An American-financed production, with three key imported actors (Tom Selleck, Laura San Giacomo, Alan Rickman).
The film was shot, and mainly post-produced in Australia, including sound post and lab work.The music track was the major exception, with US composer Basil Poledouris recording his score at Columbia Studios, Culver City.
While the film has an American screenplay credit, and an American production company, production services were contracted to Roadshow’s new production company, located in its new Gold Coast studios. Roadshow’s then head of production Stanley O’Toole picked up a co-producer credit. The film had an Australian director, and other HODs were Australian, the rest of the large cast and most of the crew were Australian, and it may be counted as an Australian production designed and manufactured in Australia in a way primarily designed to make it acceptable as a down under western for the US market.
Production company: Pathe Entertainment presents; tail credit copyrights to Pathe Entertainment, Inc.; production services by Warner-Roadshow Studios, Gold Coast, Queensland
Budget: A$16 million (Cinema Papers, November 1989); A$18 million (Cinema Papers, August 1991 - this reviewer said that the budget for the outback station replica built near Ross River in the NT cost some $1 million).
Locations: End credit reads “Filmed on location at Alice Springs, Northern Territory Warrnambool, Apollo Bay and Melbourne, Victoria, Australia."
Ross River homestead is thanked in the end credits, as is the Flagstaff Hill Maritime Museum. This Warrnambool museum appears, perhaps with glass work for the backdrops, in the opening and closing sequences. It has a web site here.
Hardy American tourists still head out Ross River/Alice Springs way to discover the landscapes featured in the movie. Ross River Resort has a website here.
Cinema Papers, November 1989 suggests some filming was also planned for the Port Melbourne Studios.
Filmed: the film was reported to have started shooting in October 1989 (Daily Telegraph Mirror, 18th October 1990); the film is listed as being in production in the Cinema Papers, November 1989 production survey.
Australian distributor: Greater Union (MGM worldwide)
Theatrical release: 13th June 1991 in key cities, including Sydney and Melbourne - the film was released much earlier in the United States, in October 1990, and when it arrived in Australia, its main title had been reduced to Quigley, though Murray’s Australian Film reported that Quigley Down Under remained the title on view at the end of the tail credits.
Video release: Premiere
Rating: M (PG-13 in the US, a more sensible classification)
Filmed in Panavision
Spectral Recording Dolby Stereo ST in selected theatres.
Running time: 119 mins (Murray’s Australian Film, Cinema Papers, The New York Times); 120 mins (Chicago Tribune, Roger Ebert)
DVD time: 1’55’04 (including animated MGM logos)
Blu-ray time: 1’59”54 (including animated MGM logos)
For some reason, Quigley Down Under didn’t score a listing in the Film Victoria report on Australian box office returns, presumably on the basis that it’s an American film, when in reality this is a largely Australian effort, filmed and even mostly post-produced in Australia.
The failure to list the film might also have been a discreet attempt to avoid mentioning the film was a box office turkey in Australia.
It did better in its real target market, the United States, scoring a modest total domestic gross of $21,413,105, according to Box Office Mojo here.
This isn’t much for a film with one of the largest budgets ever for this kind of US/Australian hyrid, and one that opened wide in the US on 19th October 1990, with MGM pushing it along.
The opening weekend in 996 theatres produced $3,853,149, with a screen average of $3,868, but that was 18% of total gross and the film only lasted seven weekends.
However to be fair, the film was caught up for a time in studio ownership changes and sat on the shelf before being release.
Because MGM ended up with the film, it also toured Europe and Asian markets, and while fondly received by some western and Tom Selleck enthusiasts, it was mainly received as a run of the mill oater with a down under twist.
The film was ignored at the AFI Awards, presumably on the basis of its American finance. Otherwise David Eggby’s cinematography would surely have been nominated. Ross Major's design is also notable, as is Adrian Carr's editing.
Alan Rickman won the British Actor of the Year award at the London Critics Circle Film Awards in 1992, and Quigley is sometimes lumped in as part of this achievement, along with Close My Eyes, Truly Madly Deeply and Robin Hood Prince of Thieves.
Tim Chau, Frank Lipson, Martin Oswin and Gavin Myers won a Golden Reel Award at the 1991 Motion Picture Sound Editors Awards for their work.
The film was also nominated in the Human Rights category on the 1991 Political Film Society awards, presumably on the basis of the film’s treatment of its Aboriginal massacre/ potentially stolen child themes.
The good thing about an Ozwestern like Quigley Down Under, designed for the US market and distributed by MGM, is that there’s no availability problem.
The movie started on VHS, moved to laserdisc, turned up on a variety of properly framed DVD editions, scored a Blu-ray release, and can be found on streaming services. The high def versions are fine - only pedants would get agitated about the grain, which is a sign it was shot on film. There are some dodgy moments on the high def versions, with the opticals noticeable, but nothing impedes the pleasure of watching DOP David Eggby's cinematography.
Most releases only went as far as a trailer for extras, though a few releases had a documentary "The Rebirth of the Western," which is apparently about the general revival of westerns rather than a study of Quigley.
In the usual way, the American digital releases boast subtitles in a variety of languages - the English ones are excellent. It's a pity this feature isn't common on vintage Australian releases.
The film, for domestic audiences at least, is risible in many places, from Crazy Cora talking of 'roos as koala bears to the Zulu-like array of Aborigines up on the ridges at the climax.
Basil Poledouris’s music glazes the entire show with the sound of a western; director Simon Wincer shoots it as a western, with much fetishistic attention to bootware, guns, and a reliance on high wide shots.
It was filmed in great-looking country, and director Wincer, DOP Eggby and the movie do the first duty of a western, which is to capture figures against a great-looking landscape.
The plotting and the characters are another matter. Perhaps the juiciest nonsense comes with the mystical Aboriginal redemption of the near dead Quigley and Crazy Cora, and then Cora taking time out to explain how she smothered her baby in fear of Indians. As a result, it seems her husband put her on the first boat to Australia - not the most logical or economical way to sort out a domestic dispute.
Then there’s decision to split up, with Cora staying back with her new nuclear family bub, and Quigley riding off to get more bullets, a manoeuvre certain to lead to tears. Inevitably dingoes turn up and do an Evil Angels with the bub, while Quigley manages to get a small town burned to the ground and the wife of the storekeeper shot dead.
The silliness keeps compounding, without ever quite reaching high camp status, but it does keep moving along in an entertaining way.
Unfortunately, there's far too little of Alan Rickman but when he does turn up he’s an unusually inept baddie. Why send Quigley and Cora off into the bush to let the Australian desert do its work? Why not just plug them and drop them in the well?
Critic Roger Ebert in his review of the film decided that Rickman's character suffered from the FTK fallacy …the fallacy of the talking killer … blathering on when he’s got the goodie dead to rights.
But actually it’s worse than that. As Ebert noted, Rickman’s got Tom plumb snookered … so he hands him his short gun, thinking Tom won’t be up to up to much in a short arm fight.
Well that’s plumb loco crazy, about as sensible as Tom giving up his chance to take a long shot at Rickman. Instead Tom prefers to do a Quigley and take out two of Rickman’s sidekicks with a single shot.
So the show builds to what Ebert calls some kind of dumb test of manhood which Rickman is destined to fail - with Wincer failing to give Tony Bonner and Ben Mendelsohn a decent final moment in the sun or in front of the camera.
There’s the usual serving of exotic Australian flora and fauna, from ‘roos to marauding dingoes after the baby to an obligatory eating of witchetty grubs, and as mentioned there's a massed flock of blacks doing an Injun - or is it Zulu? - routine, the distinguishing feature in this scene being that one Aborigine cocks his leg in “timeless land” Walkabout style. (it should also be noted that Cora’s grub turns from a moving thing to a static prop before it slides into her mouth).
For many this will be all part of the Ozoater genre, and no harm done, but it could have been better.
Selleck is entirely amiable and engaging, and Laura San Giacomo does her best to make Crazy Cora likeable despite the many burdens imposed on her by the script and direction - crazy women were very fashionable in the 1980s, but Cora often sounds like she's wandered in from a Robert Altman movie.
It's also a pity it’s such a two hander, pandering to its US leads, and that no one else gets much of a look in. It's perverse really given the way Rickman electrified the role of baddie in Die Hard only a few years earlier that more wasn't found for him to do, and the Australian cast suffers a worse fate.
Apart from Chris Haywood bunging on a silly turn as a pompous monocoled fly-whisking British major, few of the other locals get a look in (apart from a laboured turn by Ron Haddrick as a helpful Austrian/German store keeper).
Ben Mendelsohn isn’t given a chance to shine as the gun crazy kid, and the others are just fodder for Tom’s gun work. In a good western, the baddies are given a moment before they head off to their maker - think Claude Akins and his small team in Budd Boetticher’s Comanche Station and their musing on being baddies, and the fate of Dobie, who never gets a chance to ride a ways with Randolph Scott.
