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on July 10, 2009
I sought out this movie because I heard CBC's Jesse Wente name it among his 'Top Five Movie Remakes' films, in the same company with 'The Magnificent Seven'. He claimed it was a remake of 'High Noon', the Gary Cooper western classic. So I went online and found a used copy. My wife and I watched it together and for the first quarter of the film it is a stretch to see the connection to High Noon. As the film progressed, it became evident that it is, indeed, the same story. Just set in a mining colony on a moon of Jupiter instead of a small western town. Post-Bond Connery is great, even though one wonders why his character set about baiting the bad guys so soon after his arrival in the mining colony. This film is engaging and intriguing. The future, as seen in 1981, holds up not too badly once you get past all the Cathode Ray Tube (CRT) displays. Almost a hundred years ago, futurists visualized the citizens of the late 20th century whizzing about in their own personal flying machines - made of sticks and fabric, like the very first flying machines that the futurists of the day could not see beyond. Well, the future doesn't hold any CRT displays, and doubtless there will be viewers who will pick other holes in the Outland sets. Nevertheless, this is a very good film, worth watching for its storyline and Sean Connery's performance, as well as Peter Hyams' directing. Too bad about the letterbox widescreen presentation. It's too small, and when zoomed in, the sets are just right to create annoying moiré interference patterns. You'll have to play with the zoom setting to minimize these. I think this film will be worthy of re-mastering in a new HD DVD, but it may take a resurgence of interest in Peter Hyams' films, or in Sean Connery's career before that happens. For now, in my opinion this older DVD production is worth finding and watching. Very enjoyable.
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OUTLAND [1981] [Blu-ray] [US Import] This Science-Fiction Delivers The Goods! On Jupiter’s Moon He’s The Only Law!

Set on Jupiter's moon Io, Jupiter’s innermost moon, hosts a mining colony CON-AM 27, a high-tech hellhole. There a veteran marshal [Sean Connery] probes some mysterious deaths of miners. In pursuit of the truth, he is alone. ‘OUTLAND’ is a 1981 British science fiction thriller film written and directed by Peter Hyams ‘Timecop’ and ‘2010’ depicts a chilling extension of today’s corporation-driven world. Dehumanization is vividly evoked in Philips Harrison’s striking production design and two-time Academy Award® winner John Stears special effects.

FILM FACT: ‘OUTLAND’ was the first motion picture to use Introvision, a variation on front projection that allows foreground, mid-ground and background elements to be combined in-camera, as opposed to using optical processes such as blue screen matting. This enabled characters to convincingly walk around miniature sets of the mining colony. Director Peter Hyams hired cinematographer Stephen Goldblatt. The film was nominated for the Academy Award® for Best Sound for John Wilkinson, Robert W. Glass, Jr., Robert Thirlwell and Robin Gregory. ‘OUTLAND’ was filmed at Pinewood Studios, Iver Heath, Buckinghamshire, UK, with an estimated budget of $16,000,000.

Cast: Sean Connery, Peter Boyle, Frances Sternhagen, James Sikking, Kika Markham, Clarke Peters, Steven Berkoff, John Ratzenberger, Nicholas Barnes, Manning Redwood, Pat Starr, Hal Galili, Angus MacInnes, Stuart Milligan, Eugene Lipinski, Norman Chancer, Ron Travis, Anni Domingo, Bill Bailey, Chris Williams, Marc Boyle, Richard Hammatt, James Berwick, Gary Olsen, Isabelle Lucas, Sharon Duce, P.H. Moriarty, Angelique Rockas, Jude Alderson, Rayner Bourton, Doug Robinson, Julia Depyer, Nina Francoise, Brendan Hughes, Philip Johnston, Norri Morgan, John Cannon (uncredited) and Maurice Roëves (uncredited)

