This is a new series that we are inaugurating on a continuing basis here at Cinema Station… Now there are other movie blogs that already feature a recommended Movie of the Week so what makes us different? Or are we just imitating something that has already been done? Hopefully not. We’re going to be different because the titles we select will not be from the generally accepted canon of worthwhile or critically acclaimed films. In other words our selections will not have any discernible pedigree of any kind. They are the runts of the litter, the orphans, the rude children that just won’t behave or conform, the mavericks and the outlaws. So they will mostly be small, offbeat and often low budget works that caught our fancy or captivated our attention for one reason or another. A different way of putting it is to say that these are films that got made, released but somehow slipped through the cracks somewhere along the way and now reside in the dark abyss of obscurity. But it doesn’t have to be that way forever. At least not here in the universe of Cinema Station. So hang with us, maybe you’ll find a gem or two among them.
The Outsider (1980)
When I watched The Outsider, I had no idea how obscure of a film it was. It is confused for and lost in a sea of similar titles. There has been no release on VHS or DVD (I found it on Netflix). There is no information on wikipedia or IMDb other than plot summaries. It is the only film ever directed by Tony Luraschi. And the only reviews I found were both from the New York Times around the film’s release which divulged that Luraschi (in 1980) was a 40 year old American who studied under Roger Vadim among others and had been a still photographer before working in film.
I’m on this quest to find out more about The Outsider and its director because it is a powerful piece of cinema. It tells the story of an American (played by Craig Wasson) and Vietnam veteran who joins the I.R.A. to fight the British, influenced by his prideful Irish-American grandfather. Thrown into a power play of soldiers and politicians on either side, Wasson’s character ends up being used by both ends, his ideals exploited for victory and publicity.
This is perhaps the best film I have seen about the Irish conflict. The “outsider” perspective allows the director to take an unbiased look at the situation. As he is quoted in the NY Times review, “It doesn’t have a point of view. It just tells what is happening.” The film is not looking for answers and for that reason, it is rough, less polished, and more honest than mainstream attempts to portray this material.
Luraschi portrays a bleak Belfast where bombs explode at any time of day and night for no apparent reason and with no one clearly responsible. Though the British are more the “bad guys” of the movie, there are bastards on both sides of the war and Luraschi makes no judgments on them. In many ways, this is a film as complex, disturbing and almost as brilliant as Jean-Pierre Melville’s French Resistance drama Army of Shadows. Both movies leave much for us to decide, their characters a mystery at times and the conclusion of the stories utterly haunting.
If there is one weak point in the film it is Craig Wasson, who tries to meet the film on its level but isn’t quite capable. Still, it is refreshing to see an unlikely lead in this film, which would have been completely ruined by a typical Hollywood male star. For this reason, Wasson is the kind of protagonist we can relate to and follow through the horror. As Spielberg wisely decided on Jaws, it is often more effective and unpredictable to cast an every-man hero. Roy Scheider instead of Charlton Heston, for instance.
Sterling Hayden gives one of his last performances as the grandfather who influenced Wasson to fight in Ireland. There is only one scene between the two actors but it carries the weight and tone of the whole picture. Luraschi has the guts afterwards to end the film with no resolution. How could he when the war that it concerns continues even today?
The Outsider is a semi-flawed masterwork and it is a shame that the director never made another film.
If you’re out there anywhere Tony, know that your film continues to awe and astound those who come upon it.