Outland (film)

For the science fiction film reworking of the Beowulf myth, see Outlander (film).

Original film poster
Directed by Peter Hyams
Produced by Richard A. Roth
Stanley O'Toole
Written by Peter Hyams
Starring Sean Connery
Peter Boyle
Frances Sternhagen
James B. Sikking
Kika Markham
Music by Jerry Goldsmith
Cinematography Stephen Goldblatt
Edited by Stuart Baird
Distributed by Warner Bros.
Release dates
22 May 1981 (U.S.)
Running time
109 minutes
Country United Kingdom
Language English
Budget $16,000,000 (estimated)
Box office $17,374,595 (U.S.)
$20,000,000 (U.S.)[1]

Outland is a 1981 British science fiction thriller film written and directed by Peter Hyams. The film stars Sean Connery, Peter Boyle, and Frances Sternhagen.

Set on Jupiter's moon Io, it has been described as a space Western,[2] and bears thematic resemblances to the 1952 film High Noon.[3][4]


In the future, Federal Marshal William O'Niel (Sean Connery) is assigned to a tour of duty at the titanium ore mining outpost Con-Am 27, operated by the company Conglomerates Amalgamated on the Jovian moon of Io. Conditions on Io are difficult: gravity is 1/6 that of Earth's with no breathable atmosphere, spacesuits are cumbersome, and miners carry their own air supply. Shifts are long, but significant bonuses are paid. The outpost's general manager, Mark Sheppard (Peter Boyle), boasts that productivity has broken all previous records since he took over.

O'Niel's wife Carol (Kika Markham) feels she cannot raise their son Paul on Io, fleeing with the child to the Jupiter space station to await a shuttle back to Earth. Later, a miner named Tarlow (John Ratzenberger) suffers an attack of stimulant psychosis: he sees spiders and rips open his spacesuit, resulting in his death by explosive decompression. Cane, another miner, enters an elevator without his spacesuit during another psychotic episode, and likewise dies from decompression. With the reluctant assistance of Dr. Lazarus (Frances Sternhagen), O'Niel investigates the deaths.

Another incident involves a worker, Sagan, who takes a prostitute hostage and threatens to kill her with a knife. O'Niel attempts to calm the man while Montone (James B. Sikking), his sergeant, sneaks in via the air duct and kills Sagan with a shotgun. O'Niel and Lazarus discover that Sagan had traces of a powerful amphetamine-type drug in his bloodstream, which would allow the miners to work continuously for days at a time, until they "burn out" and turn psychotic after approximately ten months of use. O'Niel uncovers a drug distribution ring run by a corrupt Sheppard and sanctioned by Montone.

Using surveillance cameras, O'Niel finds and captures one of Sheppard's dealers, Nicholas Spota. However, before Spota can be questioned, he is murdered. Montone is then found garroted. O'Niel finds the latest shipment of drugs in a meat locker that was shipped from the space station, but is then attacked by another dealer, Russell Yario. O'Niel knocks him out, then destroys the shipment of drugs. When Sheppard finds out, he threatens O'Niel and contacts his drug distributor, asking him to send in professional hitmen. O'Niel is ready, though, having been monitoring Sheppard's communications.

O'Niel waits for the arrival of the hitmen on a supply shuttle from the other side of Jupiter. Knowing what's coming, and with only Dr. Lazarus willing to help him, O'Niel sends a message to his family promising to return to Earth when his "job is done". When the hitmen arrive, O'Niel tracks and ambushes each, killing them one by one. Lazarus helps him kill the first by trapping him in a pressurized corridor; O'Niel activates a bomb, causing an explosive decompression that kills the hitman. The second is killed in a greenhouse structure when O'Niel tricks him into shooting a window, causing it to break open and blow him out to his death.

O'Niel is then confronted by Sheppard's "inside man", who turns out to be one of his own deputies, Sgt. Ballard. The two fight outside the outpost on a solar panel structure until O'Niel pulls Ballard's oxygen hose, suffocating him. O'Niel then confronts the surprised Sheppard inside the outpost's recreation bar, knocking him out with one punch. It is implied that Sheppard will now either be murdered by his own accomplices or brought to justice, while O'Niel's deputies will be brought to trial for mutiny. O'Niel retires, parts ways with Dr. Lazarus, and leaves on the shuttle to join his wife and son on the journey back to Earth.