Here it’s Stephen Dobbs who’s given the chance to throw off all his clothes and head back to his tribe, but the misuse of Aborigines this way only reminds viewers that they’re not Indians.
There’s a serious issue involved in the very real “pacification by force” of Australian Aborigines shown in the film and deployed against Aboriginal people in Australia in the nineteenth century, along with the issue of stolen children - Cora resists the temptation, but the result sounds more like 1980s liberal notions than anything remotely like nineteenth century history.
That's why the massed show of Aboriginal force at the end (which disappears as mysteriously as it arrives) - while it might work as a rhetorical gesture for American audiences - will strike an Australian audience as preposterous. It’s part of the bloated up-sizing of the movie and its themes, designed to make it a big movie about a big country ... but the strand of American gun fetishism never quite comes together with the Aboriginal genocide strand and the Australian setting.
What’s left then are the grand images, and the playing of the leads, especially the engaging Selleck, and the 'taking of the shot' genre, which has its moments, and for many American, and some Australian viewers, that’s possibly more than enough.
(Note: the illustrative stills on this site have been taken from a high definition version, but the contrast has been tweaked to reveal cast and detail. The stills don't reflect the original atmospheric images - for that the film should be watched).
Like many US properties, the idea kicked around the American studio system for a considerable time, with a number of names attached.
John Hill was a full-time professional Hollywood TV and screenwriter, from 1974-1999. His credits include Griffin and Phoenix (1976), Heartbeeps (1981), co-writer of Little Nikita (1988) and Quigley Down Under, (1990). He has worked on staff as a writer-type producer on Quantum Leap and on L.A. Law, where he won an Emmy in 1991. He now teaches writing and filmmaking at the University of Nevada in Las Vegas, where he lives with his wife Nancy.
Director Simon Wincer claimed that he went back to the original Hill screenplay with regular collaborator Ian Jones, ignored subsequent studio "committee" drafts, changed the period to earlier in Australian’s colonial history (from the 1880s back to the 1860s - though the Shiloh Sharps long range rifle dates to 1874) and removed some of the local colour, such as koalas chained to guy’ shoulders.
For more on the film’s development path, see the Cinema Papers' interview by Scott Murray with Simon Wincer below, and a story in the Daily Telegraph Mirror, available as a jpg in this site's photo gallery.
The three key leads were US imports, whom Actors Equity allowed in because of the American finance behind the production (UAA had originally attempted to finance the film under 10BA in 1986 with Selleck attached).
Warren Mitchell was at one point slated to play the role of storekeeper Grimmelman, played by Ron Haddrick (wiki here).
A number of credentialed Australian actors play minor roles, but are largely under-used. They include Chris Haywood (wiki here) as a pompous British officer, and Tony Bonner as chief Marston sidekick (wiki here), along with Jerome "Weekend with Kate" Ehlers, Conor McDermottroe, Roger "Mad Max" Ward and Ben Mendelsohn (wiki here) as sidekicks to Alan Rickman’s Aborigine-hating station owner Marston.
The main use of the Aboriginal cast involves ersatz Last Wave mysticism, as when they magically bring back Quigley and Crazy Cora from near death, or appear en masse to pose, Zulu-style, on mountain ridges against the horizon.
Karen Davitt and Kylie Foster share very few lines playing a couple of slatterns.
American composer Basil Poledouris did the score. He also worked with director Simon Wincer on the 8 hour western miniseries Lonesome Dove, and did Crocodile Dundee in Los Angeles with Wincer.
Poledouris had early contact with the Australian industry via Randal Kleiser’s The Blue Lagoon, which had involved some Australian crew and director Richard “Patrick” Franklin. Poledouris has a wiki listing here.
For more details of the score - Poledouris’s music has been released in several CD editions - see this site’s pdf of music credits. Laura San Giacomo briefly sings a few lines from Shall We Gather at the River but this doesn't seem to have made it into the CD releases.
4. Date and Title:
Murray's 1995 survey Australian Film dates the film to 1991, but this is mis-leading. It was shot in late 1989, and was completed in 1990 and released that year in the United States. It also carries a copyright date for 1990. Dating the film to its Australian theatrical release is inaccurate and inappropriate.
For reasons not quite clear, after the October 1990 release in the United States, the film was released in Australia the next year shorn of "Down Under" in the title, so it became plain "Quigley" (except, according to Murray's 1995 Australian Film, the end credits still contained the full US title). Perhaps "Down Under" was redeemed a redundant selling point down under - but it didn't matter, as the film rapidly disappeared from the down under theatrical circuit.
5. Interview with director Simon Wincer:
Simon Wincer was interviewed at length in Cinema Papers, November 1989 by Scott Murray. The interview also covered the US western miniseries Lonesome Dove, and the troubles Wincer’s film The Lighthorsemen had in the United States.
This is the first section, which looked at Quigley, then in pre-production, under the header Simon Wincer Trusting His Instincts:
Simon Wincer is one of Australia’s finest directors, though he has rarely been given his proper due at home. Perhaps it is that his skills are too unobtrusive or are mistakenly seen as too conventionally mainstream. Wincer’s greatest ability is to simply and effectively tell stories, always heightening the tale, never getting in its way. Many actors have given their finest performances under his direction, and when the emotional strings of an audience are meant to be tugged, they invariably are. It is for these reasons that his recent American mini-series, Lonesome Dove, has received unstinted praise in the U.S. and a record 18 Emmy nominations. Wincer is currently back in Australia filming Quigley Down Under, a $16 million production for Pathe Entertainment. Starring Tom Selleck and Laura San Giacomo, this 1860s adventure-romance is being filmed near Alice Springs, at the Port Melbourne Studios and on the Warrnambool coast. Wincer was interviewed at his Yarra Valley property by Scott Murray, during pre-production:
Simon Wincer: Quigley Down Under is the story of Mathew Quigley, a rather trouble-prone cowboy with a fabulous long-range rifle. He arrives in colonial Australia to face two problems: Crazy Cora, who thinks he’s her husband, and a ruthless landowner, who wants him to kill Aborigines. Quigley wants nothing to do with either, but ends up involved with both, ultimately becoming an unlikely legend.
Scott Murray: Apparently the screenplay had been around for some time.
Wincer: Yes. It was originally written for Clint Eastwood, who had it for a long time at Warners. About four years ago, Tom Selleck heard of it and UAA got involved. They tried putting it together for Warner Bros, and I think CBS Films, with Lewis Gilbert as director. But it fell over during pre-production. By this stage, the script had gone through many drafts, all written by people not associated with Australia. You could see how committees had completely ruined it with re-writes. I didn’t know much about that period of Australian history, so I gave it to Ian Jones. And it was Jonesy who said, “Actually, there’s a bloody good story here.” I then took it on, but only on the condition we could make the thing accurately Australian, as opposed to being an American western superimposed on Australia. Ian Jones and I then went back to the original draft and literally started again. We changed the period and took out a little of the ‘local’ colour, such as koalas chained to guys’ shoulders.
Murray: Why have you changed the period?
Wincer: It was set in the 1880s and we’ve taken it back to the 1860s. It deals with things like the convict era and redcoats that couldn’t have happened as originally portrayed in the script. We’ve made it historically accurate - not that it’s a history lesson.
Murray: Who have you cast so far?
Wincer: Tom Selleck is Quigley and Crazy Cora is being played by a sensational actress, Laura San Giacomo from Sex, Lies and Videotape.
Crazy Cora is one of the better roles written for a woman, and Laura could actually walk away with the film. That’s not demeaning Tom, it’s just that hers is such a good role.
Cora’s kind of in and out of sanity the entire film, right until the very end. She and Quigley start off on the wrong foot and their relationship goes from bad to worse. They never really become close until well into the picture, which is nice.
The ruthless landowner is being played by Alan Rickman, a terrific actor who was the baddie in Die Hard. Of course, it’s all subject to Equity approval. But because it’s American finance and quite a large Australian cast, I think we’ll get it through.
There’s a terrific part for a young kid, and I’m really pleased we were able to get Ben Mendelsohn, who has the potential to go a long way. We also have Warren Mitchell, who is playing a wonderful German character (Ron Haddrick ended up playing this role), and Evelyn Krape. I don’t think Evelyn’s done anything in a mainstream movie before, but she is a terrific actress.
Murray: You are doing Quigley Down Under for the newly formed Pathe Corporation.
Wincer: Yes. Pathe was formed by Giancarlo Paretti and swallowed up the French company, Pathe Pictures, the Cannon Group and several other smaller companies. It has become a major studio overnight and is headed by Alan Ladd Jnr. When he was at Fox, Laddy was the one who kept giving George Lucas the money to finish Star Wars and the one who financed Chariots of Fire. But he’d left Fox by the time Chariots was due to be distributed and, when Fox decided not to handle it, he picked it up for the Ladd Company. The rest is history and it went on to win the Best Picture Oscar.
