Quigley Down Under
|Quigley Down Under|
Theatrical release poster by Steven Chorney
|Directed by||Simon Wincer|
|Produced by||Stanley O'Toole
|Written by||John Hill|
|Music by||Basil Poledouris|
|Edited by||Peter Burgess|
|17 October 1990|
Matthew Quigley (Tom Selleck) is an American cowboy and sharpshooter with a specially modified rifle with which he can shoot accurately at extraordinary distances. He answers a newspaper advertisement that asks for a man with a special talent in long-distance shooting, using just four words, "M. Quigley 900 yards," written on a copy of the advertisement that is punctured by six closely spaced bullet holes.
When he arrives in Australia, he gets into a fight with employees of the man who hired him, who are trying to force "Crazy Cora" (Laura San Giacomo) onto their wagon. After he identifies himself, he is taken to the station of Elliot Marston (Alan Rickman), who informs Quigley his sharpshooting skills will be used to eradicate the increasingly elusive Aborigines. Quigley turns down the offer and throws Marston out of his own house.
The aborigine manservant knocks Quigley over the head and Marston's men beat him and Cora unconscious and dump them in the outback with no water and little chance of survival. However, they are rescued by Aborigines. Cora now reveals that she comes from Texas. When her home was attacked by Comanches, she hid in the cellar and accidentally suffocated her child while trying to prevent him from crying. Her husband had then put her alone on a ship to Australia. Now Cora consistently calls Quigley by her husband’s name (Roy), much to his annoyance.
When Marston's men attack the Aborigines who helped them, Quigley kills three. Escaping on a single horse, they encounter more of the men driving Aborigines over a cliff. Quigley drives them off with his deadly shooting and Cora rescues an orphaned baby she finds among the dead Aborigines. Leaving Cora and the infant in the desert with food and water, Quigley rides alone to a nearby town. There he obtains new ammunition from a local German gunsmith, who hates Marston for his murdering ways. Quigley also learns that he has become a legendary hero among the Aborigines.
Marston's men are also in town and recognize Quigley's horse. When they attack, cornering him in a burning building, he escapes through a skylight and kills all but one of them. The injured survivor is sent back to say he will be following. First Quigley returns to Cora and the baby, which she has just saved from an attack by dingoes. At first she had tried to stop it crying, but then told it to make as much noise as it liked as she gunned the animals down. Back in town, she gives the baby to Aborigines living there after Quigley tells her that the child has 'a right to happiness'.
The next morning, Quigley rides away to confront Marston at his station. At first he shoots the defenders from his location in the hills but is eventually shot in the leg and captured by Marston's last two men. Marston, who has noticed that Quigley only ever carries a rifle, decides to give him a lesson in the "quick-draw" style of gunfighting. As the two face off, Marston makes the first move, but is beaten to the draw by Quigley, who shoots the two remaining men as well. As Marston lies dying, Quigley refers to an earlier conversation, telling him, "I said I never had much use for one [a revolver]; I never said I didn't know how to use it."
Marston's servant comes out of the house and gives Quigley his rifle back, then walks away from the ranch, stripping off his western-style clothing as he goes. An army troop now arrives to arrest Quigley for murder until they notice the surrounding hills are lined with Aborigines and decide to withdraw. Later he and Cora book a passage back to America in the name of Roy Cobb, Cora’s husband, since Quigley is still wanted. On the wharf she reminds him that he once told her that she had to say two words before he would make love to her. Smiling broadly, she calls him "Matthew Quigley" and the two embrace for the first time.
- Tom Selleck as Matthew Quigley
- Laura San Giacomo as Crazy Cora
- Alan Rickman as Elliott Marston
- Chris Haywood as Major Ashley-Pitt
- Ron Haddrick as Grimmelman
- Tony Bonner as Dobkin
- Jerome Ehlers as Coogan
- Conor McDermottroe as Hobb
- Roger Ward as Brophy
- Ben Mendelsohn as O'Flynn
- Steve Dodd as Kunkurra
- Karen Davitt as Slattern
- Kylie Foster as Slattern
- William Zappa as Reilly
- Jonathan Sweet as Sergeant Thomas
- Ollie Hall as Carver
John Hill first began writing Quigley Down Under in 1978, and both Steve McQueen and Clint Eastwood were considered for the lead, but by the time production began in 1980, McQueen was too ill and the project was scrapped. In the mid-1980s Tom Selleck heard of it and UAA got involved; the film was almost set up at Warner Bros with Lewis Gilbert as director but it fell over during pre-production. Simon Wincer then became director, who felt a good story had been ruined by numerous rewrites from people who knew little about Australian history, so he brought on Ian Jones as writer. They went back to the original draft, re-set it from the 1880s to the 1860s and made it more historically accurate.
The firearm used by Quigley (Selleck) is a custom 13.5 pound (6 kg), single-shot, 1874 Sharps Rifle, with a 34-inch (860 mm) barrel. The rifle used for filming was a replica manufactured for the film by the Shiloh Rifle Manufacturing Company of Big Timber, Montana. In 2002 Selleck donated the rifle, along with six other firearms from his other films, to the National Rifle Association, as part of the NRA's exhibit "Real Guns of Reel Heroes" at the National Firearms Museum in Fairfax, Virginia.
Although several scenes of the story depict violence and cruelty toward and involving animals, a film spokesperson explained that no animal was harmed, and special effects were used. For example, Quigley and Cora are reduced to consuming "grub worms" (actually blobs of dough) for survival. A pack of dingoes attacks Cora, and she finally saves herself by shooting the animals. Those animals were specially trained, and were actually "playing" for that scene, which was later enhanced by visual and sound effects. Several scenes involve falling horses; they were performed by specially-trained animals and were not hurt. When a horse falls off a cliff, the "horse" was a mechanical creation. The film's producer stated that a veterinarian was on the set whenever animals were being used in filming.
Critical responses were mixed, with Quigley having a 56% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Roger Ebert gave the film two-and-a-half out of four stars, arguing that it was a flawed but respectable neo-western, and particularly praising San Giacomo's performance: "[T]his may be the movie that proves her staying power. [...] She has an authority, a depth of presence, that is attractive, and her voice is deep and musical."
The film, however, was not a financial success in theaters, roughly recouping its budget.
Awards and nominations
|London Film Critics' Circle Award||British Actor of the Year||Alan Rickman||Won|
|Motion Picture Sound Editors Award||Best Sound Editing - Foreign Feature||Tim Chau||Won|
|Political Film Society Award||Human Rights||Nominated|
- Greg Kerr, "Quigley", Australian Film 1978-1992, Oxford Uni Press, 1993 p323
- Persico Newhouse, Joyce J. "'Perfect Hero' Selleck Takes Aim at Action". Times Union. 18 October 1990.
- Scott Murray, "Simon Wincer: Trusting His Instincts", Cinema Papers, November 1989 pp. 6–12, 78
- Sharp, Eric. "Shooting Star - Antique Black-Powder Rifle Still Scene-Stealer". Detroit Free Press. 18 June 2006.
- Names and Faces: "On Target". Orlando Sentinel. 6 August 1989.
- "Tom Selleck Donates Seven Guns To NRA National Firearms Museum". National Rifle Association
- GreatSouthCoast website
- AHA Film website Archived 22 July 2011 at the Wayback Machine.
- Quigley Down Under at Rotten Tomatoes
- "Quigley Down Under". Chicago Sun-Times.
- Harnden, Toby (13 March 2011). "Dead Men Risen: The snipers' story". The Daily Telegraph. London.