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Quigley Down Under

Quigley Down Under
Theatrical release poster by Steven Chorney
Directed by Simon Wincer
Produced by Stanley O'Toole
Alexandra Rose
Megan Rose
Written by John Hill
Starring Tom Selleck
Laura San Giacomo
Alan Rickman
Music by Basil Poledouris
Cinematography David Eggby
Edited by Peter Burgess
Distributed by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
Release dates
17 October 1990
Running time
119 minutes
Country Australia/United States
Language English
Budget $18 million[1]
Box office $21,413,105

Quigley Down Under is a 1990 Australian western film. Starring Tom Selleck, Alan Rickman and Laura San Giacomo, it was directed by Simon Wincer.


  • Plot 1
  • Cast 2
  • Production 3
  • Reception 4
    • Accolades 4.1
  • Quigley Sharps rifle 5
  • See also 6
  • References 7
  • External links 8


Matthew Quigley (Tom Selleck) is a cowboy and sharpshooter from America with a keen eye and a specially modified rifle with which he can shoot accurately at extraordinary distances. Quigley's weapon of choice is a customized 1874 Sharps Buffalo Rifle. He answers a newspaper advertisement that asks for men with a special talent in long-distance shooting with four words, "M. Quigley 900 yards," written on a copy of the advertisement, punctuated by several closely spaced bullet holes.

When he arrives in Australia, he is met by employees of the man who hired him, Elliot Marston (Alan Rickman). Quigley tries to prevent them from forcing "Crazy Cora" (Laura San Giacomo) onto their wagon and beats the men until they learn that Quigley is the individual they were sent to pick up. Quigley is eventually taken to Marston's station in the Western Australian outback. Upon seeing Quigley, Cora consistently calls him "Roy," much to Quigley's annoyance.

Marston is infatuated with stories of quick-draw gunslingers from the American Old West, believing himself to have been born on the wrong side of the globe, and amazed that Quigley has actually been to Dodge City. He informs Quigley his sharpshooting skills will be used to eradicate the increasingly elusive native Aborigines. Marston's killing of Aborigines is technically illegal, but he implies that it is tolerated by the local military police with whom Marston has "an arrangement." Quigley, who believed he was hired to shoot dingoes, finds the idea abhorrent.

Quigley not only turns down the job offer, he throws Marston out of his house twice. Marston's aborigine manservant knocks Quigley over the head and Marston's men beat Quigley and Cora into unconsciousness and dump them in the Australian Outback two days away with no water and little chance of survival. However, Quigley manages to kill the two men who took them into the Outback, after which he and Cora are rescued by Aborigines. Cora reveals that she was from Texas. When her home was attacked by Comanches, she hid in the root cellar. To prevent her crying infant son from revealing their hiding place, she covered the baby's mouth and unintentionally suffocated him. When her husband, Roy, arrived home and learned of the child's death, he took Cora to Galveston, Texas and put her alone on the first ship leaving, which happened to be bound for Australia. Recovering, they witness an attack by Marston's men on the Aborigines who helped them. Quigley kills three of Marston's men; a fourth escapes.

Escaping on a single horse, they encounter Marston's men driving Aborigines over a cliff. Quigley kills three more of the men and Cora finds an orphaned baby among the dead Aborigines. Caring for the baby helps Cora overcome her tragic past and she slowly begins to recognize Quigley as his real self and stops calling him Roy. Quigley rides alone to a nearby town leaving Cora and the infant Aborigine in the desert with food and water. In town, he obtains new ammunition from a local German gunsmith named Grimmelman (Ron Haddrick) who is eager to help when he learns Quigley plans to kill Marston. Quigley also learns that he has become a legendary hero among the Aborigines. Marston's men recognize Quigley's horse and attack him, cornering him in a burning building. Escaping through a skylight, Quigley returns to the gunsmith and learns Grimmelman's wife was killed in the crossfire. He kills all but one of Marston's men; he sends the sole survivor back to Marston to tell him that Quigley is coming for him. While he is away, Cora and the baby are attacked by dingoes. The baby cries and Cora nearly repeats her actions from the past; however she overcomes her insecurity and tells the baby to cry as loud as he wants. Using guns taken from Marston's men, Cora shoots the dingoes and saves herself and the baby.