Laddy has been around a lot of interesting movies, including Willow, Moonstruck, Norma Rae, A Fish Called Wanda, The Right Stuff and the original Police Academy. He’s a very good operator, very quiet and not your typical American studio chief. He’s very approachable and a real film buff. It was really Laddy’s persistence that got me to look at the script of Quigley in the first place.
Murray: Pathe is also doing Fred Schepisi’s The Russia House.
Wincer: Yes, and possibly a new film with Gillian Armstrong. Pathe has announced it is going to make 10 movies a year. The head of Creative Affairs is Rebecca Pollock, a daughter of director Sidney Pollock. Although I haven’t met Sidney, I call him “my stringer photographer”. I rang and asked him to take some photo graphs of western artifacts he has in his log cabin in Utah, which I needed for research on Quigley. I am now having conversations with him about his credit on the movie!
Murray: Who is shooting Quigley?
Wincer: David Eggby, who I used to work with at Crawfords. He has made a bit of a name for himself in the States with Warlock, which is a terrific looking film, and his second-unit work on Predator. Ross Berriman is shooting second unit, which Adrian Carr, who is the editor, is directing. As everyone goes up in the business, it’s hard to keep the old team together.
Murray: Are you returning to the anamorphic format of The Lighthorsemen.
Wincer: Yes. But because the video market is so important in America, I have agreed to block all the scenes for 1.85:1, which you can usually squeeze onto television. I will only really use the anamorphic format for landscapes.
Murray: It must be quite challenging switching back and forth from anamorphic to the near square television frame of Lonesome Dove.
Wincer: I suppose it is, but because I started in television I’m used to it. The biggest challenge, actually, is how wide you can make your wide shots. In television, you always seem to do them two-tenths wider than they should be. You can never shoot too tightly on television and you become quite adept at squeezing a lot into a frame. The beauty of the wide screen is just being able to use the full amount. I went and saw Lawrence of Arabia again a couple of weeks ago in Los Angeles with Ian Jones, and we just drooled. Lean just used every corner of the frame. There were scenes where the camera didn’t move, but he was able to use the format to move people around. No one does that now, which is a pity.
Murray: Probably because of the video market.
Wincer: Yes. If you look at Lawrence on video, you’ll see it has been bastardized by panning and scanning. Cripes, it’s awful.
Murray: Having worked in Australia and America, have you found many differences with crews?
Wincer: Actually, they’re very similar. The main difference is not so much in the crewing but the back-up. In America, they anticipate every possible occurrence: what happens if the set blows over, or if there’s a plane strike, or if we can’t get to location. On D.A.R.Y.L., for instance, we were relying on the Airforce for a particular location and at the last minute they withdrew their co-operation - they didn’t agree with the approach the film was taking. This is the scene where the kid steals the SR71 spy plane. Lockheed still wanted us to use the plane, but we suddenly didn’t have an airport. So overnight the art department created a set at the back of Orlando Airport. They chartered 15 helicopters, spray painted them and brought in old B52s and lots of trucks and things. It was fantastic, and ended up looking better than the location we had planned to use. That’s where they’re so good.
Crew-wise, I think they are pretty similar the world over. They dress the same, tell the same jokes and drink the same beer. But maybe American crews are just a little more professional in their approach. People specialize more, and are proud of their particular niche. They also take the trouble to go see your last movie before they work with you. With crews in Australia, you get the sense they are doing it more as a way of making a living. In America, they do it more because they love being part of the movies. They’ve usually seen everything that’s showing and you can have a good conversation about a particular film with almost any crew member. I regard it as part of my job to go to the movies two or three times a week to see what else is happening. People here tend not to do that as much.
Murray: Perhaps one of the reasons there’s so little crew specialization in Australia is that everyone is concentrating on moving to the next rung up the ladder.
Wincer: I guess that’s because the industry is still relatively young. You and I fit into that same category. I started as a mail boy at the ABC and worked my way up. You began as a film critic and now you’re a director. Everyone has their ambitions. But, yes, there isn’t that willingness here to specialize, to become the best focus puller or the best camera operator. There are guys in America I know who could be cinematographers but enjoy operating too much to take the step. They feel they can contribute just as much by perfecting what they do.
Murray: On Lonesome Dove, you worked a six-day week. How does it feel coming back to Australia and the five-day week?
Wincer: Well, America is a five-day week in the major cities like Los Angeles or New York. But as soon as you’re away on location it’s six days.
As a director, I certainly prefer a six-day week. Usually you are working in a place where you wouldn’t want to spend two days off. You also get a terrific momentum going and on Sunday you just want to collapse and recover.
The biggest difference in America is the twelve-hour shooting day instead of our ten. And they don’t have tea breaks, but something much better called craft service. There’s a guy who keeps tea and coffee and little snacks on the go all the time. So people just grab a cup of coffee when there’s a pause to do a set-up or the director’s rehearsing the cast. It’s much more effective.
In the States, you have six hours without a break, then a meal break of only thirty minutes, timed from the last person to get his dinner, and then six more hours straight. It’s a very concentrated working day, but it’s more satisfactory than the stop-start you get in Australia.
On television over there, they shoot each day until they finish the schedule. The deadlines in episodic television are so tight they just can’t afford to get behind schedule. Sigrid Thornton recently told me how gruelling it is, particularly on a Friday, which is usually the last day of an episode. Sometimes they’re on stage for as long as 14 or 15 hours, which is very unfair on the cast. A 12-hour day is probably long enough for anybody.
Murray: What’s your reaction to the present state o f the Australian film industry?
Wincer: Our film industry is virtually non-existent. Hopefully it will get back to the situation where the projects that get made are those where the people involved really have a passion for their project. It was not all that hard to get finance for a movie three years ago, and too many films got made for our limited resources.
I must say, though, I have been quite removed from things since The Lighthorsemen, and it’s hard for me to be objective. But I have no doubt good scripts will always get made. There’s a universal shortage of them, not just in Australia. I get sent hundreds of the bloody things and most of them you go, “So what!” When a Lonesome Dove comes along, it’s joyous.
Murray: Do you worry that we might become little more than a service industry to the Americans.
Wincer: I just hope that what happened in England doesn’t occur here. In the late 1960s and early 70s, English people suddenly found themselves working solely for Americans. Today the English industry is virtually non existent. We are probably making more indigenous movies than they are in England. It’s all very well to make Mission Impossible here, especially from the technicians’ and actors’ point of view, but it doesn’t advance our industry at all. What happened with New World and Dino de Laurentiis makes me very angry: how they managed to come out here and con investors into buying shares. That was just appalling. But the thing that makes me disappointed is that I’m one of a handful of local filmmakers to have worked extensively both here and in the States. Yet not once have I ever been asked to give an opinion on the industry by organized bodies like the Film Commission or the Film School. It seems strange that the people deciding the course of the film industry don’t contact people like myself. As for some of the so-called experts that I believe are giving lectures at the Film School, that just amazes me. I’m not after a job lecturing at the Film School, but if I were asked to give a class, and I had the time, that is the sort of thing I’d enjoy doing. Phar Lap, Snowy River and The Lighthorsemen are Australian movies that all had major distribution in the U.S. and I could probably talk as knowledgeably about distribution there as any Australian filmmaker.
As for television, I don ’t think there’s anyone locally who would have my experience with American networks. Lonesome Dove is the Australia. fourth network television show I’ve done. I would happily tell people about the politics of network television and what’s expected of you. I know some of the problems.
Having revealed not very much about Wincer’s plans for Quigley, the discussion then turned to Lonesome Dove and the re-cutting of The Lighthorsemen for the US market and its commercial failure there.
6. The rifle:
The film was an early example - for Australia at least - of the “taking the long shot” mythology, about long range shooting with a long arm.
The 1874 Sharps also turns up in the Coen Brothers 2010 True Grit, but back in the 1972 Joe Kidd Clint Eastwood had shown how to sharp shoot, in his sniper-style duel with James Wainwright, using a custom Canadian Ross Model 1910 with scope (loser Wainweright favours a Remington-Keene Frontier).
Military-themed movies are another favourite part of the genre, including Saving Private Ryan, The Hurt Locker, Enemy at the Gates, Smokin’ Aces, American Sniper, and cult favourite Mark Wahlberg in the 2007 Shooter, using amongst other weapons, an M40A3 sniper rifle.
There are many other examples, but Quigley Down Under holds its own in this fetishist “long shot” company as a relatively rare example in an Australian context, though purists might be upset that the climax doesn’t conform to later genre rules, which stipulate that the drama should be resolved by a final ultimate “taking of the shot.”
Instead Quigley resolves the drama by resorting to a short arm, and proves equally adept with that kind of gun.
The movie acknowledges the importance of the sound arriving after the bullet, with Alan Rickman’s villain demanding to know how long it takes for the sound to arrive (he’s told two or three seconds).
In the film’s dialogue, Quigley describes his weapon this way:
Marston (cooing): “The legendary Sharp!”