O'Niel's costume at a convention in Stockholm, Sweden

Hyams recalled:

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 – obviously after other people – 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?[6]

Outland was filmed at Pinewood Studios, Iver Heath, Buckinghamshire, UK, with an estimated budget of $16,000,000. The film's working title was "Io" (the setting of the film), which was later changed because many people read it as the number 10, or "Lo" ("low"). Principal photography took place starting with the miniature models in May 1980 and with the actors beginning in June 1980. Post-production for the film was completed in February 1981.[7]

Outland was pioneering as the first motion picture to use Introvision,[8] 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 bluescreen matting. This enabled characters to convincingly walk around miniature sets of the mining colony.


The mostly atonal and dissonant music to Outland was composed and conducted by veteran composer Jerry Goldsmith, who had previously worked with writer/director Peter Hyams on the science fiction thriller Capricorn One (1978), and had recently provided the soundtrack to Alien (which had a similar style to Outland, reflecting isolation, remoteness and fear). The soundtrack to Outland has been released three times on disc; 19 November 1993 through GNP Crescendo (with his score to Capricorn One), June 2000 through Warner Music Group, and a two-disc extended edition released 15 June 2010 through Film Score Monthly.[9] The expanded release also includes the John Williams music for the Ladd Company logo, the material composed by Morton Stevens for the fight between O'Niel and Ballard, and the source cues for the rec room by Michael Boddicker.[10]

The 35mm film prints distributed to theaters featured Dolby Stereo audio and the 70mm Anamorphic Blow-Up film prints featured Six-Track Dolby Stereo audio. All 70mm prints were encoded for a Megasound option, in which theaters needed to be outfitted with the additional required speakers and sound equipment. Outland was one of only four films released by Warner Bros. to officially make use of their Megasound movie theater sound system, in the early 1980s.


The film received mixed reviews and box office reception when it was released. It opened strongly with $3,059,638 in weekend box office receipts in the U.S., but total estimated box offices receipts in the country are between $17,374,595 and $20,000,000, just above its $16 million budget.[1]

The film was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Sound (John Wilkinson, Robert W. Glass Jr., Robert Thirlwell and Robin Gregory).[11]

Gary Arnold at The Washington Post had this to say: "In Outland, writer-director Peter Hyams has adapted the plot of High Noon to an intriguing sci-fi environment—a huge titanium mine located on Io, a volcanic moon of Jupiter. But the conventions that worked for High Noon break down in the high-tech atmosphere of Outland and the story seems trite and dinky".[3]

In The Boston Globe, Michael Blowen was more favorable: "The parallels between Outland and Fred Zinneman's 1952 western High Noon are apparent. Writer-director Peter Hyams has transported the characters and motifs from the dusty frontier town of Gary Cooper to the frontiers of space. While Hyams keeps the story barreling along, he also develops a corollary anti-capitalist theme. Io is an outpost for exploitation, and it doesn't make any difference whether the miners are digging gold in the Colorado hills or titanium on Jupiter's moon, the greed of the corporate class will prevail. Outland marks the return of the classic western hero in a space helmet. His outfit has changed and his environment has expanded but he's still the same. When Connery stares down the barrel of that shotgun, you'd better smile".[4]

Desmond Ryan at The Philadelphia Inquirer called it: "A brilliant sci-fi Western. In many ways, Hyams has made a film that is more frightening than Alien, because he surmises that space will change us very little and the real monsters we are liable to encounter will be in the next space suit.[12]

Outland has endured many comparisons to Ridley Scott's Alien (released two years earlier), most notably in its 'future realism' production design which reflects a dark, claustrophobic and isolated neo-industrial environment in deep space, and the portrayal of future 'megacorporations' as sinister and ruthless organisations pursuing profit at any cost, with their employees' lives being expendable.

Home media

DVD release

Outland was released on DVD on November 18, 1997. It was presented in both letterbox widescreen and full screen on a double sided disc with the soundtrack remastered in Dolby 5.1 surround sound. The Region 1 DVD received harsh criticism for its poor quality transfer and not enhanced for widescreen televisions. A "making of" featurette, cast and credit notes, plus a theatrical trailer are included as special features on the disc. The film was released on DVD in the UK (Region 2) in 1998. This version is anamorphically enhanced for widescreen televisions, as is the Region 4 release.