Director: Peter Hyams

Producers: Charles Orme, Richard A. Roth and Stanley O'Toole

Screenplay: Peter Hyams

Composer: Jerry Goldsmith

Cinematography: Stephen Goldblatt

Video Resolution: 1080p

Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1

Audio: English: 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, French: 2.0 Dolby Digital, German: 2.0 Dolby Digital, Italian: 2.0 Dolby Digital, Spanish: 2.0 Dolby Digital and Spanish: 1.0 Dolby Digital Mono

Subtitles: English SDH, French, Spanish, Japanese, German SDH, Danish, Dutch, Finnish, Italian SDH, Norwegian and Swedish

Running Time: 112 minutes

Region: All Regions

Number of discs: 1

Studio: Warner Home Video

Andrew’s Blu-ray Review: 'OUTLAND' wasn't the first film to shift elements of the western to a sci-fi environment, and it certainly won't be the last, but it's still a relatively unique combination, one that makes for a wonderfully entertaining motion picture that might otherwise be thought of as a generic crime thriller. In fact, it could be argued that the marriage of the two genres essentially masks a rather simple plot that could just as easily take place on modern-day Earth. But the subtlety and restraint shown by British writer/director Peter Hyams when merging the two vastly different styles manages to elevate the story into something fresh and terrifically engaging. Aspects of either genre serve only as backdrop or narrative device for telling this crime drama that serves as a clever indictment of corporate conspiracy and greed which devalues the lives of the working class.

Set on Jupiter's moon Io, Jupiter’s innermost moon, set in the far distant future, the merger of the two genres is immediately apparent but never brought to the forefront. Instead, it's an understated framework inside a remote mining outpost functioning on Io, one of Jupiter's many moons, and order is kept by a small band of peacekeepers, led by Federal Marshal O'Niel [Sean Connery]. It's one of the reasons I find the film so brilliant and still highly enjoyable. Peter Hyams isn't constantly reminding his audience of what he's doing beyond the initial opening with the explanatory title cards. Yet, there's a rustic Wild West appeal to the overall film, thanks in part to the stage design and the cinematography of Stephen Goldblatt.

Story-wise, Peter Hyams doesn't shy away from stock characterization, such as Connery epitomizing the rugged town sheriff. As the bringer of justice and social order to the seemingly chaotic frontier of space, Sean Connery's Federal Marshal O'Niel stumbles upon a conspiracy to hide several unsolved deaths of miners. There isn't a whole lot for the Scottish actor to do other than act the determined and deeply committed lawman, but what he does he does exceptionally well, being a hard-nosed peacekeeper that won't back down in a fight. Peter Hyams does give the character a bit of depth as a married family man on the brink of losing what he cherishes the most because he believes so strongly that what he's doing is the right thing to do. And as with everything else, Sean Connery shines in these moments, carrying the thought of his wife and son heading back to Earth without him in his eyes and powering his will to fight.

Helping the Federal Marshal discover a secret drug-ring operating within the colony is the feisty, contentious town doctor, played delightfully by Frances Sternhagen. She's perfect as the spirited foil, almost comic-relief, to Sean Connery's stern temperament, coming to his cause at just the right moment when the man needs the assistance the most. Her involvement in the cover-up is somewhat of a mystery because she doesn't perform autopsies of the dead, though it does become fairly clear when the sergeant [James Sikking], replacing the customary trusty deputy, turns out to be paid a hefty sum to look the other way. While two dealers appear to do most of the footwork, the man at the centre of it all is none other than [Peter Boyle] the head-honcho and ruthless greedy landholder of the mining.

Peter Hyams makes that little piece of information pretty obvious early on. Discovering who's behind this large-scale crime is not really the point. In fact, it's used within the narrative as a means of generating tension and suspense because we know who the cause of the rampant drug use is, hiding the deaths of innocent workers in order to keep profits rising. As Federal Marshal O'Niel follows the clues and gathers the evidence to prove his suspicion, those involved will do anything to defend the flow of money, driving the plot toward a spectacular 'High Noon' showdown. Filled with a cold mechanical atmosphere and the ethereal music of by award winning Jerry Goldsmith, Peter Hyams's 'OUTLAND' is wildly entertaining sci-fi western warning of a corporate future where our greatest enemy remains the monetary greed plaguing our society?