Quigley: “You know your weapons. It’s a lever-action breach loader. Usual barrel length’s 30 inches. This one has an extra four. It’s converted to use a special .45 calibre, 110 grain metal cartridge with a 540 grain paper-patched bullet (he passes a bullet to Marston). It’s fitted with double set triggers and a Vernier sight …(he pulls out the sight from a vest pocket and blows dust off it) … it’s marked up to 1200 yards. This ‘un shoots a mite further.”
Marston (sceptical, handing the bullet back): “An experimental weapon with experimental ammunition.”
Quigley (nodding): “You could call it that.”
Naturally Quigley repeatedly proves it's a successful experiment.
The Shiloh rifle company of Big Timber, Montana built three fully functioning rifles for the shoot.
Selleck kept the rifles after the shoot, and donated one of them to the NRA for a fundraising raffle. This rifle turned up at the James D. Julia auction house in 2008 and sold for $69,000 - its listing, at time of writing, was here (see this site’s photo gallery for both jpgs of the auction description of the rifle).
(Below: first part of the auction house description of the rifle - click on to enlarge)
Additionally, replicas of the gun have been made available in the US market place.
(Below: one supplier of replicas pitch for the film - no hot links, screen cap - click on to enlarge. Suppliers are easily googled for countries where purchase is valid).
There is also a Matthew Quigley Buffalo Rifle Match, held in Forsyth Montana (only 180 miles from the Big Timber home of the manufacturer).
The Quigley match competition has its own website here.
(Below: first page of the info flyer for the 2017 Quigley competition - click on to enlarge).
The movie also passed into military lore, as recorded in the UK Daily Telegraph here, involving British army snipers at work in Afghanistan, Serjeant Tom Potter and Rifleman Mark Osmond from the 4 Rifles, part of the Welsh Guards Battle group:
...Walkie-talkie messages revealed that the Taliban thought they were being hit from helicopters. The longest-range shot taken was when Potter killed an insurgent at 1,430 metres away. But the most celebrated shot of their tour was by Osmond at a range of just 196 metres.
On September 12th, a known Taliban commander appeared on the back of a motorcycle with a passenger riding pillion. There was a British patrol in the village of Gorup-e Shesh Kalay and under the rules of engagement, the walkie-talkie the Taliban pair were carrying was designated a hostile act. As they drove off, Osmond fired warning shots with his pistol and then picked up his L96, the same weapon – serial number 0166 – he had used in Iraq and on the butt of which he had written, ‘I love u 0166’.
Taking deliberate aim, he fired a single shot. The bike tumbled and both men fell onto the road and lay there motionless. When the British patrol returned, they checked the men and confirmed they were both dead, with large holes through their heads.
The 7.62 mm bullet Osmond had fired had passed through the heads of both men. He had achieved the rare feat of ‘one shot, two kills’ known in the sniping business as ‘a Quigley’. The term comes from the 1990 film Quigley Down Under in which the hero, played by Tom Selleck, uses an old Sharps rifle to devastating effect.
In the film, Quigley prefers to take out the two sidekicks rather than the fully exposed Alan Rickman villain standing alongside them, perhaps not the most sensible military tactic.
The production was extremely concerned about perceptions regarding treatment of animals in the film and so the first tail credit is a single card saying no animals were harmed in the making of the film (see the pdf of tail credits on this site for the card).
There is some riding in the Snowy River house style down a precipitous slope, and in one sequence sidekick villain and horse tumble over a cliff to the ground below (the fate of the horse causing more concern for some than the massacre of Aborigines herded over the cliff).
The AHA, archived here, provided this information regarding the animal action, including the very obviously fake witchetty grubs:
Filmed entirely in Australia, animal action is varied and sometimes violent and intense. Horses are the main means of transportation but steers are also used to pull a wagon. Kangaroo are seen in The Outback in addition to a variety of livestock on Marston's ranch. In one scene Quigley and Cora must eat grub worms to survive. The worms that went into their mouths were made of dough.
When Quigley has gone for help, wild dingos attack Cora and she eventually shoots and kills them. This scene was performed by dingos that were trained in much the same way that dogs are trained. When they are seen fighting, they are actually playing and the sound track was enhanced in post production. Mud and stage blood were used as make-up for the dingos.
There is some rough action involving horses with numerous horse falls. Falling horses were not only trained, but were also experienced film horses. No horses were tripped, and none were injured. When a horse goes over a cliff it is not a real horse but a mechanical one.
Because no American Humane representative was present on the Australian locations all information regarding the staging of animal scenes was supplied by Alexandra Rose, producer of the film. Ms. Rose states that a veterinarian was on the set at all times when animals were used.
Village Roadshow’s new Gold Coast studio production company provided production services to the film, resulting in Stanley O’Toole receiving a co-producer credit. O’Toole has a wiki listing here.
The other co-producer was Alexandra Rose who later became an academic, and who was listed as a member of faculty here, with this short CV:
University of Wisconsin - Madison, Bachelor of Arts
L'institut D'Etudes Politiques, Diplome
Producer Alex Rose is well known in Hollywood for her stellar filmmaking background, which includes being nominated by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences for Best Picture, having produced the Academy Award winning film – NORMA RAE. Distinguished also for her many television and film production accomplishments, including five films in collaboration with director, Garry Marshall, her feature film credits comprise: critically-acclaimed FRANKIE AND JOHNNY, starring Al Pacino and Michelle Pfeiffer; OVERBOARD, starring Goldie Hawn and Kurt Russell; THE OTHER SISTER, starring Diane Keaton, Tom Skerritt, and Juliette Lewis, QUIGLEY DOWN UNDER, starring Tom Selleck, Laura San Giacomo, and Alan Rickman; the John Milius-directed BIG WEDNESDAY, starring Gary Busey, William Katt, and Jan-Michael Vincent; NOTHING IN COMMON, starring Tom Hanks and Jackie Gleason; EXIT TO EDEN, starring Dan Ackroyd and Rosie O’Donnell; I WANNA HOLD YOUR HAND, helmed by award-winning director, Robert Zemeckis; DRIVE-IN for Columbia Pictures, etc.
She produced three television pilots and series: JUST US KIDS, written by Nancy Meyers and Harvey Miller for CBS, NORMA RAE, starring Cassie Yates and Barry Corbin for NBC, and NOTHING IN COMMON, starring Bill Macy and Todd Waring for NBC.
Currently Chair of Industry Initiatives and Special Projects at the Dodge College of Film and Media Arts at Chapman University, Ms. Rose also has taught at U.C.L.A., U.S.C. and the American Film Institute, where she played a major role in the development of the producing program.
She has B.A. degrees from the University of Wisconsin, Madison, in both political science and French literature. She also earned a Certificat d’Etudes Politiques in the graduate program of the Institut D'Etudes Politiques, Sorbonne, Paris.
9. Synopsis, with dialogue, cast details and many spoilers:
During the head credits, a hand loads bullets into a belt, a figure gets dressed, and packs meagre personal possessions, including saddle and knife, and traces a route on a map from San Francisco to Australia …
A three master pulls into port as a title supers, Fremantle, Western Australia …
Matthew Quigley (Tom Selleck) prepares to disembark, but makes way for an elderly couple (Vic Gordon and Joanie Thomas), telling an oafish French Canadian (David Le Page) he should make way for them too …
A gun butt to the balls settles the French Canadian down …
On shore, Quigly wanders amongst convicts and their guards, and is harassed by hustlers, as a couple of slatterns (Karen Davvitt, Kylie Foster) watch Crazy Cora (Laura San Giacomo) assault a man, Hobb (Conor McDemottroe) … with Brophy (Roger Ward) unable to hold her, and a kick to the balls only enraging Hobb more …
Coogan (Jerome Ehlers) is about to punch Crazy Cora out when Quigley inserts his rifle into Coogan’s arm …
Crazy Cora rushes up to Quigley, saying “Roy, oh Roy, it’s you.”
Quigley notes Cora doesn’t want to get into the wagon, and Coogan explains the boss said they could take some white tarts back, 'cos they’re sick of black ladies …
Quigley jokes he’s new in the country, and asks if everyone is as butt ugly as these three men …
A fight erupts, and Quigley does well, until Crazy Cora tries to protect him from Hobb by swinging a paddle, and takes out Quigley …
Quigley tells Cora to stay out of out, and when she says “sorry Roy”, he tells her his name ain’t Roy, it’s Matthew Quigley.
That’s when Coogan realises he’s the fella Marston sent them to bring back …
Cut to Quigley on a wagon wondering if they’ve got something against riding horses in this country, and Coogan explaining that they ride ‘em when it suits. Bullocks eat and drink rougher. “You can put your saddle on one of them, if you like.”
Quigley: “Riding in the back with the women. Should have known to bring my own horse.”
Cora cackles, and he snaps he wasn’t talking to her. Cora reassures Roy that “everything’s gonna turn out just fine.”
Night, a camp in the bush.