Quigley returns to Cora and baby Little Bitty with supplies, a fresh horse, and a dress for Cora. Though initially concerned at the sight of the dead dingoes, Quigley is relieved to find both Cora and the child unharmed. He is bemused that Cora continues to call him 'Roy', but she seems to be less separated from reality, which heartens Quigley. Cora gives the baby to Aborigines in the town after Quigley tells her that she has 'a right to happiness'. The next morning, Quigley safely leaves Cora with Grimmelman and after telling her that she "sure look[s] pretty in the morning sun", turns and rides away to Marston's ranch. Marston, alerted to Quigley's return by the injured man from town, prepares his men to kill Quigley. At first Quigley maintains his distance and shoots Marston's men from his location in the hills. He even saves a round by patiently waiting until one of Marston's men walks in front of another man, at which point Quigley shoots through them both. Marston gradually loses more and more men to Quigley, until Quigley is eventually captured by Marston's last two men. Marston, who has noticed that Quigley only ever carries a rifle, decides to give him a lesson in the "quick-draw" style of gunfighting. As the two face off, Marston makes the first move, but is beaten to the draw by Quigley, who shoots Marston and his two remaining men. As Marston lies dying, referring to an early conversation concerning Colt revolvers, Quigley tells him, "Said I never had much use for one; never said I didn't know how to use it."

Marston's servant comes out of the house and gives Quigley his rifle, and then walks away from the ranch, stripping off his western-style clothing as he goes. Two black Aborigine women of Marston's also leave. As Quigley binds his wounds, a troop led by the hostile British Major Ashley-Pitt (Chris Haywood), the official with whom Marston had "an arrangement" and whom Quigley had met before, arrives. Ashley-Pitt informs Quigley that he is under arrest for murder and that he will be hanged. Quigley says that he won't "swing from no gallows," and Ashley-Pitt replies that in that case, Quigley will be shot "while bearing arms against the forces of Her Majesty, the Queen; while trying to escape, of course." As the troopers raise their rifles, a strong wind sweeps over the plain and suddenly the surrounding hills are lined with Aborigines, including Marston's servants. Though they take no direct hostile action, the troopers seem convinced that the Aborigines will attack if Quigley is killed, so they leave. After the troopers are gone, Quigley bandages his wounded leg and looks up to the hills to see that the Aborigines have vanished.

The next scene shows Quigley seeking to buy passage back to America. The ticket clerk has a wanted poster beneath his desk identifying Quigley. He holds a pistol beneath the desk and asks for the passenger's name. Before Quigley can answer, Cora comes into the ticket office and stands just inside the door. They exchange a long glance, and Quigley tells the clerk that he is "Roy Cobb" and asks for two tickets. The clerk then puts the pistol down.

As Quigley and Cora walk along the wharf to the ship, she reminds him that he once told her she had to say two words before he would make love to her. Quigley stops, looking confused, and asks her what the words were. As she walks past, she says, smiling broadly, "Matthew Quigley." Quigley turns Cora around, she removes his hat and runs her fingers through his hair, and they embrace.



John Hill first began writing Quigley Down Under in 1978, and both Steve McQueen and Clint Eastwood were considered for the lead, but by the time production began in 1980, McQueen was too ill and the project was scrapped.[2] In the mid-1980s Tom Selleck heard of it and UAA got involved; the film was almost set up at Warner Bros with Lewis Gilbert as director but it fell over during pre-production. Simon Wincer then became director, who felt a good story had been ruined by numerous rewrites from people who knew little about Australian history, so he brought on Ian Jones as writer. They went back to the original draft, re-set it from the 1880s to the 1860s and made it more historically accurate.[3]

The film was made by the newly formed Pathe Group, then under Alan Ladd Jnr. It was Ladd's enthusiasm for the project which helped get it financed.[3]

The firearm used by Quigley (Selleck) is a custom 13.5 pound (6 kg), single-shot, 1874 Sharps Rifle, with a 34-inch (860 mm) barrel.[4] The rifle used for filming was a replica manufactured for the film by the Shiloh Rifle Manufacturing Company of Big Timber, Montana.[5] In 2002 Selleck donated the rifle, along with six other firearms from his other films, to the National Rifle Association, as part of the NRA's exhibit "Real Guns of Reel Heroes" at the National Firearms Museum in Fairfax, Virginia.[6]

The movie was filmed entirely in Australia. Scenes were filmed in and around Warrnambool and Apollo Bay, Victoria.[7]

Although several scenes of the story depict violence and cruelty toward and involving animals, a film spokesperson explained that no animal was harmed, and special effects were used. For example, Quigley and Cora are reduced to consuming "grub worms" (actually blobs of dough) for survival. A pack of dingoes attacks Cora, and she finally saves herself by shooting the animals. Those animals were specially trained, and were actually "playing" for that scene, which was later enhanced by visual and sound effects. Several scenes involve falling horses; they were performed by specially-trained animals and were not hurt. When a horse falls off a cliff, the "horse" was a mechanical creation. The film's producer stated that a veterinarian was on the set whenever animals were being used in filming.[8]


Critical responses were mixed, with Quigley having a 56% rating on Rotten Tomatoes.[9] Roger Ebert gave the film two-and-a-half out of four stars, arguing that it was a flawed but respectable neo-western, and particularly praising San Giacomo's performance: "[T]his may be the movie that proves her staying power. [...] She has an authority, a depth of presence, that is attractive, and her voice is deep and musical."[10]

The film, however, was not a financial success in theaters, roughly recouping its budget.