One very interesting fact I have found out, is a comment by Peter Hyams and reads like so:

I wanted to do a Western. Everybody said, 'You can’t do a Western; Westerns are dead; nobody will do a Western'. I remember thinking it was weird that this genre that had endured for so long was just gone. But then I woke up and came to the conclusion and obviously after other people and that it was actually alive and well, but in outer space. I wanted to make a film about the frontier. Not the wonder of it or the glamour of it: I wanted to do something about Dodge City and how hard life was. I wrote it, and by great fortune Sean Connery wanted to do it. And how many chances do you get to work with Sean Connery?

Blu-ray Video Quality – The print used for this 1080p encoded image appears to be in pretty good shape, because 'OUTLAND' looks great on Blu-ray. It doesn't quite match the best we've seen from other films of the same period, but this high-definition gives a gritty realism transfer is a vast improvement nonetheless over the terrible and inferior NTSC DVD release. Presented in an aspect ratio 2.40:1 frame, which is closer to its original aspect ratio and much preferred to previous letterboxed releases, it comes with the expected blurry sequences due to age, but the image is surprisingly sharp and distinct for the most part. Viewers can make out every wrinkle on Mr. Connery's face, and the smallest details of the mining outpost are plainly visible. Contrast is comfortably bright with clean, crisp whites, giving the picture a renewed, cinematic appeal. Colours are not particularly upbeat, which is deliberate to the cinematography, but they accurately rendered and consistent from beginning to end. The more problematic issues come from the wavering black levels, looking deep and intense one minute and murky the next. Exterior shots are excellent with rich contrast between light and dark, but several interior scenes can appear washed out, ruining some of the finer details in the shadows and making the natural film grain seem a bit noisy. It's not to the film's detriment, however, as the overall presentation looks great on high-definition video, a significant upgrade from the previous inferior and ghastly inferior NTSC DVD release.

Blu-ray Audio Quality – The sound design for 'OUTLAND' was a bit of a pioneer, with a soundtrack that is essentially an early form of today's 5.1 surround system. Without any way of actually confirming this DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack derives from the original 70mm 6-track magnetic print on which it was recorded, this Blu-ray presentation appears to be faithful to the intentions of filmmakers. The design doesn't do much with the available back speakers, but Peter Hyams' sci-fi Western makes excellent use of the stereo sound field, which I'm assuming was always the intention of the new technology. Channel separation is well-balanced with flawless movement that perfectly matches the action. Off-screen effects broaden the soundstage with imaging that's convincing, and the excellent directionality nicely generates a persuasive sense of space. The excellent and brilliant Jerry Goldsmith's ethereally jarring musical score takes greater advantage of the soundscape by bleeding into the rears and immersing the listener. Vocals are plainly audible and well-prioritized while dynamic range remains wide and cleanly rendered. One of the best features of this early surround mix is the boosted low-frequency effects, which come off surprisingly hearty and accurate with excellent response for a 30-year-old movie, making this generally-stereo track a great listen.

Blu-ray Special Features and Extras:

Audio Commentary: Commentary with Peter Hyams: British Writer/Director Peter Hyams revisits his cult sci-fi western and shares many informative anecdotes about the production. He spends a good chunk of his time talking about Sean Connery, the legendary actor's presence on set and getting to work with him as filming progressed. There are also several great comments on the story's themes, the photography, set design and the overall look he was aiming to achieve. All in all, Peter Hyams is able to offer a generally pleasing audio track, speaking with a great deal of pride over his work and the finished product.

Theatrical Trailer [2:54] This is the Original Theatrical Trailer for ‘OUTLAND,’ where they inform you that “The ultimate enemy is still man."