Quigley’s rolling a cigarette as Coogan stitches up Brophy.
Cora tries to bandage Quigley’s head with a bandage torn from her petticoat, but Quigley isn’t having it.
They wrestle and Quigley tells her he don’t know no Roy, so she can just leave him alone. Good night, Crazy Cora tells Roy.
Next day, the wagon rolls through spectacular countryside, and comes across a party of Redcoats, led by “Mr Ashley Bloody Pitt (Chris Haywood as Major Ashley-Pitt) and his heroes …"
Guns are cocked as the Redcoats approach. The Redcoat sergeant Thomas (Jonathan Sweet) tells Coogan and his men they’re looking for two deserters …Coogan denies seeing them.
Ashley-Pitt spots the new slattern distractions and Quigley: “Yank hey? …Come to do for Marston what these bog Irish convicts obviously can’t …well you just do your job and stay out of trouble …In our experience, Americans are uncouth misfits who have been run out of their own barbaric country …”
Quigley: “Well Lieutenant.”
Quigley: “Major… we already run the misfits out of our country (spits on the earth) We sent ‘em back to England.”
The Irish convicts snigger, Ashley-Pitt signals his Redcoats on …
Cut to ‘roos hopping away.
Cora: “What are they, koala bears?”
Quigley: “Kangaroos, I reckon.”
Cora (laughing to see one lick his paw): “Well whatever they are Roy, nature sure played an awful trick on them.”
Quigley: “I am fed up with you. And I am fed up with Roy, whoever he is. My name is Matthew.”
Cora: “Well, pardon the hell outta me. I can’t believe you would talk to me like that, Roy. I oughta wash your mouth out with soap, if I had some …”
Quigley: “Lady, you are about a half a bubble off the plumb, and that’s for sure and for certain.”
Cora: “Just because the road is rocky doesn’t mean your spirits should get rocky too.”
Quigley: “When do we get to Marston’s ranch?”
Coogan: “Been on his bloody land for the last two days.”
The wagon keeps rolling, and we cut to another night camp.
There’s Aboriginal music and chanting and bird calls, as Quigley and Cora sit by a camp fire.
Cora: “Things seem different here. They say God made Australia last, don’t you know? After he got tired of making everything else the same …”
Quigley: “Well I’ve seen some pretty country, that’s for certain. What are you doing so far from home?”
Cora: “There hasn’t been anyone else but you. You know that, don’t you? You can take me if you want to, Roy…”
Quigley: “God Almighty, lady. Go to sleep!”
Quigley gets up and walks away, and we cut to the bullocks in motion next day.
Marston’s station hovers into view …
Marston and his men come out to the wagon.
Elliott Marston (Alan Rickman) welcomes Quigley to Australia.
Quigley: “Well sir, your men already welcomed me.”
Marston tells Coogan to take Quigley’s luggage to the lodge.
But Quigley puts his hand on his luggage: “Mr Marston, you said you’d pay me $50 in gold coin just for showing up.”
Marston: “You don’t waste much time.”
Quigley: “I spent three months on a boat just gettin’ here.”
Marston (handing over the $50 with a clink): “You intrigued me Mr Quigley. 21 men answered by advertisement, from all over the world. Canada, India, England. They just wrote letters. But you … had a way with words (he gets a slip of paper out of his pocket and unfolds it …we read “Wanted to Hire The Best Long-distance Marksman & Rifle in the World!”) … my advertisement simply stated that I wanted to hire the finest long distance marksman in the world … (the camera pans down the ad to show a tight pattern of six bullet holes and written in ink M. Quigley 900 yards) … Have I?”
Quigley pulls out his long arm from its cover.
Marston (cooing): “The legendary Sharp!”
Quigley: “You know your weapons. It’s a lever-action breach loader. Usual barrel length’s 30 inches. This one has an extra four. It’s converted to use a special .45 calibre, 110 grain metal cartridge with a 540 grain paper-patched bullet (he passes a bullet to Marston). It’s fitted with double set triggers and a Vernier sight …(he pulls out the sight from a vest pocket and blows dust off it) … it’s marked up to 1200 yards. This ‘un shoots a mite further.”
Marston (sceptical, handing the bullet back): “An experimental weapon with experimental ammunition.”
Quigley (nodding): “You could call it that.”
Marston: “Let’s experiment. Whitey (Gerald Egan) … take that bucket and ride out until I signal ...”
Whitey mounts, scoops down to pick up the bucket, jumps the gate and heads off into the distance.
Marston: “Tell me when you want him to stop.”
Whitey keeps riding, Quigley fools around with his gun, as one slattern (Karen Davitt) asks Cora if her man can hit something that far away and Cora says she doesn’t know him, she’s never seen him before.
Eventually Quigley says “‘Bout there’ll do,” and Marston fires off a round with his revolver.
Whitey puts down the bucket as Hobb mutters “bullshit” to young O’Flynn (Ben Mendelsohn).
Quigley checks the wind, takes aim, breathes deep …
Marston: “Are you quite certain Mr Quigley that you wouldn’t like the bucket a bit closer?”
Quigley hits the bucket - “Quite certain” - then two more times, the last shot sending the bucket off over the hillock …
Cora (to slattern): “Told you. Only my Roy could hit a coyote from that distance.”
Marston: “Very impressive… you’re hired.”
Suddenly Dobkin (Tony Bonner) rides up with a couple of prisoners. Marston says Quigley might find his business interesting, as Cora yells out “Nice shootin’ Roy!”
Quigley asks Marston to get his men to leave Crazy Cora alone until Quigley and Marston have had a chance to talk.
Marston agrees and approaches the two prisoners with Dobkin, saying that they’re deserters from Her Majesty’s armed forces. The penalty is death. Plus they were caught on his land and he could shoot them for trespassing.
One deserter (Michael Carmen) offers to serve Marston better than the convict scum he’s got, but Marston explains he and Ashley-Pitt have an understanding, and so he and the other deserter (Greg Stuart) will be sent back to face the firing party. But he sees no reason why they should be trussed up like animals.
As Marston walks away and Dobkin cuts the deserters’ bonds, they make a grab for guns. Marston cuts them down with his revolver.
Marston: “This is my preferred weapon, Mr Quigley (showing, then holstering his gun) … do join me for dinner.”
Night, and as Coogan says Quigley is a damned good shot, Irish-accented O’Flynn boasts that with a weapon like Quigley's rifle, he could beat Quigley with his eyes shut.
Dobkin says it’s easy to say, but he’s got a lot to learn. O’Flynn says Dobkin’s been there twelve years and all he’s got to show for it is cold mutton. Quigley is inside getting a fancy dinner.
Inside, as an Aboriginal manservant, Kunkurra (Steve Dodd) waits on table, Marston is asking Quigley about being in Dodge City, and William Hickok likely being there.
Quigley says it’s a nice place to get some sleep.
Marston: “Are you familiar with the army revolver Mr Quigley?”
Quigley: “Well sir I never had much use for one.”
Marston: “It’s a recent invention of your countryman Colonel Colt.”
Quigley: “God created all men, they say Sam Colt made ‘em equal. More or less.”
Marston (chuckling): “You see, that’s what I like about you Americans. You’re people of action, not words… that mint jelly on your lamb …It’s my own creation …No, I’m a student of your American West … I’ve read a great deal about it …”
Quigley: “Tell me about dingoes …Ten pounds a month for shooting wild dogs seems like a whole lot for not much. ‘Sides, you got enough men and guns outside to kill every dingo within ten miles of here …unless you’re talking about deserters ...”
Marston: “Did you know that your American Indian is a race that has no word for ‘wheel’ … no concept of farming … no understanding of land ownership (he gestures to Kunkurra take a box of cigars over to Quigley).
Quigley: “Is that a fact?”
Marston: “Mmm … but from what I hear, you found a solution to that problem in your country.”
Quigley: “I guess that depends on whether you’re an Indian or not.” (Quigley declines the cigar).
Marston: “You see, in many ways, our two nations are quite similar. (He takes a cigar). We both brought civilisation to the Stone Age …(spitting away the cigar tip) …unfortunately, in this country we have failed in one regard (lighting his cigar on a candle) …we have been unable to domesticate the most backward people in the world …the Australian Aborigine …(referring to Kunkurra) … don’t mind him, he’s harmless …(then serious) My parents were slaughtered by Aborigines, Mr Quigley. They attacked so fast my mother was found dead still holding her sewing. Nowadays they butcher our sheep and cattle. Her Majesty’s Government allows the local settlers to deal with the matter their own way …It’s official policy … It’s called ‘pacification by force.’ But the real issue … is that, primitive as they are, the Aborigines have learned to keep out of rifle range …which brings us to you … Mr Quigley …”
Cut to Marston being hurled out his glass doors on to his verandah.
Marston’s men rush to help, but Marston says no man knocks him out of his house. He totters back in, only to be knocked out again.
Marston tells his men to get Quigley, but they want to know if he’s got his rifle.
