COLORADO: Endangered Species

Alan Rudolph — a highly unusual choice to helm a conspiracy theory thriller about cattle mutilations, given his background in low-key arthouse character studies like Mrs. Parker and the Vicious Circle — guides us through the spacey universe of this early-’80s oddity with surprising aplomb. Like Oliver Stone’s JFK, which offers many explanations but no big answers to its central mystery, Endangered Species isn’t really about the unexplained phenomenon on its surface. Rather, Rudolph takes great pleasure in navigating us into and around the various smokescreens, accompanied by a bonkers computerized soundtrack that one online reviewer has described as “R2D2 on crystal meth at Karaoke night.” It’s as if, much like Rudolph mentor Robert Altman and his anti-teen comedy O.C. and Stiggs, Rudolph delighted in picking apart the many strands of audience expectation related to the film’s genre premise, until all that remained was a meta-statement about genre itself. Mixing that with the film’s curiously addictive performances and trembling atmosphere, the results are often fascinating, and will stick in your craw long after the final reel runs through the projector.
Dir. Alan Rudolph, 1982, 16mm, 97 min. (Archival print courtesy of the UCLA Film and Television Archive)