New York police detective, Ruben Castle (Robert Urich) has been suspended from duty.  He is a burnt-out alcoholic trying to go on the wagon.  Wanting a fresh start, he and his teenage daughter Mackenzie (Marin Kanter), head across country to the small town of Buffalo, Colorado.  Mackenzie is not thrilled at the prospect of being stuck in a backward town and has a bit of a chip on her shoulder.  Ruben is friends with the local newspaper editor, Joe Hiatt (Paul Dooley).     

Lately there has been a rash of cattle mutilations in the surrounding countryside.  The wounds on the cattle appear to be surgically induced and some of their organs are missing.  The ranchers are upset that some of their cattle have been killed and look to the local sheriff, Harriet Purdue (JoBeth Williams) to solve the mystery.  Harriet is new to the job and has her hands full with both the mutilations and the unrest among the ranchers.  The mayor (Gailard Sartain), and Ben Morgan (Hoyt Axton), from the cattlemen’s association are counting on the sheriff to solve the problem.

At the time the cattle are being attacked people have seen strange lights in the sky, no tracks and weird noises.  Some believe it is UFOs and some think that a satanic cult is killing the cows. 

Ruben and Harriet get off on the wrong foot when Mackenzie rams into Harriet’s police car and Ruben, in a drunken state, tries to sexually assault her.  Harriet can hold her own.  Ruben tries to stay out of what’s going on but when his friend Hiatt is killed Ruben and Harriet team up to try to find out what is killing the cattle and why.  They end up deep in a secret cabal to create a biological weapon.

“Endangered Species” was released in 1982 and was directed by Alan Rudolph.  It is an American science fiction mystery thriller and a conspiracy film. 

For some reason the film seems to have fallen off of everybody’s radar.  It has an interesting meld of the bizarre cattle mutilations of the seventies with UFO paranoia and secret government projects during the cold war.  Although the hero is an ex-cop, he is also flawed which makes him more of a regular guy.  Added to it, is some really cool visual effects and a scary soundtrack.  There is also some good old-fashioned gore mixed in with the eerie and thought-provoking story.     

There were a few tiny drawbacks in the film for me.  First, Urich’s character was a little too flawed.  Second, his daughter Mackenzie’s attitude was a little annoying.  Third, the so-called romance between Ruben and Harriet was basically unbelievable.  None of these issues were enough to do too much damage to the movie or the viewing pleasure.    

Robert Urich’s wife Heather Menzies-Urich has a small part as a character named Susan.  I think she plays a waitress and is on screen for all of six seconds.