Quigley sits drinking, his big gun handy, and then he pushes over the table and takes guard.
The men surround the house, when suddenly Kunkurra cudgels Quigley to the floor.
The men administer a beating to the “fancy American shooter.”
When Cora turns up demanding they leave Roy alone, she’s flattened too.
Marston tells his men to throw Quigley in the wagon, haul him two days from the station and dump him. “Let Australia kill him.”
Coogan tells them to load up the crazy woman too …
Cut to Coogan and Miller (Tim Hughes) driving an unconscious Quigley and a bound Cora into a desert wilderness.
Coogan gets down and unloads the pair onto the dry earth.
As they drive away, Quigley murmurs they forgot the gold.
Coogan returns, as Quigley pulls out a shiv.
He aks Coogan to leave some water and he can have the gold.
Coogan says he can have the gold anyway.
Quigley: “That’s what I thought you’d say.”
Coogan reaches down to get the gold, and Quigley stabs him dead.
Miller frantically drives off in the wagon.
Quigley struggles to his gun and struggles to aim as the wagon recedes into the distance.
He finds the strength to fire a shot, and Miller tumbles from the wagon.
Quigley cuts Cora free as he says he wishes people would quit hitting him on the head.
Cora: “Don’t worry. On a new job it’s quite common for things not to go well at first.”
They both laugh.
Cut to them walking across mud flats in the hot sun, crow cawing in the distance.
Cora recalls how her grandaddy said when lost in the desert you should sleep in the day and walk at night.
Quigley says they need the horses, but Cora says what good are the horses if they die first, and Quigley admits that once in a while she makes some sense.
Night, and they’re still walking.
Cora takes the load of his bullet belt as a dingo howls.
Day and heat shimmer.
Cora collapses face down in the sand.
Quigley returns to pick up his bullet belt and begins to walk away, then thinks better, and returns to pick up Cora and carry her.
Quigley staggers on, but later both have collapsed in the moonlight as dingoes howl.
Cut to Marston, watching as Ashley-Pitt and his Redbacks approach the house.
The Major asks Marston to identify two dead bodies. It’s Coogan and Miller.
Marston has no doubt he’ll find Quigley and the woman.
Cut to Aborigines chanting over Quigley and Cora.
They carry the pair through the desert.
They arrive at a mystical cave, with flickering camp fire and didgeridoo and click sticks and eerie chanting and paintings on the cave wall…
The Aborigines tend the unconscious pair with touches, mystical hand claps and foot stamps …
Quigley wakes up and asks Cora if she’s okay.
Cora: “What are they gunna do to us?”
Quigley: “I reckon they already done it. They gave us water. But that don’t make sense (he looks at his gun and bullet belt) They let me keep it when every whit man with a rifle’s trying to kill ‘em.”
Cora: “Except for you.”
Quigley: “Well they don’t know that.”
Cora: “Don’t they? Something tells me you and I were on the shady side of dead. This is a special place. Bet they used magic on us.”
Quigley spots a kind of chief or medicine man or something, as Cora asks about the ash marking they have in the middle of their foreheads.
Quigley: “More than likely something that came out of the south end of a northbound kangaroo.”
Cora: “You mean kangaroo shit?”
Quigley chuckles, as the blacks approach with witchetty grubs and the pair feel compelled to eat the wriggling white things with a smile and a “much obliged”.
Cora goes first and Quigley explains he doesn’t eat things that are still moving, but then swallows a grub.
Cut to an Aborigine showing Quigley how to throw a spear, and to suck water from the desert through a hollow plant stick, while Quigley shows how to make and use a lasoo, as a woman gives Cora a bracelet and she gives the woman a button from her dress.
The Aborigines sing at the cave opening, and that night Cora and Quigley bond over food by a camp fire.
Cora notes a little Aboriginal girl is darling, though not as darling as Roy junior.
Quigley (sighing): “God Almighty lady, not another Roy… well, I don’t know about you, but my stomach thinks my throat’s been cut.”
Cora: “Roy was hunting sage hens when the Comanches came …I grabbed the baby and a pistol and I hid in the root cellar out back …’n the Indians tore up our sod house, and I was real quite but then the baby started crying. I tried to shush him and suckle him, but he just wouldn’t stop. One Comanche, I remember, he acted real drunk and wore my green apron. He must have heard something, ’n started hollering and coming closer. So I put my hand gentle-like over my baby’s mouth. ‘Don’t cry, daddy’ll be home soon’. The Indians found us but they just laughed. They’s drunk, didn’t wanna hurt anybody, and rode away. Sundown Roy came home, but I’s still afraid to come out of the cellar. I’s afraid of what he’d do when he saw I’d smothered our son …(distracted) … I ought to find some way to mend this petticoat. Look at that …(yearningly) … Roy … He just buried the baby, put me in the wagon, and we went 70 miles to Galveston without stoppin’ … He never said a word …put me on the first ship he found. It was headed to Australia. Then he said: ‘Don’t want no woman that would kill my son to save herself.’ And he turned and he walked away and he never looked back. I know, ‘cos I watched to see if he would …(back to the petticoat) … This thing is just falling apart …It’s just … (she falls silent, as Quigley looks at her) ...I’m tired …(she walks away to lie down as Quigley wonders at what he’s heard)”
Cut to the morning and Cora wakes, to see Quigley looking down at her.
Quigley: “Don’t exactly talk your ear off saying goodbye, do they?”
In the distance, they see the Aboriginal tribe are walking away.
Cora: “The Johnsons were always like that!”
Cora: “Remember the church social last year? They ate everybody’s jams and pies and left without saying a word.”
Quigley: “Well it’s our own fault for inviting ‘em again this year.”
Cora: “Why would they do that?”
Quigley spots armed riders approaching the Aborigines, with a “that’s why!!”
The riders approach the Aborigines, as Cora rushes across the desert with a “no.”
Quigley gets out his long arm, as spears prove futile.
Quigley takes out one rider with a booming shot, and a spear gets another. Another rider falls, as Cora races across the desert and Quigley sees her with a “shit.”
Another shot takes out a rider before he can reach Cora.
Quigley, now on horseback rides up to Cora: “Of all the damn fool things I ever did see. You tried to get your head blowed off?”
But Cora is devastated - the girl she gave her button to is dead.
Cora cradles the dead girl: “Anyone who believes in magic … is crazy.”
Quigley: “Don’t be running off like that. I could have used some help up there, you know ...”
Quigley’s got his rig back, but no saddlebags, so he can’t make his reloads.
They’ve got one horse and two canteens and a rider got away, which means Marston will know where they are.
The pair are on the horse, riding through the wilderness.
Night and a camp fire …
Cora says she’s cold, Quigley points out she’s got the blanket.
Cora suggests they share, there’s something she wants to talk about.
Quigley: “If we do, there’ll be something I want talk to you about.”
Cora comes over to him and begins to undress, taking off her corset.
She heads into his arms.
Cora: “When summer comes, let’s drag up some wood for a real cabin. ‘Cos Roy, sod walls …”
Quigley (interrupting): “Matthew! (pushing her away) Matthew Quigley! I ain’t sharing my bed ‘till I’m certain you know who’s in it. Now say it …”
Cora: “If we had a wood cabin we could get glass windows.”
Quigley sighs, and with a “we’ll see” goes to sleep …
Day and the pair are walking across the desert. An ant bites Cora as she flashes a leg.
Quigley: “What’s my name today?”
Cora: “Matthew Quigley, same as any other day.”
Quigley: “How about you and me taking off all our clothes and going swimming?”
Cora: “What are you? Crazy? There ain’t no water …(Quigley gives her a look) … why, shame on you!”
Quigley: “Well, you … what about last night? You …”
Cora: “I what?”
Quigley (turning and walking on): “Oh never mind.”
Back at the station, O’Flynn is practising his shooting, and Marston thinks he’s improved. He should wear his holster higher, then he can grab his gun on the way up. But Marston doesn’t think he’ll get as fast as he is, even if he practices a lot. (The men laugh).
A lone horsemen gallops up - not again, says Marston, as he realises he’s lost four more men.
Marston: “How long from the time the bullet struck until you heard the report of the rifle?”
Man: “Two, maybe three seconds.”
Marston: “Matthew Quigley is really beginning to annoy me.”
Marston tells Dobkin to send out another party, with fifty pounds in gold to the man who brings Quigley in. “So keep practising,” he tells O’Flynn.
Cora and Quigley are still riding and Cora tells him - he can tell her if they’re lost. We’re lost, he says.
Cora: “I can take bad news. Tell me straight.”
Quigley: “I don’t know where the hell we are.”
Cora: “No sense pickin’ round to make it sound better than it is.”
Quigley: “I reckon we’re going in circles.”
Cora: “Flower things up, I’ll see right through it. So just tell me honestly - are we lost?”
Quigley: “Nope. I know exactly where we are.”
Cora: “That’s good. ‘Cos frankly, I was getting a little worried.”
