The ’80s Sci-Fi Crime Thriller Gem Being Totally Forgotten Needs Rediscovery And Restoration

By Jason Collins | Published

The transition to digital media and streaming, alongside the abolishment of physical media, are rising topics in online communities, and this has intensified since Sony removed thousands of TV shows and movies from its media service. The removal incited plenty of debate regarding the concept of purchasing digital media, the importance of physical copies, and the ongoing importance of preserving media. In today’s discussion, we want to turn your attention to 1981’s Outlander, yet another ’80s Sci-Fi gem that needs rediscovery and restoration.

Outland Needs Saving

Outland is described as a space Western set on Jupiter’s moon Io, where humans are mining titanium. The story follows Federal Marshal William T. O’Neil—portrayed as Sean Connery—as he investigates the death of miners who were given illegal narcotics designed to boost their productivity. As his investigation progresses, he becomes the target of hired assassins sent by the company running the mining colony. Tensions build up as O’Neil faces off against corruption and danger in a gripping space thriller.

A Forgotten Sean Connery Film

The movie received mixed reviews and box office reception upon release, but it managed to gain a small cult following in the years since its release. Sadly, Outland is not available on streaming and apparently not a strong contender for a 4K remaster or a physical release akin to a Collector’s Edition. Instead, the digitalized version of the original 1981 movie is only available on Video-On-Demand on AppleTV. And despite a rather accessible price tag, its absence from streaming services underscores the importance of media preservation.

Outland Reception Was Mixed

It’s important to understand that Outland was a strange movie for its time. Some loved it, others didn’t, and the poor initial performance stemmed from the fact that the movie didn’t fare well in many cities in the US despite being a massive sensation in Los Angeles and on New York’s East Side. The critics were split as well, with some calling it a cheap knock-off of 1952’s High Noon but in space, while others called it a brilliant sci-fi Western that’s scarier than 1979’s Alien because its monsters are those in the next space suit.

A Sitcom Standout

Outland was directed by Peter Hyams, best known for directing the 1977 conspiracy thriller film Capricorn One, the 1984 science fiction film 2010: The Year We Make Contact (a sequel to Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey), several movies starring Jean-Claude Van Damme, and a few horror movies. Besides Sean Connery, it also starred Peter Boyle and Frances Sternhagen—Boyle is best known for his Frank Barone portrayal on the CBS sitcom Everybody Loves Raymond.

Space Western

It’s a disheartening fact that one of the best space Westerns of the ’80s is now considered endangered content since it’s only available on Apple‘s service as Video-On-Demand. If the company decides to pull the plug on Outland, those interested in watching this absolute gem would have to navigate the uncharted waters of digital piracy. All because major companies decided that DVDs and Blu-Ray are no longer a thing.