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I went to Popeye's not too long ago for the usual (a number six, with mashed potatoes and a pile of hot sauce packets), and found myself in a long, hungry line of like-minded patrons. As is often the case in my area, the source of the hold up was a senior citizen having a fit of some kind. On this particular occasion, the wrinkled hands on the aluminum walker belonged to a disgruntled man wearing dirty green sweatpants, a Hawaiian shirt, and a cowboy hat. Just by going for fast food at all, I was asking for trouble, so It wasn't bothering me. It's the kind of thing that happens all the time, unique outfits and all. It helps that fried chicken was involved, and I'm still kind of riding the high of even having a Popeye's within thirty minutes of my residence. I did what I usually do in these situations and zoned out, probably thinking about robots, boobs or monsters. At some point, the walker assisted individual finished accosting the low paid poultry dealer and without me noticing, had started towards me with a mumble.
"What?" I said snapping back from whatever mental plane I had found in my escape.
He repeated himself, "Does your phone have a camera on it?"
Hoping I wasn't being dragged into the ordeal and gaining unease, I shot back only a "why?"
The man struck a sort of pose in the space between his handlebars.
"You might want to take a picture…..you’re looking at the last real cowboy."
I said nothing in reply, although I swear a few of the unfed behind me let out a few gasps. My response must have been unsatisfactory because the endangered scoundrel simply hobbled his metal contraption loudly through the doors and left. It didn't take long before my turn to order, but the declaration stayed with me long after they called my number. I would get my chicken, but fate included a dark biscuit of foresight for no extra cost. Pondering as I sat down to my crispy meal, I came to terms with the reality presented to me by the broken down "last real cowboy". If he was the final specimen, that ship had sailed, and the breed would soon go extinct while watching Wheel of Fortune. Everything ends, I thought and drowned the sadness with a fuck-ton of hot sauce. It was more sympathy than anything, as by and large, the loss wouldn't affect me. No matter the owner's authenticity, the headwear seemed ordinary enough, and I know somewhere there is a vaquero herding beef, as it is in the store right now. Had he not said something, the absence of this "real" variety of "cowboy" would likely have gone unnoticed. I can't think of a time I would have needed one. Then again, my dusty town has never been overrun by malicious interplanetary marksmen, like in Alien Outlaw (1985).
Jesse Jameson (Kari Anderson) is a well trained, traveling western sharpshooter. In fact, She's often called the best at what she does when people aren't commenting about her impractical horse riding skirt. Unfortunately, her business partners are not very reliable, so despite her skills, she often performs at shit-hole venues for little cash. The two, Frank (Eric Berg) and Wes (Stephen Winegard), are easily distracted, especially "manager" Frank, who spends a lot of time in hotel beds and yawning on the phone. After several disappointments and a pep talk from her sash wearing Sensei (Sunset Carson), Jesse decides to take her to act to the prestigious talent agency Black Diamond. Apparently, gun-trick shows are considered antiquated in the 80s, but the meeting goes well enough that the company offers to use the gunslinger's next showcase as an audition. Pumped about actually making money but a little bummed about telling her longtime shitty homies they are canned, she heads over to uncle Alex's house to meet up with the boys for one last show. However, none of that shit will happen because a clandestine squad of extraterrestrials has already crash-landed in a  nearby lake and started picking off locals with their own American-made firepower. The body count eventually rises, and it becomes clear--it's up to the best gun in town to stop them. Downhome gossip and interspecies shootouts follow, as Jesse squares off with the invaders accompanied by Uncle Alex (Lash La Rue), her steel, and sometimes a horse. Also, there are some exciting farming techniques, superpowered fly fishing, and discussion on the ethics of hunting for sport.
Simultaneously comfortable and ridiculous, Alien Outlaw (1985) is a half-finished ode to b-westerns, topped off with cheap 80s science fiction. Ham is in abundance from the script up, brought in with earnest attempts at action, tension, and drama. In imitating both 40s outlaw serials and drive-in invasion tropes, the writing seems eager to play into its lowbrow status but does it without making a joke out of itself, leaving that honor to the viewer. To make sure the whole town's dynamic is fully understood, a good deal of the film is spent on interpersonal relationships. There's a lot to learn about when it comes to people who may or may not be killed by an alien before the conflict resolution. For the first half-hour under all the fluff, the main plot goes for a very low-budget All the Marbles (1981) with quick slices of science fiction and shooting (in place of wrestling). The film's story makes sense but achieves this by ignoring the mysterious inhuman creatures and bouncing around the neighborhood listening in on the locals instead. By the time Jesse Jameson sees an alien, the viewer is given enough information for several Hallmark originals. The lopsided portioning between the likable lead and insignificant context on asshole side-characters is excessive to the point of satire. If you told me it was all part of a comment on a male-dominated culture, I would just take your word for it. Nearly everyone disregards Jesse's abilities, including the film, which seems to push her to the back burner while it gives focus to doomed good ole' boys. The chunks of extra back and forth are still entertaining, regardless. Each landmine of dialogue is sufficiently cheesy and brought to life with a warm, spirited delivery. The overly fleshed out characters could be imported from a failed early 80s television pilot that ran out of ideas and started brutalizing its quirky archetypes. I like the idea of a space invader with almost antique weaponry, despite there being no explanation given about how they learned to use human tools so quickly. The fact they were also expert horseback riders may have taken it too far. My theory is that the visitors attempted to adapt to the horny gun-toting native culture, but miscalculated slightly and ended up at free firing rapist. I'm not up on my American serial westerns, so I likely didn't catch all the western b-movie references though some are impossible to miss. The entire epic fails on most fronts but in the end, keeps my attention with the unlikely swagger of a bizarre Kris Kristopher film.