Quigley: “Don’t know where we’re going, but there’s no use being late.”
They hear distant gunshots and Quigley gallops towards them.
Marston’s other hunting party is rounding up Aborigines and herding them towards a cliff.
Cora and Quigley watch as the Aborigines are forced over the cliff to their death.
Quigley gets out the long rifle, but has to take care of a man up on the ridge, with more Aboriginal deaths happening while he takes the man out.
Then he turns his rifle on the others, and takes out a man, sending man and horse over the cliff to their doom.
Hobb tells his men to get out of there, and Quigley takes him out.
Cora begins weeping, then races down to the bottom of the cliff to see the bloody Aboriginal bodies scattered on the rocks.
Meanwhile, Quigley comes up to the badly wounded Hobb trying to reach for his revolver. He complains his back is broke.
Quigley: “You’re gut shot Hobb. There ain’t nothing I can do for you.”
Hobb: “You can kill me.”
Quigley: “Where’s Marston’s station from here? How far’s the nearest town?”
Hobb: “Why should I tell you?”
Quigley: “‘Cos if you don’t, I’ll let ya live. (Hobb panting, as Quigley checks the sun) You know, I’m new here, so I’m kinda curious. Do you think the dingoes’ll get you first? Or the ants?”
He stands up and walks away.
Hobb: “Quigley, don’t leave me like this! Aaah. Quigley! Marston’s station’s two days’ ride southwest. Meekathanga’s only 20 miles past the billabong.”
Quigley: “Talk straight goddamnit, or I’ll get the ants myself.”
Hobb (panting): “It’s a town, a day’s ride past the dry riverbed (pointing) that way! Ahh ahh (Quigley returns) … now finish me …”
Quigley (handing Hobb his revolver, as Hobb cocks it and points it at Quigley's head): “You got one shot left in that shooter. Make the most of it.”
Quigley stands up and walks away.
Cora hears a distant shot, then a baby crying.
She rescues the baby (Cory Tjapaltjarri as Little Bit) from amongst the corpses, as Quigley appears at the top of the cliff and sighs at the sight of Cora with babe in arms.
The pair are riding, and argue. Quigley reckons they should keep riding, Cora wants to stop because the baby’s hurt and weak and needs shelter.
Quigley: “The kid’s probably tougher than we are.”
Later, as they roast a lizard over a night campfire in a cave.
Quigley: “That little fella was eating like his bellybutton had been rubbing a blister on his backbone.”
Cora: “Yeah, he was eatin’ but … he needs some milk.”
Quigley: “Well I don’t recall seeing a whole lot of milking cows around here.”
Quigley wants to ride to the town, but Cora suggests she and the baby stay in the cave - he can make the ride faster without them. He should leave a rifle and pistol, and when he asks if she knows how to use a shooter, she reminds him she’s a native born Texican.
Quigley says there’s enough water for two days if he isn’t there drinking it.
He asks her what she thinks and she gasps.
Cora: “You, you’re the only man on this continent that would ask me what I think.”
Quigley leaves her with the guns, and some more lizards. He tells her if she runs into any of his own people, she should give them Little Bit (the baby).
He asks her to promise, he’d be better off, but she distracts by asking for a new dress, something in her favourite colour of red or pink.
Quigley rides away, galloping through the wilderness, arriving at night at a small sea-side town.
He arrives at a small general supply store.
Inside the owner Grimmelman (Ron Haddrick) is checking the highly unusual calibration. It will take some time to duplicate.
Quigley: “No sir, it won’t. You can substitute a 450 number two British musket lead. Marston ain’t gunna wait.”
Grimmelman: “Marston? He’s a murderer. He mixes flour with poison to kill the Aborigines. Yes, this is a cruel, uncivilised ...”
Mrs Grimmelman (Evelyn Krape) arrives to tell him to let Quigley eat. He’s got a long ride ahead of him …she’s found some condensed milk for the baby and tins of beef for him and his woman.
Quigley explains she ain’t exactly his woman.
Young Klaus Grimmelman (Eamon Kelly) also turns up and checks out the rifle - Quigley’s famous.
Quigley asks him to bring up his horse, and Klaus heads outside.
Quigley wonders how Klaus knew so much about him helping the Aborigines.
Mrs Grimmelman: “Everyone knows about you …the Aborigines who come to town to trade with us talk about the ‘spirit warrior’”
Quigley: “Well I’ve been called a lot of things ma’am ...never that.”
Outside two of Marston’s men spot Klaus with Quigley’s horse.
They grab and hand gag the kid, asking him about the saddle …
Meanwhile, back in the cave, Cora looks at the moon, and tells the baby not to cry, “Daddy’ll be home soon.”
Dingoes hear the cry and growl, their eyes glowing eerily in the dark.
Cora sees them, and ducks back into the cave, desperately trying to hush the baby, saying daddy’ll be home soon … over and over ...
The dingoes get closer and closer … and Cora tells the baby to cry if he wants to - hell, let’s both make some noise, as she starts singing ‘gather at the river’ and firing wildly at the dingoes …shouting that she’s shot the one in her green apron and telling the damn cowards to gun and get their yellow butts outta there…
As a dingo growls threateningly, we cut back to Mr Grimmelman emerging from his store, saying he’ll have Quigley’s cartridges ready when he returns with the woman and the baby.
Grimmelman offers Quigley an ancient pistol, but while much obliged, Quigley says he’s never had much use for one.
Quigley gives Grimmelman Marston’s gold, but then they realise Klaus isn’t there. Quigley tells them to get back inside, as shots are exchanged.
Quigley ducks into a hotel via the window, and heads up the stairs.
A shot sends flames from a lamp cascading down the stairs, and Marston’s villains think they’ve got him.
As the hotel fills with smoke, and the stairs are aflame, Quigley smashes a window to make his way to the roof.
The hotel is now fully ablaze and people scurry about trying to put it out.
Quigley drops a chimney pot on one villain, and jumps over to the next building, crashing through the roof.
The villains think he’s done for - the place is falling apart - but then spot Quigley trying to escape.
Quigley ducks behind a row boat, and the villains fill the boat full of lead. “Nobody could live through that,” one says, but Quigley has scurried away through a drain.
He emerges next to the burning hotel and loads up.
Excuse me, he calls out, and as the villains turn, blows one away, then another. The third surrenders, but reaches for a gun tucked in his rear belt.
Quigley: “You might wanna try your luck with that belly gun. Then again,you might not…”
The villain tries, and Quigley shoots him in the leg, saying “That’s what I figured.”
The villain hobbles away and Quigley follows, only to see Grimmelman and Klaus mourning their dead wife and mother. Grimmelman asks “why?” as the boy sobs …
Quigley hears a galloping horse, and jumps up, knocking down the villain, telling him to take a good look.
Villain: “Even if you kill me, Marston’ll catch ya. He’s coming for ya.”
Quigley: “I ain’t gunna kill ya. ‘Cos you’re gunna go tell Marston I’m coming after him. Now git ...”
The villain gallops back into Marston’s station, and tells Quigley, who’s being shaved by Kunkurra, that Quigley said to tell you he’s coming for you: “He’ll get us all. I know he will.”
Marston: “Oh shut up!! (getting up) One man and he’s beaten all of you. Brophy, you and Mitchell (Danny Adcock) ride with me with me as far as the gap. Dobkin, get every available man. I’ll find Ashley-Pitt … and get him out of here! He’s bleeding all over the rug!”
Marston tosses Kunkurra his towel and storms out …
Cut to Quigley riding with extra horse back to the cave.
He sees an eaten dingo body and pulls out his gun.
Slowly he enters the cave and discovers Cora, face down, gun in hand.
She hugs him with a groan, explaining the Comanches came, but Little Bitty’s just fine. She killed the Comanches, and he’s just fine, honey.
Quigley: “You’re quite a woman Cora,” as they hug some more.
Cora: “You get any sage hens?”
Quigley: “I got the next best thing (producing a parcel) … they didn’t have a red one …”
Cora: “Oh, no matter … is it pretty?”
Quigley: “Looks good on me…”
She begins unwrapping, as we cut to the pair riding, Cora in her new blue dress, saying she missed Quigley and not that other fella. You!
Quigley: “You sure look pretty in that new blue dress.”
Cora: “If you go after Marston, he’ll kill you.”
Quigley: “Kid, next time she talks like that, pee all over the dress.”
Dusk at the seaside town, as Quigley and Cora ride down …
Outside a window Aboriginal people have gathered with Grimmelman and Klaus.
Quigley hands Cora the baby, and she hugs the child.
Quigley: “You have every right to your happiness Cora.”
But Cora goes outside and gives the baby to its Aboriginal kind.
An Aboriginal elder speaks in dialect and then the Aborigines depart, with baby, leaving a wistful Cora behind.
Dawn, and Quigley looks at the sleeping Cora. He leans down, then is outside with his gun being put into his saddle. Grimmelman says he doesn’t suppose he can convince Quigley and that he’ll see Cora will get out safe.
