Man Outside

Directed and co-written by Mark Stouffer, brother of Arkansas-born documentary filmmaker Marty Stouffer, Man Outside (1987) is a modestly budgeted independent romance-thriller made and set in rural Arkansas.

In an effective opening sequence, Arkansas-born lawyer Jack (played by Robert Logan) speeds his expensive sports car recklessly across Mississippi and Arkansas, finally crashing and abandoning the vehicle in the Ozarks woods. Remorseful that his wife had died in a house fire while he was out drinking, Jack becomes a hermit—with enough funds to afford a house much nicer on the inside than the outside. He is friendly only with a few subsistence farmers, although college professor Grace (Kathleen Quinlan) makes some progress befriending the recluse. After a local boy disappears, Jack is first abducted and assaulted by vigilantes and then rescued and jailed by sensible Sheriff Laughlin (Levon Helm). Grace helps him escape. Together, they investigate and discover that the boy was abducted by local eccentric Simmons (Bradford Dillman). The boy is rescued, and in a rushed finale, Jack forgives himself for his wife’s death and vows to re-establish contact with his son. He and Grace fall in love.

Internet Movie Database reports that the film was made in Fayetteville (Washington County), but most of the scenes are set in rural areas and a small town. Locations are evocative and convincing. (Stouffer also made wildlife documentaries.) Brief scenes set at Grace’s university were no doubt filmed at the University of Arkansas (UA) in Fayetteville. Fayetteville and Fort Smith (Sebastian County) are mentioned in the film. The end credits thank the Northwest Arkansas Film Commission.

Robert Logan had a modest career and is best known as the hero of three Wilderness Family films (1975–1979) and the similar Across the Great Divide (1976). Kathleen Quinlan’s career was more extensive than Logan’s and included two Golden Globe nominations and an Oscar nomination. Four of the five members of the rock group the Band took acting roles in Man Outside. Levon Helm played the sheriff, the fourth-biggest role in the film. Rick Danko played the father of the kidnapped boy; Richard Manuel was a vigilante; and Garth Hudson was one of Jack’s farmer friends.

The film presents an unpleasant view of rural Ozarkers. Simmons’s mother is a monstrous tyrant who drives him to madness. The abducted boy’s father joins vigilantes who kidnap and torture Jack. The only positive representatives of the locals, aside from Jack and Grace, are the sheriff, the boy’s mother, and a subsistence farming couple.

The Variety review (January 13, 1988) called Man Outside “professionally lensed [photographed], conventionally plotted” and aimed at “family audiences.” The reviewer found this affinity to the family market in spite of the film’s PG-13 rating, some rough language, a brief flashback of Jack’s wife trapped in the fire, a short scene showing Jack being tortured, and several scenes in which Simmons terrorizes his child victim. The film apparently had little to no theatrical release before its video release in July 1988.

For additional information:
Joseph, Donald. “Review of Man Outside (1986).” The Band. (accessed February 13, 2018).

Man Outside.” Internet Movie Database. (accessed February 13, 2018).

Michael Klossner
Little Rock, Arkansas


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