ALIEN OUTLAW (1985) – Starring Kari Anderson. Written and directed by Smoot … PHIL Smoot (Da dut da DAAA/ Da da-da). Phil was one Smoot operator and showed the imagination that low-budget filmmakers so often demonstrate but whose lack of financial resources prevents them from fully bringing that imagination to life.
Smoot got his start with the Dixie DeMille himself, Earl Owensby, often called “Roger Corman south of the Mason-Dixon Line.” And that wasn’t said as an insult. Like Corman, Owensby specialized in unpretentious B-movies that always made a profit due to budget-consciousness.
Before setting out on independent projects of his own, Phil Smoot worked in various capacities on Owensby’s North Carolina flicks like Challenge, The Brass Ring, Tales of the Third Dimension and many others.
With Alien Outlaw, Smoot showed the Owensby influence: North Carolina locations, meandering scenes that begged to be edited down and lots of annoying Southern-Fried humor that wouldn’t have made the cut on Hee Haw. On the plus side he also demonstrated a flair for fun B-movie premises that mixed genres.
Smoot’s other best-know work as writer-director was The Dark Power, a Toltec zombie horror film with Western elements (a work previously reviewed here at Balladeer’s Blog). Like The Dark Power, Alien Outlaw starred old, old, OLD Western actor Lash Larue, who was the middle man in the Whip-Wielding Action Star Trimurti, coming after Don Q: Son of Zorro and before Indiana Jones.
Alien Outlaw mixed Western elements with science fiction in a way that made you root for the film, despite the way Phil Smoot defeated himself at every turn. The potential was here to craft a fun, slick, modest money-maker which played like a Western version of a Tom Baker-era episode of Doctor Who. And with a butt-kicking female lead.
THE PREMISE: An alien spaceship lands in 1985 North Carolina and conceals itself by submerging in a body of water. That body of water is a stream the water level of which couldn’t even conceal a small car let alone a large space-craft.
THE POTENTIAL FIX: A lake or a make-believe cloaking device would have worked better.
THE STORY: A few aliens, wearing back-packs and masks to breathe our air, attack random people, take their guns and begin terrorizing the countryside. We are never told if their ship landed on Earth deliberately or made the best out of a crash landing. Nor are we told why aliens capable of interstellar flight have to confiscate primitive firearms.
THE POTENTIAL FIX: During the opening spaceship sequence dubbed-in alien gibberish accompanied by subtitles could have shown viewers that the aliens were sportsmen coming to Earth to hunt/ kill humans. (This movie came before Predator) To keep their game challenging, the aliens would mention their custom of using only the indigenous population’s own weaponry against them.
THE FOGIES: In addition to Lash Larue, Alien Outlaw features old, old, OLD Western star Sunset Carson. THE SNAFU: Sunset isn’t in enough of the film and Lash never gets to use his trademark whip this time around, though he DOES mention it.
THE HEROINE: Despite Lash and Sunset’s presence in the cast, the REAL action star of this movie is the charismatic and appealing Kari Anderson as Jesse Jamison. Jamison is a buckskin-clad Annie Oakley type of trick-shooting star trying to make it to the top of the traveling Western Gun Show niche of show-biz. (In 1985?)
Anderson has genuine screen presence and brings to life her every action scene through her lithe movements and gun-slinging showmanship. Alien Outlaw also came before the second Alien movie, so technically Kari Anderson beat both Arnold Schwarzeneggar and Sigourney Weaver to their shtick as “gun-wielding badasses kicking alien butt.”
Unfortunately far too much of the movie is spent on cornpone stereotypes falling prey to the aliens. The strained humor is never quite as bad as in The Dark Power but that’s small consolation. And since I love old-time Movie Host shows I’m too much of a Mazeppa fan to take shots at the overweight dude who comes across like the love-child of Gailard Sartain and Junior Samples.
In the end Jesse Jamison uses her dazzling skill with firearms plus some dynamite to finish off the alien attackers, but their submerged spaceship is never mentioned again.
Even this many decades later Alien Outlaw could be salvaged, or at least made a little more watchable. Just shave off a collective 5 or 6 minutes from the scenes that don’t feature star Kari Anderson, cut the Diamond Agency interview in half, then eliminate all but 20 seconds of the bearded guy in bed who gets chewed out by our heroine.
Add those alien subtitles that I mentioned to the opening, clean up the sound-work and emphasize the film’s proto-Predator nature by retitling it something like Predator Outlaws or Outlaw Predators. (And no I don’t know why they went with the singular title Alien Outlaw when there are multiple ET’s.) +++
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