Outland is a title that has needed an upgrade for a long time, and the magic of Blu-ray has brought it about. Fans will be elated. It also features the magic of Peter Hyams, Sean Connery, and transplanting the Western genre onto one of Jupiter’s moons.
William T. O’Neil (Sean Connery) is the new sheriff in town. However, town just happens to be a mining colony on Jupiter’s moon Io. He and his family are newly arrived. O’Neil goes to a meeting with station manager Mark Sheppard (Peter Boyle) who basically tells O’Neil to use a lax hand in enforcing the law. When O’Neil returns to his quarters he finds that his family has gone back to earth without him. He also discovers that several grisly deaths have occurred and the bodies immediately shipped out of the station.
When O’Neil secretly takes a blood sample from the latest victim, Dr. Lazarus (Frances Sternhagen) discovers that there’s a drug in the bloodstream. The upright O’Neil is the only one who wants to do anything about the drug running and now he is marked for death with the countdown to the next arriving shuttle bringing his assassins.
Director Peter Hyams always wanted to make a Western. The problem was that they were considered passé and no one wanted to bankroll them. He got around that by transposing the elements of the Western genre into a science fiction thriller - that the moneymen would green light. I’m sure it didn’t hurt when bankable star Sean Connery took an interest in the script. The plot may be pure High Noon, complete with swinging saloon doors, but it’s more the performance of Connery and his co-star Sternhagen that drives the film.
Both are at the top of their games and their interactions are a highlight of the film. Connery defends his honor alone and with a shotgun, not with the hidden gadgets of Bond (although Hyams jests on the commentary that they villains would’ve known they were doomed if they’d only watched a Bond film). Sternhagen is the crusty, ironic voice in a role originally written for a man.
She’s an actress that brings it up a notch when she’s cast. She is perhaps as charismatic in her craft as Connery is on the screen. Effects show a tad of age (still not as much as Altered States) but I soon forgot about them seeing the human story unfold.
Outland is presented in a 1080p transfer (2.40:1). The previous DVD editions of this title were widescreen but not enhanced for 16x9 televisions. This Blu-ray rectifies that and presents a beautiful, filmic presentation. Well, as beautiful as a grungy moon mining operation can be. Special features include a new commentary with writer/director Peter Hyams and the 3 minute theatrical trailer.
The new Blu-ray of Outland corrects some mediocre DVD releases and reacquaints us with some grand action in the Western mold. It also reminds us of the skill of both Connery and Sternhagen to bring gravitas to performances. End transmission.
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