Review of “Outland”


Promotional image for the 1981 film “Outland”

On an impulse, I decided to watch the 1981 film Outland. I remember seeing it back in the day on cable, and remember thinking it was “okay.”

It’s still “okay.”

All star cast with Sean Connery, Peter Boyle, Frances Sternhagen, James Sikking, Clarke Peters, and John Ratzenberger made it bearable, but the story was mediocre at best and the “decompression” special effects were ridiculous.

The story goes that Federal Marshall William O’Niel (Connery) and his family are assigned to a mining colony on Jupiter’s moon Io for a year. O’Niel’s wife and son hate it and almost immediately abandon him to return to Earth. Meanwhile O’Niel discovers some nefarious doings on Io.

Turns out the “corporation” has allowed a terrible narcotic to become common use on Io. It drives miners to work like machines, but in exchange, turns them into suicidal, murderous monsters. His deputy Montone (Sikking, who I really loved in this role) tells O’Niel to leave it alone. The corporation kills Montone for his troubles, and his replacement Ballard (Peters) decides it’s in his best interests to keep O’Niel under surveillance.

O’Niel confronts the corporation’s number one person on Io Sheppard (Boyle in terrific “bad guy” mode) who basically tells O’Niel to f*ck off.

O’Niel enlists the aid of the station’s doctor Lazarus (Sternhagen, and God I wish I could remember where I’ve seen her before) who eventually (she’s not the best doctor, which is why she’s stuck on Io) discovers the drug in the system of one of the dead who haven’t been rapidly shipped off by the corporation).

Two hitmen are dispatched to Io, which is foreshadowed repeatedly by the digital countdown to the arrival of the next shuttle, to kill O’Niel (like there wouldn’t have been other, less expensive ways to do him in).

The climax of the film is O’Niel doing away with Ballard outside the station where he could both die of asphyxiation and electrocution, and him killing the two hit men and Sheppard.

Then he decides to join his wife and son on their trip to Earth rather than reporting any of this or being assassinated some other way by the all powerful corporation.

Props for performances by Connery, Sternhagen, Boyle, and Sikking, but otherwise, the movie was a waste of the four bucks I had to spend to rent it from Amazon.

By the way, Connery was totally bad ass.

7 thoughts on “Review of “Outland”

  1. It’s High Noon in space and it is “okay”. Aside from the bad decompression effects just what was the point of the lights inside the helmets? A review at the time suggested it was like trying to drive at night with only the interior light on.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. I remember seeing it in the theater when it came out, and I would have been 18 at the time. I remember it as being very exciting, with amazing special effects–in fact, I was so impressed that I bought the paperback of the novelization. (Alan Dean Foster, of course. He wrote every SF novelization in the 1980s).

    So I think I’ll avoid rewatching it as an old man, because I’d probably agree with all of your criticisms and I’d rather let 18 year old me keep the good memory.

    Liked by 2 people

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