Quigley Down Under (1990)

Quigley Down Under (1990), directed by Simon Wincer.

Arriving in 1860s Australia for a job, single-shot custom Sharps rifle never far from his hand, long distance marksman Matthew Quigley starts laying down the code of the West before he even gets off the boat. Once on land he immediately begins defending womanhood (in the form of "Crazy Cora") and kicking no-account Aussie butt.

The job isn't what he thought it would be and lasts only a few hours. Then it is desert survival, lots of shooting, getting beaten up and bloody revenge. And the inevitable budding romance with Crazy Cora:


Cora: You know, if we're lost, you can tell me.

Quigley: We're lost.

Cora: I can take bad news. Just tell me straight.

Quigley: I don't know where the hell we are.

Cora: No sense takin' time to make it sound better than it is.

Quigley: I reckon we're goin' in circles.

Cora: Wire things up and I'll see right through. So, just tell me honestly. Are we lost?

Quigley: Nope. I know exactly where we are.

Cora: That's good, 'cause, frankly, I was gettin' a little worried.

The mythical elements are well-known -- sharpshooting frontiersman, autocratic rancher -- but that is what makes a genre film. This is a modern western so Quigley makes common cause with the Aborigines, substituting for Native Americans.

The climax is a reverse-siege, with the many defending against the one.

Tom Selleck fits the role rather perfectly; he's intensely masculine, cowboy laconic, but can still produce a wry twinkle. Steve McQueen and Clint Eastwood were considered for the part in earlier years. Like Gregory Peck in The Stalking Moon (1968) and Clint Eastwood in The Outlaw Josey Wales (1976), Quigley acquires a family by accident.

Laura San Giacomo is the love interest, driven mad by grief. Seeing them together you might think men and women are completely different species, such is the difference in their sizes.

Alan Rickman is the comically vicious villain, very much in the mode of his Sheriff of Nottingham in Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves (1991) the next year.

Filmed in Australia. The weapons seem accurate for the 1860s with single shot rifles and black powder revolvers.

Basil Poledouris gives a classic western adventure score reminiscent of The Magnificent Seven (1960) or How the West Was Won (1962). I would like to give another listen and try to spot folk tunes; the lullaby "All the Pretty Little Horses" is a continuing theme, particularly strong when they give the Aborigine baby back to his own people.

Poledouris is perhaps under-appreciated. I always enjoy his music, with the score of Conan the Barbarian (1982) being particularly memorable.

Available on Blu-ray. The image is mostly very good, with a few scenes looking like an older master.