Cora emerges as Quigley thanks him and shakes his hand. Quigley returns:
Quigley: “You know something lady? I ain’t figured you out yet.”
Cora: “Good. Crazy people are blessed that way, don’t you know? I’ll never see you again, will I?”
Intense looks, and Quigley caresses her neck and she melts.
Quigley: “You sure look pretty in the morning sun.”
Quigley gets on his horse and rides off up the hill. He stops on a ridge and turns to look back, as she waves goodbye …
Cut to Marston’s station.
Dobkin tells Marston of the plans, and when Dobkin tells of Cavanagh (Maeliosa Stafford) asking about the two hundred pounds of gold he’s offering for killing Quigley, Marston tells Dobkin to make Cavanagh guard the front porch, wearing Marston’s coat and hat …
Dobkin says nothing …
A galloping Quigley, as Dobkin explains that the shots are coming from Marston emptying his revolver … he wants it freshly loaded for the night.
“Do you think he’s losing his cabbage?” asks the villain.
A Marston villain Scotty (horseman and horse wrangler Jim Willoughby) spots Quigley and Marston hears distant shots, as Dobkin speculates Scotty might have got him.
Marston says nothing, and heads inside.
Dusk and galloping hooves.
A look-out fires a warning shot.
The horse gallops into the station, riderless.
There’s a note on the saddle. Dobkin reads it: “Anyone can leave safely before dawn except Marston. Most cordially, Matthew Quigley.”
Marston snatches the note: “He must think I’m stupid … this just means he’s gonna try and spring something on us during the night. All right! Nobody sleeps!”
He snatches his hat and coat off Cavanagh and storms off.
The weary villains wait, as O’Flynn practices his gun work and Quigley looks down from on high.
Marston flings a bucket of water on one villain, telling him to stay awake.
Dobkin races across the compound to tell Marston that three men ran off during the night.
As Marston asks why he didn’t stop them, a single shot takes out two men next to him.
They duck for cover as the sound of the shot reaches them.
Where is he?, Marston wonders. Dobkin thinks he’s way up there in the cutting.
Marston: “So much for Cavanagh’s reward. That bastard’s been sitting up in the rocks all morning, just waiting for two idiots to line up in his sights. All right, we’ll do the last thing Quigley expects.”
Quigley’s men ride out from the station and approach the rocky ranges.
They think he’s cleared off and head back to the station, but Quigley reveals himself and sets off in pursuit.
Marston tells Dobkin and Brophy to get up there, as Quigley rides down the precipitous hill.
One villain’s horse topples over, and then the other two start chasing Quigley, but he uses his gun stock to trigger a rope trap.
The rope whips up to rider height and demounts the two villains.
One villain races for his rifle, but Quigley blows the stock off it.
Quigley invites the other surrendering villain to throw his “hogleg” away, “easy”.
Instead the villain tosses it to the other villain, and Quigley takes him out.
Quigley tells the surviving villain to get on his feet, but is distracted by a shot and the arrival of Dobkin and Brophy.
The villain goes to retrieve his gun, and Quigley takes him out, but now Quigley is stuck amongst the rocks, shots whistling around him.
He re-loads, and aims at Dobkin and Brophy.
Dobkin tells Brophy to get round - he’ll cover for him - but when Brophy says the rock’s covering him fine, Dobkin points his revolver at him and makes Brophy move.
“Move, you gutless bloody wonder.”
Brophy heads off, Drobkin fires, and tells Brophy to close in on him. Quigley sees a rope holding back a tree, and fires, cutting the rope. The tree rolls down the hill, taking rocks with it, on to Brophy …who tumbles down the hill.
Dobkin re-loads, as Quigley stands and approaches.
Quigley: “I can bounce the next one clean through ya. How brave are ya?”
Dobkin holds his revolver in surrender mode and says he’s coming out.
Quigley: “Well that ain’t real brave, but it is smart.”
Just then a bullet catches Quigley in the leg and sends him toppling over.
He struggles to get back to his rifle, but O’Flynn plants his foot on it, and hits him on the head, shouting “I got him, I got Quigley!”
Dobkin has Quigley tied to his horse and drags him through the dirt back into Marston’s station, where Marston waits.
O’Flynn says they’ve got a gift for him, and Marston congratulates them on good work.
Marston saunters up to Quigley and rolls him over with his foot, saying “well well well … Mr Quigley … good of you to drop in again…What? Nothing clever to say?”
As Dobkin and O’Flynn come up, Marston points to Quigley prone on the ground: “The Great Quigley! So this is what you were all afraid of …bring him over here and stand him up...”
They pick Quigley up and drag him a little way. Marston tells them to cut him loose …then tells them to put his rifle on the ground in front of him.
Then he says “no”, and tells them to throw it away.
Dobkin throws it a good distance.
Marston tells O’Flynn to go get his second revolver.
Marston: “I know how much you would like to have your rifle with you, at this moment Mr Quigley, but I think you’ll find that I’ve got a much better idea.”
Marston tells O’Flynn to stick Marston’s second revolver in Quigley’s belt, kicking O’Flynn as an incentive.
Marston: “I seem to remember you’re not too familiar with Colonel Colt’s revolver, so this will be your first lesson. Don’t worry … Mr Dobkin and Mr O’Flynn will ensure that it’s a fair contest …I’ll just back up a few paces”
The trio of villains back away a little.
“And to your left a bit. That’s it …now you’re right in front of my old pistol target …(Marston pulls back his jacket to reveal his sidearm) … some men are born in the wrong century … I think I was born on the wrong continent …aahh … oh by the way, you’re fired.”
Quigley takes off his glove and flexes his hand.
Quigley: “This ain’t Dodge City …and you ain’t Bill Hickok …”
Marston goes for his gun, Quigley beats him, then shoots Dobkin and O’Flynn.
Marston collapses to the ground and Quigley comes up to him.
Marston is choking on blood.
Quigley: “I said I never had much use for one. Never said I didn’t know how to use it.”
He twirls the gun into his belt and Marston dies.
Kunkurra approaches Quigley with rifle in hand.
He hands the rifle to Quigley.
Then Kunkurra turns, walking out of the station, taking off his jacket and shirt and tossing them to the ground, as two Aboriginal female servants follow him off into the distance …
Quigley watches them leave, then is dunking his head in a barrel of water …
In the distance the Redcoats and Major Ashley-Pitt are approaching.
Quigley picks up assorted weapons and waits.
The troop arrive and surround Quigley, producing a flurry of dust.
Ashley-Pitt notices his leg wound and says he’s somewhat the worse for wear.
“I think you have a lot to explain sir. Not that it’ll do you any good. Sergeant …”
The sergeant produces a sheet of paper with a flourish.
Sergeant: “In pursuance of a warrant, duly attested by a justice of the peace, you are hereby charged with numerous and serious crimes (Quigley spits on the ground), including murder …”
Ashley-Pitt (cutting the Sergeant off): “In short, this paperwork says that we can hang you …”
Quigley: “I ain’t gonna swing on no gallows.”
Ashley-Pitt: “Well … you can always be shot …(the massed Redcoats cock their weapons) on your way to your trial… while trying to escape, of course …or you can die right here, bearing arms against the army of Her Majesty the Queen …well, the decision …”
At that moment, they both hear a distant, deep rumbling and eerie chanting …
A whistling wind begins to blow dust into the air …
Ashley-Pitt looks around, and sees a mass of armed Aboriginal warriors lining the ridges …one cocks his leg on his knee …
Kunkurra is at the centre of this massed display …
Ashley-Pitt thinks better of things, looks at the Sergeant, as Quigley spits on the ground again … then Ashley-Pitt leads his troop out of the station watched by the Aboriginal warriors …
With the Redcoats gone, Quigley takes off his neckerchief to bind his wounds, and when he looks up the Aborigines have disappeared back into the bush …
Cut to bustling Fremantle.
Quigley asks a ticket seller (Don Bridges) when the next boat is leaving for America.
As the seller says he’s got one leaving that afternoon for San Francisco, he leans down to pick up a gun sitting on top of a two hundred pound reward poster for Quigley, a murderous American.
The seller cocks his gun, as he asks for Quigley’s name.
Just at that moment Cora arrives. Quigley hesitates, looks at her.
Quigley: “Roy … Roy Cobb.”
The seller eases back on the pistol and puts it down … as Roy asks for two tickets.
As they emerge into the bustling street …
Cora: “I got something I wanna say to you.”
Quigley: “Well I got a couple of things I wanna say to you too …”
Cora: “Remember once you told me before you’d make love to me I had to say two words?”
Quigley: “What’s that?”
Cora: “Matthew Quigley.”
Quigley puts down gun and saddle in the street.
Cora musses his hair and they lean slo-mo into a kiss. As their lips touch, the image freezes, fade to black, an end title appears, “No animals were killed or injured during the making of this film,” and then end credits begin to roll…