DIRECTOR: Simon Wincer
STARS: Tom Selleck, Alan Rickman and Laura San Giacomo
RELEASE DATE: 1990
LENGTH: 119 minutes
“Quigley Down Under” is why there is Saturday afternoon television. If you find yourself on a lazy, rainy, Saturday afternoon, planted on your most comfortable couch and flicking through the channels to see what’s on, and you stumble across Quigley, no matter where they are in the movie, it just brings a smile to your face.
Paul Bishop, my co-author on “52 Weeks • 52 Western Movies,” and I fought over who got to do this movie for the book. He won and did a great writeup, which you’ll find below. I lifted the following straight from the book.
American Matthew Quigley (Tom Selleck) travels to Australia after answering an advertisement for a sharpshooter placed by Elliot Marston (Alan Rickman), a powerful Australian rancher. Upon his arrival on the docks, Quigley is drawn into a dispute between Marston’s men and Crazy Cora (Laura San Giacomo), who they are trying to force onto their wagon with several other more willing soiled doves. Cora takes advantage of Quigley’s gallantry by getting onto the wagon and latching onto him in the belief he is her runaway husband returned to rescue her.
After the long trip to Marston’s ranch in the Australian Outback, the landowner has Quigley demonstrate his long-range shooting skills with his specially designed Sharps rifle. Marston is impressed and offhandedly reveals he expects Quigley to use his skills to kill the elusive indigenous aborigines who refuse to get off his land. Quigley responds by throwing Marston through the front window of the ranch house. Quigley and Cora — who has tried to protect him — are outnumbered and badly beaten by Marston’s men, who dump them deep in the Outback with no water and little chance of survival. Saved by aborigines, Quigley and Cora are drawn deeply into their plight. When a number of the aborigines are horribly murdered by Marston’s men, Quigley determines it is time to turn his deadly skills to revenge.
“Quigley Down Under” was the first of three Western film collaborations between Tom Selleck and director Simon Wincer — who won an Emmy for directing “Lonesome Dove.” Tom Selleck always appears to be happily at home in Westerns. He has the look, the size and the comportment to make you believe he is a real cowboy.
Opposite him, the splendid Alan Rickman chews the scenery with abandon. Obsessed with the Wild West, he does everything a great villain should do short of twirling his mustache.
However, the real star to emerge from the movie is Quigley’s Sharps rifle, of which the character states, “It’s a lever-action breech loader. Usual barrel length’s 30 inches. This one has an extra four. It’s converted to use a special .45-caliber, 110-grain metal cartridge, with a 540-grain paper-patched bullet. It’s fitted with double-set triggers and a Vernier sight. It’s marked up to 1,200 yards. This one shoots a mite further.”
Three fully functional .45-110 rifles were built for the film by the Shiloh Rifle Manufacturing Company of Big Timber, Montana. A 15 1⁄4-inch length of pull was built in to fit Selleck’s tall frame along with a full octagon heavy barrel. The rifles weighed over 13 pounds. As a result, one of the rifles was sent back to the manufacturer to be refitted with an aluminum barrel so it could be used as a club and swung faster in fight scenes.