Alien Outlaw Blu-ray Review: Happily Senseless Sci-fi Western

There’s an aspect of a movie like Alien Outlaw (1986) that is review-proof. It’s not trying to be “good”, in the sense that it exhibits cinematic excellence. If it’s coherent, competent, and makes some sense (and hopefully some cents) the filmmakers did their job. They made a movie.

A dunder-headed, even occasionally offensive movie. But it’s more than a lot of people who say they want to be in the movies do, so there’s that.

We start with a country song, and a flying saucer. It crashes (or lands forcefully), and the occupants begin to make life difficult for the locals. They start with Wes, the property manager for the greatest gunshow in the west, Jesse Jamison. He’s late bringing her equipment to town due to canoodling with a lady. Of course, he gets violently murdered by aliens for his transgression.

The aliens continue these murderous shenanigans throughout the film. But a surprising amount of time is taken up by the trials and tribulation of Jesse, and her unreliable business partners. She’s the best shot in the West, and in proper exploitation movie fashion, does her shooting in as little clothing as possible. In her case, it’s some deer skins and fringe over a bikini-bottom. We get copious shots of her bare legs and barely covered rear. And we have endless “comic” scenes about her business problems.

Eventually, she gets to the countryside to fire Wes, but not after spending the weekend with his uncle. He’s played by minor B movie star, Lash La Rue. In the ’40s and ‘50s, Lash starred in a number of B westerns, and was a real-life master of the bull whip. The whip doesn’t come out in this movie, but some of his old-school charisma does as he dutifully moves through this semi-sensical story.

Why are the aliens here? To shoot people, apparently. And to ravish the local females, which leads to the more distasteful of the film’s two scenes of nudity.

How do you judge a movie like this? It sets a bunch of mostly local actors into a bunch of silly scenarios and does so rather competently. Kari Anderson, who plays Jesse Jamison, is attractive and while not a great actress is both competent and game for a lot of ridiculous action (and costuming.) The aliens look ridiculous, and nobody cares. There’s shooting and slapstick. There’s a big fat man who complains a lot in a southern accent. It’s a regional movie.

It was directed by Phil Smoot, a North Carolina director with a few movies to his name. This and The Dark Power were his claims to fame, both horror comedies that never take themselves too seriously. While neither are particularly horrifying or funny, they have the bonus of feeling particular. They belong to a time, and a region, and whatever their faults are they’re not generic Hollywood low budget nonsense. They’re local nonsense.

And it has probably never looked nearly this good before. Filmed on 16mm, this Blu-ray comes from a 4K restoration sourced from the original negative. Being blown-up 16mm, it’s pretty grainy, but the images are fine. Alien Outlaw is better shot than a lot of similarly budgeted films. The cinematographer, Paul Hughen, went on to a respectable Hollywood career, mainly shooting second unit but also recently being DP on a couple of episodes of The Mandalorian.

Alien Outlaw can’t be called good, but it does what it sets out to do. I’ve seen infinitely worse cinema. The comedy often falls flat, but it’s too silly to feel mad about. This is the kind of movie you make fun of with your friends, but it’s too good-naturedly made to hate.

Alien Outlaw has been released on Blu-ray by Kino Lorber, on their new imprint Kino Cult. There are two commentaries on the disc, one by director Phil Smoot, another featuring editor Sherwood Jones, and actors Stephen Winegard and Kimberly Maudlin.

New Video extras include made “They Came From the Swamps” (23 min), a retrospective documentary featuring director Smoot and much of the cast and “Interview with Editor Sherwood Jones” (9 min). Archival extras include a News Conference (6 min), a press conference with director Phil Smoot, Lash La Rue and others involved in the film; “Behind the Scenes” (5 min), raw footage from the shoot; and Archival Interviews (13 min), archival interviews with Lash La Rue and Kimberly Mauldin; and “Home Movie” (5 min) an EPK for the film.

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Kent Conrad

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