Finally, written and directed by Peter Hyams, 'OUTLAND' is a sci-fi western starring Sean Connery as a deeply committed lawman, the cult film remains a wildly entertaining flick with a spectacular 'High Noon' showdown. The Blu-ray arrives with a great audio and video presentation that greatly improves upon previous home video releases, but sadly, comes with only one exclusive supplement. Fans will surely want to pick this up just for the joy of seeing Sean Connery shoot bad guys with a space. For me, ‘OUTLAND’ remains sadly a very underrated, underappreciated film and it is worth appreciating it now as it was then when it was originally released in 1981. Technically the disc is one of the better catalogue titles Warner has put out recently, and the commentary track does great justice for fans of this brilliant shoot-em up film regardless of their age. If you are new to this film and fans of science fiction, you owe it to yourself to take a look for yourself; as I firmly believe you will wind up enjoying it now and for many years down the road and that is why it has gone pride of place in my Blu-ray Collection, especially with the ever star presence of Sean Connery. Highly Recommended!

Andrew C. Miller – Your Ultimate No.1 Film Fan
Le Cinema Paradiso
WARE, United Kingdom
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on November 8, 2003
Director Peter Hyams appeared to have been inspired by the Western drama "High Noon" when he made this movie. Indubitably "Outland" presents the ingredients of a cowboy movie. The town is represented by a mineral colony on Io -a moon of Jupiter -in spite of the fact that they are in outer space and, if you go out, you might take the chance to explode your guts inside out because of the gravity. The town's people don't help anybody who goes against the powerful conglomerate. And then there is the sheriff in the body of Sean Connery.
Connery plays Marshal William O'Neill, a law man who believes in truth and justice in a "town" where those things are unaccounted for. Unfortunately he goes against the powerful general manager of the mining corporation (Peter Boyle) under the suspicion that his company is giving some poweful drug to the workers who, later, end up dead. The manager decides to hire assassins to have O'Neill killed, and the clock -just like in "High Noon" -is ticking.
This movie is quite a treat. The claustrophobic settings are very adequate for the plot development. However, this movie sometimes goes slow in the middle, but the suspense catches up with the viewer for the climax.
It's too bad this DVD does not have documentaries, so I'm waiting for the release of a special edition. Anyone?
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on April 14, 2012
I'm a big fan of 'High Noon' and when I heard that this movie was a) a remake of it b) directed by Peter Hyams I had to get it. I was intrigued how it would be updated to set it in space... except the 'High Noon' connection is more tenuous than I was led to believe; it's really only the last part of the film.

Like a lot of Hyams work it feels dated now, the special effects in particular. All the model shots, for example, have been filmed too fast; they needed more frames to give a sense of scale. This is mystifying because it was made post 'Star Wars'. Indeed the influence of 'Star Wars' and especially 'Alien' is felt throughout. I guess the production didn't have enough money. That said, it uses its budget wisely and by repeating the various sets over and over (from different angles and with a variety of lighting) you get the sense of a big colony - a trick I guess was learnt from Ridley Scott.

One thing limited budget can't excuse is the script. In places the dialogue is toe-curlingly stilted. The characters also lack depth and there's very little in the way of motivation for either O'Neill or Lazarus. Although the last line is neat, the ending is rather inconclusive.

Despite all this there are some virtuoso moments. The chase through the colony is exhilarating - a perfect example of mobile camerawork in an age when that was easier said than done.

