to a maintain order at an ore mining outpost stationed on a moon of Jupiter, Marshall William T. O’Niel (Sean Connery) is Gary Cooper from High Noon but with a Scottish lisp. The characters are slightly different (you never once feel like Connery is in danger) but the scenario is the same. A lone lawman must do battle with some tough hombres to bring justice to the town.

But the difference being that Outland only uses that structure for its third act. The rest of the film is dedicated to O’Niel investigating the sudden influx of stimulant psychosis related deaths and the recent deterioration of his marriage. His wife wants their son to live a life on Earth and O’Niel can’t leave IO until justice yada yada yada.

It’s a premise that isn’t strong to hold the film together but it’s cast sure as hell is. Besides the always reliable Connery, the films secret weapon is Frances Sternhagen. She’s the Doc Holliday to Connery’s Wyatt Earp and much like Holliday, she doesn’t take any shit. She’s a shit talking, hard drinking, doctor with the mouth of a sailor and their interactions are almost worth the price of admission alone. Her character is little more than a exposition delivery service but Sternhagen makes every second of screen time count.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, we have Peter Boyle as the corrupt general manager of the mining outpost. He doesn’t have that much screen time but Boyle makes for a perfect corporate slimeball. He’s so weasely, he makes Paul Reiser from Aliens look like a bunny.

For that pun to work, rabbits and weasels would have to be part of the same family and I’m too lazy to Google if that’s correct. Just go with it.

Peter Hyams is a director that has never garnered the same affection that other genre directors such as Dante or Casmatos have gotten but he’s consistently proven he has the goods to be ranked alongside them and if you haven’t seen Outland yet, my only response would be to quote the great Star Magic Johnson Jr:

“Whas wrawng witch yaww?”

 

  • Sailor Monsoon
  • William Dhalgren

    Have you ever considered that maybe he IS the gopher from Winnie the Pooh?

  • Sailor Monsoon

    He talks like the goddamn gopher from winnie the pooh

  • Poppity 🎀

    Whilst watching the trailer, I realised that I have seen this film before but I only paid attention to parts. This is not my usual Connery lovefeast although he’s still helluva sexy in this film without evening trying to be. (He is that good.)
    Hubby thought it was interesting but it’s not really my style. No wonder he went back to his Bond origins after this one.

  • Poppity 🎀

    @sailormonsoon:disqus is most definitely weird!
    And I agree that it’s not a lisp. It’s more of a “shushing” thing. But it’s Connery … It’s fucking allowed!

  • Poppity 🎀

    Jane looked amazing in that movie!
    How about Zardoz/Barbarella/Barbed Wire for a triple feature?

  • King Alvarez

    Zardoz/Barbarella double feature.

  • ResonanceCascade

    I can almost guarantee you will fall deeply in like with it. It will blow you not quite away, but maybe a few feet over. You will be whelmed.

  • Kemosabe 🦇

    Well then, looks like I’m watching Outland tonight.

  • William Dhalgren

    Sailor, Connery does not lisp. You’re weird.

  • Cap_N_Jack

    Now I really need to watch Zardoz!

  • ResonanceCascade

    Yeah, and the simple act of watching Zardoz enlarged Bowie’s genitals so much that he didn’t even have to stuff it.

  • Cap_N_Jack

    Did you know that David Bowie said it was the Zardoz bulge that inspired his iconic Labrynth bulge?

  • ResonanceCascade

    Did you know that Boorman constructed the forests in Excalibur entirely out of leftover body hair from when they shaved Connery at the end of Zardoz’ production?

  • Cap_N_Jack

    I have that tattooed on my lower back!

  • Sailor Monsoon

    The penis is bad
    The gun is good

  • Cap_N_Jack
  • Cap_N_Jack

    Which is why I need you to sweat it out, break it down, and put it together for less intelligent viewers like myself.

  • Sailor Monsoon

    I don’t believe i posses the intelligence nor the articulacy to tackle Zardoz.
    It is a film like none other.

  • Cap_N_Jack

    I haven’t seen it either, but it’s legendary…

  • ResonanceCascade

    As long as no one does the write up until I see it. Which I will expedite. I’ve always wanted to watch that insanity.

  • Cap_N_Jack

    So, are you doing Zardoz soon..because i need your write up for that one in my life.

  • Sailor Monsoon

    It’s a really solid flick

  • Sailor Monsoon

    It’s definitely a lisp

  • ResonanceCascade

    This is one of the goodest — not quite greatest — sci-fi flicks out there. I love the production design, even though (because?) it was totally cribbed from Alien. It’s criminal how obscure it is relative to how good it is.

  • William Dhalgren

    1. What a nice surprise. This film is near the top of my list of canonical science fiction cinema. I watch it at least once a year.
    A) I once scratch-made a Halloween costume based on the space suits in this film

    2. This movie lives and dies by the atmosphere it creates through set design and by the interactions between Connery and Sternhagen.

    3. There’s something about the way this film uses real sets, models, and matte paintings to create an atmosphere of foreboding that I find so compelling. I think I just need to write a whole article about this, because these qualities represent a theme that comes up again and again in the genre films I seem to enjoy most (I talk about it in The Running Man review I wrote recently). There’s something about the subtle world building that does it for me, and I think it must have something to do with what’s left to the imagination instead of making literal every facet of the world we’re being shown.

    4. It’s a brogue – not a lisp.

    5. This review is too short.

    6. What in the hell is wrong with Connery’s hand in that poster?