They say don’t judge a book by the cover, and you shouldn’t do that for movies either! Regional genre filmmaker Phil Smoot’s Alien Outlaw starring western bullwhip-cracking icon Lash LaRue lives up to every inch of the cover art! A classic piece of low-budget sci-fi, the film’s go-for-broke charms set the stage for one crazy-ass intergalactic invasion! Earning Kino Cult status, the film scores a terrific Blu-ray release with excellent A/V and some dynamite bonus features. Recommended
You’d have to go back to before the Atomic age to find a time when Alien invasions weren’t cool. From friendly critters with light-up hearts and fingers to chest-bursting mega-insects to a giant carrot monster feeding off the blood of humans in the Arctic, aliens have made for some great cinema. However, they’ve also made some pretty daffy flicks too. Between Ed Wood’s impeccably dressed zombie-creating overlords to Roger Corman’s sewer parrot sent to Earth to procreate, there are plenty of memorably entertaining B-movie aliens out there – although probably not for reasons the filmmakers intended. Of this later batch, one can throw in the rubber-clad gasmask-wearing fried chicken-faced invaders of Phil Smoot’s Alien Outlaw!
Ace entertainer Jesse Jamison (Kari Anderson) is about to make the big time. An artist with firearms, she can outshoot anyone anywhere anytime - and the biggest talent agency around is ready to sponsor her show. But as luck would have it, a band of intergalactic outlaws have also decided now’s the time to set down and conquer Earth. Thanks to Jesse’s skills with a gun and her old-timer mentor Alex (Lash LaRue), this just might be the shortest alien invasion our planet has ever seen!
The second of Phil Smoot’s two low-budget feature films to come out of North Carolina, Alien Outlaw is a wildly silly proto-Predator collection of 80s cliches. You’ve got old-timer legends making one last big comeback. You’ve got the deadly aliens ready to take the planet. Thinly vailed sexism. And you’ve got one hell of a scantily-clad leading lady with a gun ready to save the day! A fun flick from start to finish, it’s probably not as good as Smoot’s other 1985 16mm feature, The Dark Power, but it’s still a good show all its own.
If you’re planning a B-movie schlock movie night, Smoot’s The Dark Power and Alien Outlaw are the perfect pairing. Same director, a lot of the same cast and crew, and of course both star whip-wielding Western icon Lash LaRue. While LaRue doesn’t do as much whip-cracking here as he did in The Dark Power, he’s still the stand-tall hero of old with Kari Anderson doing most of the action heavy-lifting. The dialog exchanges are just as stilted and over-detailed with that same weirdly creepy but innocent sexist undertone. If you and your friends took a drink every time Jesse’s abilities with a firearm were compared to her other physical attributes, Uber drivers would make a mint because no one would be safe to drive home. It’d be cringy and awful if it wasn’t also obviously intentional.
Certainly not a great film on its own standing but if you love low-budget regional horror and science fiction, it’s got some charms. After accidentally starring in a 70s porn feature (his scenes didn’t include any sex so he thought it was a true western), the 80s were kind to Lash LaRue. Phil Smoot’s two cheap features gave LaRue a respectful opportunity to showcase his natural swagger and talents but also remind folks why he was such an icon of his era. The Dark Power and Alien Outlaw are just fun. Dumb fun, sure, but still fun and good for a laugh. Stack some beers, call your friends, order the best cheap pizza in town because you've got a great night ahead of you.
Vital Disc Stats: The Blu-ray
Alien Outlaw crash lands on Blu-ray as the second entry in the new Kino Cult collection. Pressed on a Region Free BD-50 disc, the disc is housed in a standard sturdy case with an identical slipcover. This release also offers up alternate insert artwork with the more familiar video artwork. The disc loads to a static image main menu.
Honestly never thought I’d see the day that Alien Outlaw would get a Blu-ray release and then a quality one at that! Reportedly sourced from a 4K restoration of the original 16mm negatives, the film looks better than I’d ever seen it. While I have seen The Dark Power more often over the years, neither film looked particularly great. The most “watchable” version I’d come across was when Rifftrax took on both films a few years ago. Details are much improved with brighter healthier colors and much more stable white and black levels. There are some obvious soft spots here and there but those are relatively few. Film grain is pretty heavy and some night sequences or when the aliens land their ship are much heavier. That shouldn’t be too surprising though given the film stock. All around a very welcome upgrade over past releases.
The film also comes home with a solid DTS-HD MA 2.0 audio track. This isn’t the most dynamic mix ever as dialog can sound pretty heavy and front-loaded, but it’s clear. Dubbing is pretty obvious at times and there can be a little sibilance on some of those hard “S” words. Cracks and pops aren’t an issue. Scoring can sound a little thin against the rest of the soundscape but there’s plenty of focus on gunshots and the weird grunts of the alien invaders. That’s all part of the charm of a low-budget feature like this!
Bonus features are a pretty terrific assortment. While it may not be hours upon hours of content, the quality of the assembled is what makes the grade. You get two terrific audio commentaries, one fronted by Phil Smoot himself and a second cast and crew track moderated by editor Sherwood Jones that’s a really good listen. Next, there’s a new cast and crew making-of featurette that offers a lot of insight into the production followed by some archival interviews and behind-the-scenes extras. The commentaries and the new content are the best of the bunch but as a whole, this is a pretty substantial package.
Alien Outlaw isn’t a great feature film on its own. It takes the perfect pairing with Director Phil Smoot’s other Lash LaRue flick The Dark Power to be properly appreciated. Even then, you might need some stiff drinks. A fun film with a daffy premise, it’s a staple of regional genre filmmaking that wears every penny of its budget on its shirt sleeves. As the second feature of the new Kino Cult line of titles, the film makes a splashy Blu-ray debut with an excellent 4K restoration, solid audio, and a terrific assortment of bonus features. Released together with The Dark Power, if the Kino Cult keeps to the fringes like this with some great extras and A/V presentations, we’re in for some real treats in the (hopefully) years to come. Recommended