Review for Quigley Down Under
How times have changed! When I reviewed Quigley Down Under on DVD, it was at the height of the home media industry, when everything was coming to disc. MGM were reaching into their back catalogue, and sticking it onto disc willy-nilly, with little or no thought to extra features or print restoration. Quigley Down Under was an afterthought for MGM, and like so many great back catalogue films back then, went under many people’s radar. And now, a couple of decades later, it’s all about streaming services, and physical product doesn’t just have niche genres, it is the niche in and of itself. When companies release content on disc, they have to do something special to get people to open their wallets. Now that Quigley Down Under is coming to Blu-ray in the UK (It got the MGM barebones treatment in the US in 2011, followed by a better release from Shout Factory in 2018), boutique label Capelight is bringing it out in the new Mediabook format.
Mediabook is new to the UK; if you look at the blurb sheet, you can see that Capelight have only released All Quiet on the Western Front, Bloodsport, The Misfits, Stigmata, and The Care Bears Movie on that format. But Mediabook has been going for quite a while in Europe, both from Capelight, and other distributors like Koch Media in Germany, and I’ve previously imported titles like Tank Girl, and The Philadephia Experiment in that format. Mediabooks look like hardcover books in the rough dimensions of a wider Blu-ray or DVD case. You get digipack panels on the inner covers holding the discs, and bound into the spine between the panels, several pages of a booklet to accompany the movie. With Quigley Down Under, I finally get to read one these without the use of a translation app.
Matthew Quigley is a marksman extraordinaire who travels from the US to Australia with his custom built rifle, to take a job from landowner Elliott Marston. He is confronted at the dock by Crazy Cora who thinks he is her lost love Roy, and promptly gets into a brawl defending her honour. Unfortunately he is fighting the very men who have come to take him to his new employer. Marston is a cruel and vicious man who demonstrates this by dealing terminally with two British Army deserters. Quigley proves his ability with the rifle but when Marston makes clear exactly what his job will be, dealing with the local indigenous people the way the US dealt with the Native Americans, Quigley objects. Quigley is all set for a showdown there and then, but he gets bushwhacked. Both he and Cora are trussed up and taken out into the bush, days from civilisation to perish. Quigley manages to get the drop on his captors, and both he and Cora set out on the lengthy trek back, and Quigley swears vengeance against his erstwhile employer.
On the Blu-ray, Quigley Down Under gets a 2.35:1 widescreen 1080p transfer, with PCM 2.0 Stereo English audio and optional English SDH subtitles. It’s a fairly strong restoration of the film, clear and sharp with consistent colours, and with a suitably filmic look thanks to the retention of fine grain. The print is clear enough, there’s enough in the way of resolution to show a fly on a horse’s ass. The widescreen format is ideal for this Australian Western, and the outback rivals anything that the majestic Monument Valley has to offer. The audio is fine, the dialogue is clear, if a little low in the mix, and can feel overpowered by Basil Poledouris’ score at first, before the ear becomes accustomed. The action is presented well, and as you’d expect from an action movie of this vintage, the hero’s gun has more decibels to it than anyone else’s.
This is a two disc release; you get the DVD as well, repeating the Blu-ray content, but with the film presented in PAL format, running 4% faster than the HD version. As mentioned before, the discs fit on digipack panels, glued to the inner faces of the hardcover book style packaging. Bound to the centre of the spine is a 24 page booklet with writing on the film’s production from Christoph N. Kellerbach, whose credentials indicate that the booklet is translated from the German Mediabook release of this film. Indeed, other than the lack of a German language option and a missing German trailer, this release looks identical to the German release. Judging by the specifications and content, this might just be a clone of the 2018 US Shout Factory disc. After all, the extra features are the same...
The Rebirth of Westerns (7:14)
This One Shoots a Mite Further (23:08)
Finding Crazy Cora (17:50)
TV Spots (1:04)
Theatrical Trailer (1:54)
And I just realised that the cover has a whopping mistake in its artwork. Tom Selleck has a Buffalo Bill style chinbeard in the movie along with his trademark moustache, but the character on the cover looks like Magnum in a cowboy hat and with 5 o’clock shadow.
Reading up about Quigley Down Under in the booklet, I was somewhat shocked to learn that this film was lauded by both the NRA, and humanitarian groups. Then again, this was back in 1990, before social media, back when humans were capable of holding two conflicting opinions at once without having a Twitter meltdown. The National Rifle Association and weapons enthusiasts adored the presentation of the hero’s weapon, a mid-19th Century Sharp’s rifle which was genuinely as accurate over long distances as the weapon in this film. Although the filmmakers used the usual artistic licence with the way its victims are blown off their feet. The humanitarian institutions lauded the historical accuracy in the film, most notably in the horrific way the indigenous Australians were treated by the colonisers, a history which to that point, popular cinema hadn’t really addressed.
Yet with this dark subject matter, Quigley Down Under still manages to be a fun, entertaining Western. Quigley is the stereotypical Western hero, taking no nonsense, and deadly sure of his values, yet tempering it with unfailing politeness and a rigid sense of honour. He’s also a man of few words, but what words he uses, he wields with the same skill he displays with his rifle. And against him, we have an absolute dastard of a villain in Marston, a sheep farmer who wants to own all the land he can get his hands on, and employs a gang of ex-cons to do his bidding. As for the indigenous people that live on his land, if he can’t exploit them, they’re little more than vermin. Quigley isn’t naive enough to believe that a job shooting dingoes brought him across the Pacific, but killing people is not what he signed on for. And so the battle lines are drawn.
To make his life more complicated, there is Crazy Cora, another American in Australia, who wound up there following a trauma that gave her that unsympathetic moniker. She sees Quigley as someone else entirely, a man named Roy with who she has a past. And he has his hands full fending off her delusional advances, while trying to figure out what’s ailing her. When the two wind up stranded in the outback, Quigley’s journey becomes one of revenge, while Cora winds up working through her trauma.
Quigley Down Under has aged really well. There are films that you fall in and out of love with as time passes, and your personal sensibilities change, but I enjoy this film just as much now, as I did when I first saw it. It is very much a Western of the old school, harking back to the John Wayne movies I watched as a kid. There’s something to be said for a simplistic interpretation of good and bad, right and wrong. It’s also a delight to see this film in high definition, and I think that the Mediabook format is beginning to grow on me. However, given that Quigley Down Under is scheduled for a US 4k release this spring, this might be a little late.