The movie's technical aspects are outwardly cheap (as fuck) but worn well in tributes to both sides of its low budget roots. It pulls off the small-town vibe with little problem utilizing a small number of dilapidated structures, the right people, and a lot of grassy fields. I don't usually comment on fashion, but I think all the dudes just showed up in the proper clothes for this flick. From sweaty hats and suspenders to denim suits, the male dress has to be the most realistic thing about the whole production. If those props didn't come with the talent, wardrobe did an uncharacteristically wonderful job with the "slept in for weeks" motif. The females in the movie are another story altogether. Most are naked though, so I guess they technically brought their own costumes too. Jesse Jameson is adorned in her leather show digs throughout, which seems to combine the magic of a dollar-store cowboy vest and the bottom from an insensitive Sexy-Native American kit from Halloween in one. A layer of dust appears to cover every earthborn object in the film, adding to the small town feels. Our initial introduction to the extraterrestrials comes in the form of a colorized 1950s spaceship crash that farts out a canned sound effect and lands in a kid's book. It's pretty fucking terrible, and on the first watch, I began to worry the aliens would follow suit. Luckily, the stranded "outlaws" look more like a mix between a 2000 AD comic and a broken Ninja Turtle toy, which I can get behind. While they didn't bring any weapons (or maybe lost them in the lake--I always lost my swords at the public pool), they have a military flare and varied tactical gear. I think I saw one wearing black cargo pants, so they are resourceful. One could assume their inconsistent uniforms were due to surplus store shortages, but variety is always nice in my opinion. They also like to pillage out of frame, so there is little actual gore. There isn't much on-screen violence, outside of the television level shootouts. More or less functional, the editing comes across like a rough cut of two projects mixed by chance on the cutting room floor. The silliness keeps it from being boring, so I find joy in it. But I'm sure we could make out the story without long segments of walking, driving on dirt roads and quite a bit of the talking. The soundtrack plays off of what's on-screen but adds a zany comedy angle to the already hokey action. Altogether it's a mess, but the cast pulls off the stillborn madness with goofy charm and a little skin.
The most trivia-worthy aspect of the film is the inclusion of two legendary b-movie cowboys from cinema history. Sunset Carson (aka Winifred Maurice Harrison) played the hero in a series of popular low budget westerns for Republic in the 40s. Here he shows up for quick Karate Kid II style moment of rodeo wisdom and to show off his fancy neckwear. He left the Republic studio in 1946 after a dispute with studio head Herbert J. Yates (accounts vary on the details, including some pretty hardcore accusations), subsequently moving the "Sunset" character to smaller production companies for a few rides starting the next year. By 1950 he had all but left the business to go back to performing horse tricks in rodeos. Mounting up yet again in the 70s, Sunset made a string of cameos with Alien Outlaw being the last before his death in 1990. Alfred "Lash" LaRue broke into the genre a little later playing a drunk named "Migsy" in the 1945 WW2 thriller The Master Key. LaRue moved to westerns in the same year, and his antihero status and signature whip could be found in pictures well into the 50s. Like Carson, he reportedly found some drama in stardom leading to a reputation for drinking, fighting and womanizing (part of the requirements I guess, along with riding a horse). Despite that, he stayed fairly busy on TV in the latter half of the trend. In 1996 the man they called Lash died with over forty pictures to his credit. Both of the veterans could still rock a cowboy hat with the best of them in 1985. I haven't seen any of the "Sunset" films, but I like to imagine Alex Thompson is secretly Lash with wolverine aging ability, only nicer and whipless. The opus was written and directed by Phil Smoot, as a follow-up to his zombie vs. cowboy feature The Dark Power (1985) also starring La Rue. Before tackling genre-bending, Smoot (say it out loud it’s fun!) got his start in cinema under shlock meister Earl Owensby, working with the fabled producer on things like Challenge (1974) and Death Driver (1977). Alien Outlaw and The Dark Power are currently his only full projects as a director, but he has credits in everything from The Boneyard (1991) to Scorned (2013) with releases as recently as 2018. In her only acting role, Kari Anderson makes the whole thing work for me as crabby, eagle-eyed, Jesse Jamison. Looking past her character's incomplete development arch, she has the perfect mix of pissed off, cynical heroism going on, and, admittedly, the butt that keeps being brought up throughout the movie doesn't hurt. Outside of the delivery, there isn't much to the role, and I could see it going an entirely different way with anyone else in the leather booty tassels. Like the two expert cowboys on set, she lays into the whole "last of a dying breed" bit like she has done it a million times. Currently, she works exclusively behind the scenes as a makeup artist, and despite my letters, there are no plans to bring justice to the character.
Alien Outlaw is a meandering chronicle of dangerous space creatures, generations of American gun-slinging showpeople and a shit-ton of small-town chatter. There are a few awesome elements wasted in there, but it works through its undisciplined sense of direction by packing in the unintentional salt of the earth flavored comedy. It's not the most action-packed of the cowboys vs. blank genre, but it brings the fight to a more modern era than most, has its memorable moments, and features some legendary figures in cult cinema. Mostly due to its cast's enthusiasm, it's consistently fun to watch, no matter how stupid things get. Jesse Jameson is a badass. I would watch a whole series of her shooting low budget monsters in the face. Also, I hope someone like her comes to my rescue when villainous astronauts lay siege to my dusty town. I'm certainly not going to rely on the last cowboy. He seemed a little past his prime, and I really can't trust anyone who fucks up a trip to get fried chicken.
1h 30min | 1985
 Director: Phil Smoot
Writer: Phil Smoot

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