Saturday, February 19, 2011

Outland (1981 )

This is a special weekend at Unseen films. Today marks the last day of the first year of our existence. I'll be posting something about that tomorrow as we start out second year.

Today is also a special day because it's the birthday of my youngest brother. Since I wasn't sure what to do for this weekends selections I threw the choices out to him and the main movies for today and tomorrow are his. First up the under appreciated science fiction film Outland.

On a mining colony on one of the moons of the outer planets all would be honky dory except that there have been a sudden rise in strange deaths. People are going berserk and seeing strange things. In a weird way no one cares since profits are up and everyone is getting bonuses. However the marshal on the platform, a reject who's been bounced all over the system smells a rat and summoning up the last ounce of self respect he, along with the aid of one of the doctors on the platform begins to investigate.

One of the most under appreciated films that Sean Connery ever made, this film is a small scale gem. Made at a time when theaters were full of great films like Raiders of the Lost Ark, Mad Max 2, Excalibur, Clash of the Titans and others, the simple story and grimy setting seemed to turn many people off. I know the film's reputation has increased over the years but at the time the film was considered a bit of a dud.

To me what was perceived as the films flaw is one of the reasons that the film works so well thirty years on, namely the film's science fiction setting doesn't overwhelm the story. There are no fancy guns, limited effects, and nothing overly flashy. Its simply a mining colony moved to space. Their guns are our guns. The shoot outs and chases could be anywhere especially here on earth. It is as described by critics and fans, High Noon in space.

I loved this film from the first time I saw it. Sure the fact that it was a science fiction film got me into theater that first time, but the characters and the realistic action kept me going back again and again to the theater to see it. It was also favorite on cable and on video tape.

The real reason the film works is the characters. Connery's marshal is just the right amount of world weary and cynical. Sure he's been a round the block and dirty, but as the end of his career approaches you can feel his need to finally do the right thing. Frances Sternhagen's doctor is hysterical. She knows what is what but seems intent on doing the right thing anyway. Her final lines about looking forward to how the shit hits the fan in the wake of Connery's challenging of authority makes me laugh every time.

I love this film.

Its one of the great hidden in plain view films from the heyday of science fiction that followed in the wake of Star Wars. You need to see this film, especially if you're like me sick to death of over done computer enhanced science fiction or action films.

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