Not a classic - but an interesting curio and worth a watch for that.
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on August 31, 2001
Sci-fi fans searching for an overlooked gem should check this one out. Taking place at a mining town on Io (Jupiter's moon), the new marshall (Sean Connery) discovers that the station is rife with corruption and sets to clean things up. Yes, it's "High Noon" in space, but this isn't just another re-tooled western. (And don't forget, "High Noon" was a great western too!)
There are great performances by Connery, Peter Doyle, and Frances Sternhagen. The pacing is set for suspence and the story keeps you interested. But the things that stick and make this worth checking out are the sets and special effects (by the late, great John Stears of Star Wars fame). Criticized at the time for being too grimy, the station seems both realistic and otherworldly--not an easy trick to pull off. The production values for the film (especially the model and matte work) were stellar and stand up very well 20 years later. Throw in a great score by Jerry "Star Trek" Goldsmith and you have a winner.
Unfortunately, the transfer quality of the DVD is astoundingly atrocious. It's hard to believe that Time-Warner could allow their names to go on this jittery, grainy, shaky, fuzzy transfer--faults that are especially obvious on the DVD. I have to assume that quality control is something the Warners do only on a select few titles. Peter Hymes (2010, Timecop, Capricorn One) may not be Stanley Kubrick, but a movie that inspired Blade Runner and Frankie Goes To Hollywood deserves better treatment.
Trivia: I believe this is the first recorded teaming of John Ratzenberger (as a miner) and Frances Sternhagen (chief medical officer); "Cliff Claven" and "Mom Claven" from TV's "Cheers"
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on April 23, 2000
Thanks to "Star Wars", the majority of sci-fi movies in the last twenty-plus years has been annoyingly meshed with the action genre.
In many cases (such as the aforementioned "Star Wars"), this adds to the fun. Unfortunately, it also makes more dramatic/intellegent fare ("2001", "Silent Running"), seem boring by comparison.
"Outland" has suffered this kind of criticism, although there are action elements. I think this is unfair. "Outland" is a gritty, dark picture, more focused on characters and their situations than phaser blasts and starship attacks.
The film has more in common with "Alien" than "Star Wars". There is genuine tension generated in several situations, darkness, and the sense that a deadly attack can come out of nowhere.
The feeling of isolation on the Io moonbase is very well done, and several segments foreshadow Hyams' work on "2010". The style of the sets fit with the feel of the Io base (lots of metalwork, cargo containers, grills, bland flourecent lights, heavy pressure doors, etc.).
True, some items are rather dated, such as the computer readouts, the security cameras, present day cargo containers, and shotguns on a futuristic space outpost. But I find the mark of a quality film is the ability to look past those elements to see and appreciate the picture anyway.
There also are some glaring errors, such as bodies exploding when exposed to space (they don't), but again, I think this is minor and in step with popular thinking in 1981, the year "Outland" was made.
"Outland" is really a character study dressed up as sci-fi, much like "High Noon" was a character study dressed up as a western. The trappings matter less than the acting, writing, and characters.
Say what you will, but "Outland" delivers.
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on January 2, 2003
I don't know too much about ths history of this film, usffice to say that it isn't regarded as a clasic by most casual sci-fi buffs. On the other hand, it is a very well-done and soundly made film. I personally liked the grittiness and functionality of the movie, which I think is why it has survived the test of time so well. Often times movie makers will attempt to make the show look really realistic and eliminate all vestiges of normal, 20th century life, but that always ends up looking worn and dated (a la Star Trek). On the other hand, here you have guys smoking, drinking, swearing, wearing ball caps and who still play raquetball and golf, but at the same time wear spacesuits and live on some distant mining colony. It is this grounding in reality which helps the other, more dramatic effects succeed. The performances are solid (with Sean Connery in a sci-fi film for once), and although I can understand where some of the pacing-based criticisms comes from (nearly half the film is the climactic gunfight/chase between Connery and the bad guys), overall I think it is a well-done and often overlooked film that deserves more atention.
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on March 25, 2003
Released In 1981 this often overlooked film is a great exercise
