What is Outland?
Director Peter Hyams was best known for the government space cover-up film Capricorn One when he desired greatly to write and direct a western. However, he was given advice to avoid the Western genre due to a downturn in popularity of Western movies and that he should direct a sci-fi film instead. With that set burning desire, he took the bones and guts of 1952’s High Noon and set it on a mining station on the Jovian moon of Io with Sir Sean Connery taking the place of Gary Cooper. The setting is the Conglomerates Amalgamated number 27 mine that pulls titanium out of the violent inner moon of Jupiter: Io.
The Historical Context of Outland
Why was Outland Forgotten?
This made Outland a science fiction that shared more in common with thrillers and Westerns like High Noon than Star Wars or Star Trek, and this made the film an outcast, condemning it to barely making back its money and being lost in the sea of sci-fi films that came out in the landrush of studios attempting to capitalize on the popularity of the genre. It did not help that the reviews of the film were very mixed and while the film opened strongly due to it being sci-fi and starring Sean Connery, the word-of-mouth started to slow down ticket sales.
Why is Outland a Classic of Science Fiction?
The Impact and Legacy of Outland
Outland was well received by critics, but it was not a popular film in the theaters of 1981 due to audience's expecting another Star Wars and not a plotting realistic space western that rose to a slow boil. This limited its impact on the wider world of sci-fi cinema. However, it did make its money back with some profit. Most praise gravitated toward the set design, the recycling of the themes from High Noon in an outer space setting, and the performance of the main cast; especially Sir Sean Connery. To some, Outland ranked up there with BLADE RUNNER and ALIEN for wider impact on the “look” and “feel” of more realistic science fiction cinematic settings. This is due to the fantastic set and production design by Phillip Harrison that acted in concert with Peter Hyams style.
The Heavy Metal 1981/1982 Outland Comic Adaptation
The Only Gun of Outland: the Browning 2000 Shotgun
So, why was a 12 gauge shotgun the only weapon seen in Outland? The director has been quoted that since the film was based off of High Noon, that laser guns would be out of place. Fans have also conjured up some in-universe explanations. Shotguns would be effective in space warfare by shredding the space suit of their opponent. In close quarters engagements inside the sealed habitats, special shotgun shell loads would not pierce the walls of the sealed environment...which would have created a real problem!
Given the time period that the film was made, 1981, it makes sense for a law enforcement officer to carry a shotgun. This before the modern rise of law enforcement officers carrying assault rifles and the shotgun was the official "shit-as-hit-the-fan" weapon of choice. Some have suggested online and to me that the Browning 2000 series shotgun was the inspiration for the original pump single-barreled shotgun from DOOM. While there some basic similarities in design, we know that most of the weaponry in the original DOOM game came from toy guns bought in Austin during the design phase of that classic game. The Space Marine shotgun comes from the Tootsie Toy Dakota cap shotgun, not the Browning 2000 from Outland. Pity that would have made for a great story!
The shotgun itself is a Browning semi-automatic 2000 series 12 or 20 gauge shotgun that was imported from Belgium (most of the parts were made in Portugal) from 1974 to around 1981 or 1983. About 115,000 were brought to US shores, but it was not a great seller for the company with the A5 model being more popular. Today, the Browning 2000 is relatively unknown and sells for about $200-$500.
There was only one real steel Browning 2000 purchased for the production and it was saw-off and cut-down for use in the close quarter’s conditions of Con-Am 27 mining station. During the final showdown between O’Neil and the two highly paid assassins, that one hero prop was worked overtime on double duty since there was just one hero shotgun. The only different between the Marshal's Browning 2000 and the assassins' Browning 2000 was the futuristic scope setup. Other shotguns seen in the hand or on an armor rack were either other shotguns stunt doubles. Interestingly enough, some of the promotion art for the film featuring Sir Sean Connery holding a more traditional pump shotgun, not the Why was the Browning 2000 chosen over other shotguns of the time? The classic sci-fi steel shotgun, the Frenchi SPAS-12, did not arrive on US shores until 1982, and I believe that the production chose the Browning 2000 because it does look different than more traditional shotguns, especially when cut down and saw-off. Outland is the only film to include the Browning 2000 shotgun.
The LADD Company Connection
Next Time on FWS...
After the first use of atomic weapons in the 2nd World War by the United States, the race has been on by other nations to gain their own weapons of mass destruction. All of this has added up to the world being under the shadow of the mushroom cloud. Now with Russia talking and preparing for nuclear war with NATO, it is high time for FWS to discuss atomic, nuclear, neutron, hydrogen weapons of mass destruction. So Duck and Cover for this!