Blu-ray release

Outland was released on Blu-ray Disc on 10 July 2012. The film is presented in an aspect ratio of 2.40:1 with an English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround sound mix. The disc also features a brand new commentary audio-track with director Peter Hyams.

Other formats

Outland was first released for home video on VHS, Beta, and V2000 videotape formats in November 1982.[13] The film had many re-issues on VHS and between 1982 and 1998, including a widescreen NTSC VHS on 7 January 1997.[14] Videodisc releases included the CED disc in August 1983,[15] a Laserdisc release in 1984, and a remastered laserdisc with digital sound on 28 August 1991.

North American airings

Pay television

Outland debuted on pay TV in the U.S. in September 1982 on the HBO and Showtime channels.[16][17] In Canada, the film was first shown in October 1983 on Superchannel.[18] The film was broadcast uncut, commercial-free, and periodically over several months, in both countries.[19] These pay TV broadcasts of Outland used the same source as the initial NTSC home video release.

Network television

The network TV premiere for Outland was on 19 May 1984 via CBS in the U.S. and was simulcasted on CTV in Canada.[20][21] This re-edited version of the film, broadcast exclusively on these networks, utilized cut footage not seen in the theatrical/home video version. One notable example is an extended scene showing a more lengthy exit from the station for O'Niel and also Ballard suited-up exiting, near the end of the film. These cutting-room-floor scenes were made available for the network to extend parts of the film; which, in turn, allowed them to sell more commercial time-slots to advertisers. The inclusion of left-over footage (if made available) was common practice during the 1970s to 1980s, for network film premieres and subsequent licensed broadcasts. This version was labeled "edited for television" to comply with U.S. network television censorship standards of the time and never released to home video.



On 18 August 2009, studio Warner Brothers announced that director Michael Davis had been hired to direct a remake of the film from a script by Chad St. John. No casting or start date information was announced.[23][24]

See also


  1. 1 2 Outland (1981). - The Numbers. - Nash Information Services.
  2. Buscombe, Edward, and Christopher Brookeman, (1988). The BFI Companion to the Western, British Film Institute, p.105. ISBN 0-233-98332-5. OCLC 20631702.
  3. 1 2 Arnold, Gary. "Unlikely 'Outland'". The Washington Post, 23 May 1981. Retrieved: 2008-07-09
  4. 1 2 Blowen, Michael. REVIEWS: "Outland is Western out of This World". The Boston Globe, 22 May 1981. Retrieved: 2008-07-09
  5. Rockas production photo
  6. "Peter Hyams Film by Film" Empire accessed 30 July 2014
  7. Mondoprop - Production archive scans
  8. IntroVision at the Internet Movie Database
  9. Outland soundtrack review at Filmtracks.com. Retrieved 2011-03-21.
  10. "Outland album page, FSM". Retrieved 2015-12-02.
  11. "The 54th Academy Awards (1982) Nominees and Winners". oscars.org. Retrieved 2011-10-08.
  12. Desmond, Ryan. - REVIEW: Outland: A Brilliant Sci-Fi Western. - <sup class="noprint Inline-Template "noprint Inline-Template"" style="white-space:nowrap;">[check quotation syntax]Philadelphia Inquirer. - May 22, 1981. - Retrieved: 2008-07-09
  13. Pre-Cert Video - Home video debut
  14. Worldcat.org - Formats and Editions of Outland
  15. CED Magic - Timeline 1983
  16. New York Magazine Sept 27th, 1982 - NYC TV/Pay-TV schedule
  17. HBO guides - US Pay-TV debut
  18. "Superchannel signs Warners". Cinema Canada. October 1983. p. 36. Retrieved 5 April 2016.
  19. New York Magazine 5 August 1983 - NYC TV/Pay-TV schedule
  20. Kevinmccorrytv.webs.com TV Listings For Canada's Eastern Maritime Provinces 1983-84 - Network debut
  21. Radio-info.com Saturday, 19 May 1984 Source: Bangor Daily News via Google News Archive - Network debut
  22. Outland - Heavy Metal Magazine Fan Page
  23. Kit, Borys (18 August 2009). "'Outland' remake in works". Hollywoodreporter.com. Retrieved 2011-02-02.
  24. SHOOT 'EM UP Director Takes On OUTLANDFilmBuffOnLine 19 August 2009. -Retrieved 19 August 2009

External links

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