Forgotten Classics: Quigley Down Under

Reviewing lesser-known films that stand the test of time

As I said in my in Silverado review, western films fell out of popularity during the ‘80s and ‘90s with some obvious exceptions. One of these was the TV miniseries Lonesome Dove, based on the novel of the same name by Larry McMurtry. On a side note: Lonesome Dove is probably my favorite novel of all time and you should all read it.

What connection does that miniseries have to today’s film Quigley Down Under? Both feature the same director, Simon Wincer, and the same music composer, Basil Poledouris, but unfortunately the film was sort of passed over when it should have been watched and at least given the compliment of, “that was pretty good.”

Quigley Down Under is the story of an American cowboy and skilled sharpshooter named Matthew Quigley (Tom Selleck) who receives a job on an Australian ranch run by Elliott Marston (Alan Rickman). But upon his arrival, Quigley runs into a woman named Cora (Laura San Giacomo) who confuses Quigley for her abandoning husband Roy and he finds out that his job will be shooting the native Aborigines. Quigley disapproves of what Marston wants to do and goes against him, only to be left for dead in the Australian desert with Cora. He must survive the harsh environment and then stop Marston from continuing his cruel treatment of natives.

It does kind of surprise me how well Australia’s Outback works as a setting for a western. It really shouldn’t, though — the scale of the desert almost matches the grand scale of Monument Valley on the Arizona-Utah state line. Add in the intense heat and it adds another element of suspense for the story.

One of the best elements in the movie is the script itself. It has a very good story and some great dialogue, which is delivered with charm courtesy of Magnum, P.I.’s Selleck. It makes me wonder why this film was passed up by Warner Bros. The role of Quigley was originally offered to Steve McQueen and Clint Eastwood, and while I could see Eastwood doing this kind of role I think Selleck fits perfectly.

The other performances are also very good. Rickman is also great as the villain who wishes to be a Wild West gunslinger. So, yes Harry Potter fans, you get to see Prof. Snape in a gun duel.

The real highlight performance comes from Laura San Giacomo. She just steals every scene  she’s in as the half-crazed woman who has demons of her own. During her first few scenes she could be seen as a just another forced comedic character but as time goes on we hear about her back story and see what led her to her crazy attitude.

As I mentioned before, the movie’s film score was compose by the last Basil Poledouris. To me, Poledouris is a film composer that deserves to be held in the same regard as people like Elmer Bernstein and John Williams. The music he composed for this movie, along with Robocop, Starship Trooper and every other film he’s worked on is amazing. It can capture a sense of excitement and it can be touching as well.

If you haven’t checked this film out then do yourself a favor and track down a couple in the near future.