The film, specifically the protagonist's skill with his rifle, has led snipers to refer to the act of killing two targets with a single bullet as 'a Quigley'.[11]


Award Category Subject Result
London Film Critics' Circle Award British Actor of the Year Alan Rickman Won
Motion Picture Sound Editors Award Best Sound Editing - Foreign Feature Tim Chau Won
Frank Lipson Won
Political Film Society Award Human Rights Nominated

Quigley Sharps rifle

Quigley says of his gun:

It’s a lever-action, breech loader. Usual barrel length’s thirty inches. This one has an extra four. It’s converted to use a special forty-five caliber, hundred and ten grain metal cartridge, with a five-hundred and forty grain paper-patched bullet. It’s fitted with double set triggers, and a Vernier sight. It’s marked up to twelve-hundred yards. This one shoots a mite further.

Three fully functional .45-110 rifles matching the above description were built for the film in 1989 by the Shiloh Rifle Co. of Big Timber, Montana, United States. They also had a 15 14 inch length of pull to fit Selleck's tall frame, a full octagon heavy barrel with a blue finish, and weighed 13 12 pounds. Due to the weight, one of the rifles was sent back to Shiloh to be refitted with an aluminum barrel so it could be swung faster (as a club) in fight scenes.

Though Quigley calls it a lever-action rifle, this is actually an error. While it is operated with a lever, the Sharps rifle is actually a Falling Block Action, not a Lever Action.

After the filming concluded, Selleck kept all three rifles, and had two of them reconditioned by Shiloh Rifle Co. In 2006 Selleck donated one of the rifles used in filming to the NRA for a fundraising raffle. In March 2008 that rifle was sold for $69,000 through the James D. Julia auction house.[12] The company which created the rifle for the movie (Shiloh Rifle Co.) also offers production models (1874 Sharps Buffalo – "Quigley") for sale to the public, with an approximate $3,300 price.[13] An Italian company (Davide Pedersoli & C.) sells a copy of the Shiloh rifle under the name S.789 1874 Sharps Quigley Sporting.[14]

An annual Matthew Quigley Buffalo Rifle Match is held in Forsyth, Montana (180 miles from Big Timber) on Father's Day weekend. The shoot is the largest of its kind in America, attended by around 600 shooters, with targets out to 800 yards.[15]

Ron Haddrick plays Grimmelman, the old shop keeper who befriends Matthew Quigley and reloads cartridges for him. Ron Haddrick's real life wife's maiden name is Margaret Lorraine Quigley.

See also


  1. ^ Greg Kerr, "Quigley", Australian Film 1978-1992, Oxford Uni Press, 1993 p323
  2. ^ Persico Newhouse, Joyce J. "'Perfect Hero' Selleck Takes Aim at Action". Times Union. 18 October 1990.
  3. ^ a b Scott Murray, "Simon Wincer: Trusting His Instincts", Cinema Papers, November 1989 pp. 6–12, 78
  4. ^ Sharp, Eric. "Shooting Star - Antique Black-Powder Rifle Still Scene-Stealer". Detroit Free Press. 18 June 2006.
  5. ^ Names and Faces: "On Target". Orlando Sentinel. 6 August 1989.
  6. ^ "Tom Selleck Donates Seven Guns To NRA National Firearms Museum". National Rifle Association
  7. ^ GreatSouthCoast website
  8. ^ AHA Film website
  9. ^ Quigley Down Under at Rotten Tomatoes
  10. ^ "Quigley Down Under". Chicago Sun-Times. 
  11. ^ Harnden, Toby (13 March 2011). "Dead Men Risen: The snipers' story". The Daily Telegraph (London). 
  12. ^ "Firearms: Spring 2009 - Selected Highlights". James D. Julia. March 2008. 
  13. ^ """1874 Sharps Buffalo – "Quigley. Shiloh Rifle Co. 1991–2010. 
  14. ^ "1874 Sharps". Davide Pedersoli & C. 1998–2008. 
  15. ^ "Matthew Quigley Buffalo Rifle Match". Montana Office of Tourism. 2010. 

External links

  • Official website
  • Quigley Down Under at AllMovie
  • Quigley Down Under at Box Office Mojo
  • Quigley Down Under at the Internet Movie Database
  • "Sharps Rifle 1874 homepage".  updated 22 April 2012
  • " Quigley Down Under Weapons Identification Page". 
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