in suspense and Intrigue. Sean Connery plays a rough honest federal marshall newly assinged the task of being a watch commander to the new regime when he becomes determined to solve the bizzare murders of workers on a mining planet. Peter Boyle plays Connery's new boss who is in on a conspiracy to use the workers by injecting a dangerous substance in them to increase workers's produtivity ratios but the downside is that it eventuly makes the workers go beserk and go on a killing rampage. Connery is on to Boyle's scheme and sets out to stop him with a ruthless determination as the film goes on it plays like the classic western "High Noon" With the two leads playing oppiste sides of good and evil with great dramatic impact. This film deserved much better accaimed than it did when it was released. Connery was great and totally belvable in his portayal as a new man in a new world with a reputation of fighting the system his style and presence carried the film with great results. Outland is a great film that shocases a good storyline and proves That Sean Connery can act and go far beyond James Bond.
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on January 29, 2001
Io, one of Jupiter's moons, is probably as close to hell as the denizens of "Outland" will ever get. Paid exorbitant sums to toil in indescribable conditions in Io's mines, the miner's need only a few months of their yearlong hitch to decide that they were fools to ever leave Earth. US Marshals keep the peace, but nobody doubts that Io belongs to the mining combine - "Con-Am" (the same name used for the fictitious designer of the fatally flawed spacecraft in Hyams' earlier "Capricorn One".) When bonus checks and prostitutes aren't enough to keep the miners happy, Con-Am's slippery manager (Peter Boyle) turns to illegal drugs. The miners' suddenly work harder and boost production. They also start killing each other and themselves. One man cuts open his spacesuit convinced its full of spiders. Another walks into an airlock without his spacesuit. Director Peter Hyams so superlatively and convincingly creates the compartmentalized and pressurized hell of Io's colony, that it's hard not to imagine the whole thing teetering on the edge of explosive decompression.
When the rhiteous marshall (Sean Connery) decides to take Con-Am alone, even those who've never heard of "High Noon" may feel some deja vu. Still, the duel of wits (and bullets) between Connery's marshall and the hired killers brought to get him out of the way creates enough tension to make up for that.
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on October 13, 2002
Outland is not the greatest movie ever made, but it is a flawed gem, definitely worth viewing. Firstly, as many here have noted, the performances are all very watchable - Connery as the gruff lawman who pays for his ethical standards in his personal life, terrific as always. Other standouts (forgive me if I can't remember the names) include the cranky female doctor, the sadly flawed sergeant and the blandly corrupt chief administrator.
Even the minor roles are well cast. Fortunately this film was made during a period when directors and actors were aiming for a super-real style of representation - compare the everydayness of the characters in Alien, for instance, with the stereotypes dominating science fiction film in recent years. This style, and the grungy, industrial set design, combine to emphasise the reality of the moral dilemma of the film - all the characters are faced with the problem of how to behave morally in an indifferent world.
The drabness and functionality of the look of the film were influenced by Alien, of course, and really help give the feeling of a working mining station. I still remember, the first time I saw this film, being almost shocked by the use of a weapon as old-fashioned, dirty and real as a shotgun, in the context of a futuristic science fiction film. At every point, from the cigarette smoke hanging in the air to the chips deep-frying in boiling fat, we are grounded in the physical reality of the situation.
It is this super-realism that answers the question we may ask: why set this story in the future? I think the answer the film gives is that, whatever the time and place, even in the distant future, these basic human problems will remain to be dealt with.
Inevitably, unfortunately, we must acknowledge the flaws in this film. The great music, set design and acting somehow don't prevent the ending from being disappointing. It may sound superficial at first, but I think the blame must be laid at the feet of the special effects supervisors - it is when Connery's character puts on his spacesuit and goes outside that the film goes downhill (at least to the extent of not living up to the preceding high quality).
In this last exterior sequence, some of the models are unconvincing, the characters occasionally look like puppets, and the pacing, previously one of the film's best qualities, starts to lurch. There is even a moment when Connery drops a metal panel, supposedly on a zero-atmosphere moon, and it glides like a paper aeroplane! The biggest problem here, though, is that Connery's stoic silence becomes less effective when his face is hidden by his space helmet, so that we lose contact with the central character.
It is a shame that a potentially classic movie is let down in this way. This is my plea to any influential movie producers who may be reading this: in a time when so many movies are being unnecessarily updated with digital effects, here is one film that desperately deserves to be saved in exactly this way...
Despite these problems, I must recommend this movie highly to cinema buffs, Connery fans, and lovers of quality science fiction films. Outland will definitely reward viewing, both as pure entertainment and as a dark future vision that will linger in your memory.
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