Quigley Down Under is a 1990 western film directed by Simon Wincer and starring Tom Selleck, Alan Rickman, and Laura San Giacomo.

Quigley Down Under
Theatrical release poster by Steven Chorney
Directed bySimon Wincer
Written byJohn Hill
Produced byStanley O'Toole
Alexandra Rose
CinematographyDavid Eggby
Edited byPeter Burgess
Music byBasil Poledouris
Distributed byRoadshow Entertainment (Australia)[2]
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (United States and United Kingdom)[1]
Release dates
  • October 17, 1990 (1990-10-17)
(Hollywood premiere)
  • October 19, 1990 (1990-10-19)
  • June 13, 1991 (1991-06-13)
Running time
119 minutes
United States
Budget$18 million[3]
Box office$21.4 million

Plot edit

Matthew Quigley is an American cowboy with a specially modified rifle with which he can shoot accurately at extraordinary distances. Seeing a newspaper advertisement that asks for a man with his special talent, he answers 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 as they try to force "Crazy Cora" onto their wagon. After he identifies himself, he is taken to the station of Elliot Marston, who informs Quigley his sharpshooting skills will be used to eradicate the increasingly elusive Aboriginal Australians. Quigley turns down the offer and throws Marston out of his own house. When the Aboriginal manservant knocks Quigley over the head, 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 Aboriginal Australians.

Cora now reveals that she comes from Texas. When her home was attacked by Comanches, she hid in the root 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 Aboriginal Australians who helped them, Quigley kills three. Escaping on a single horse, they encounter more of the men driving Aboriginal Australians over a cliff. Quigley drives them off with his deadly shooting and Cora rescues an orphaned baby she finds among the dead. 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 learns as well that he has become a legendary hero among the Aboriginal Australians.

Marston's men are also in town and recognize Quigley's saddle. 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 Quigley will be following. But first Quigley returns to Cora and the baby, which she has just saved from an attack by dingoes. She had tried to stop that child from crying too, but finally let him make as much noise as he liked as she killed the animals using a revolver that Quigley had left for her. Back in town, Cora gives the baby to Aboriginal Australians trading there after Quigley tells her that she (Cora) has a right to happiness.

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. However, Marston and his men are beaten to the draw by Quigley; as Marston lies dying, Quigley refers to an earlier conversation, telling him, "I said I never had much use for one [a revolver]; never said I didn't know how to use it."

Marston's servant comes out of the house and gives Quigley his rifle back. The servant then walks away from the ranch, stripping off his western-style clothing as he goes. An army troop now arrives to arrest Quigley, until they notice the surrounding hills are lined with Aboriginal Australians and decide to withdraw. Later Quigley and Cora book a passage back to America in the name of 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 could make love to her. Smiling broadly, she calls him "Matthew Quigley" and the two embrace.

Cast edit

Production edit

Development edit

John Hill first began writing Quigley Down Under in 1974. He was inspired by a Los Angeles Times article about the genocide of the aborigines in 19th-century Australia. Although Westerns were in decline in the 1970s, Hill said that the script "opened a lot of doors for me," and led to other assignments.[4]

The script was first optioned in 1979 by producer Mort Engelberg for Steve McQueen, with whom he teamed on The Hunter; however McQueen died of cancer shortly after completing The Hunter. The script was bought by CBS Theatrical Films where it was attached to director Rick Rosenthal. It then went to Warner Bros with Tom Selleck to star and Lewis Gilbert to direct around 1987. Warner Bros had the script for three years but then dropped their option. The script then became the subject of bidding between Pathe Entertainment, Disney and Warner Bros. It sold to Pathé for $250,000 which Hill said "is pretty good, when you consider that for 15 years I'd been making money optioning and rewriting that screenplay."[4]

Pathé's then head of production, Alan Ladd Jr., agreed to commit a $20 million budget. Selleck agreed to star and the director was an Australian, Simon Wincer.[5]

Wincer 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.[6]

Shooting edit

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.[7] The rifle used for filming was a replica manufactured for the film by the Shiloh Rifle Manufacturing Company of Big Timber, Montana.[8] In 2002 Selleck donated the rifle, along with six other firearms from his other films, to the "Real Guns of Reel Heroes" exhibit at the National Firearms Museum in Fairfax, Virginia.[9]

The film was shot entirely in Australia. Scenes were filmed in and around Warrnambool and Apollo Bay, Victoria.[10]

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.[11]

Reception edit

Critical responses were mixed, with Quigley having a 52% rating on Rotten Tomatoes from 21 reviews.[12] Roger Ebert of The Chicago Sun-Times gave the film two-and-a-half out of four stars, writing it was a well-made but formulaic neo-western. He particularly praised the performances of Rickman and San Giacomo, saying "[T]his may be the movie that proves her staying power."[13]

The film, however, was not a financial success in theaters, roughly recouping its budget.

The film, and, more specifically, the protagonist's skill with his rifle, has led snipers to refer to the act of killing two targets with a single bullet as "a Quigley".[14]

Awards and nominations edit

Award Category Subject Result
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
Frank Lipson Won
Political Film Society Award Human Rights Nominated

See also edit

References edit

  1. ^ a b "AFI|Catalog".
  2. ^ "Quigley Down Under (35mm)". Australian Classification Board. Retrieved 22 October 2021.
  3. ^ Greg Kerr, "Quigley", Australian Film 1978-1992, Oxford Uni Press, 1993 p323
  4. ^ a b Pat H. Broeske (19 October 1990). "A Long, Dusty Trail for Selleck and Aussie Western : Movies: John Hill's script for 'Quigley Down Under' endured a 15-year journey before hitting the big screen". Los Angeles Times. p. 12. Archived from the original on 12 March 2024.
  5. ^ Persico Newhouse, Joyce J. "'Perfect Hero' Selleck Takes Aim at Action". Times Union. 18 October 1990.
  6. ^ Scott Murray, "Simon Wincer: Trusting His Instincts", Cinema Papers, November 1989 pp. 6–12, 78
  7. ^ Sharp, Eric. "Shooting Star – Antique Black-Powder Rifle Still Scene-Stealer". Detroit Free Press. 18 June 2006.
  8. ^ Names and Faces: "On Target". Orlando Sentinel. 6 August 1989.
  9. ^ "Tom Selleck Donates Seven Guns To NRA National Firearms Museum". National Rifle Association of America. Archived from the original on 26 February 2007.
  10. ^ "Quigley Down Under | Filmed Here | Film Locations Victoria, Australia". Film - Great South Coast. Film Victoria. Archived from the original on 20 February 2011.
  11. ^ AHA Film website Archived 22 July 2011 at the Wayback Machine
  12. ^ Quigley Down Under at Rotten Tomatoes
  13. ^ "Quigley Down Under". Chicago Sun-Times.
  14. ^ Harnden, Toby (13 March 2011). "Dead Men Risen: The snipers' story". The Daily Telegraph. London. Archived from the original on 14 March 2011.

External links edit