The late great Michael Crichton really left a powerful legacy. His books pushed the boundaries of science fiction pushing it into more reality based.
He gave us the gripping medical movie Coma and the seminal medical show ER.
Before Crichton left us he also directed over a handful of movies. His first feature film was the now 70s sci-fi classic WESTWORLD.
This film would inspire Crichton to write his landmark novel Jurassic Park and influence other creators with films like The Terminator and The Running Man.
WESTWORLD is an amusement park where guests can relive of life in the Old West. Westworld is one of three parks including Medieval World and Roman World.
To make the vacationers experience as authentic as possible each park is full of highly advanced robots to cater to a guests every whim.
From a wild west showdown to a sword fight to a trip to the local brothel, the park is designed for every fantasy.
The movie follows Peter Martin (Richard Benjamin) and John Blane (James Brolin) as they embark on their journey to Westworld.
During their visit the park begins to suffer from malfunctions including a battle with a sinister gunslinger (Yul Brynner).
What is interesting watching this film now is just how original the concept was back then and how many times it has been recycled today. Every sci-fi series must have had that one episode where the hero ends up in an amusement park run amok. Not to mention all the times Star Trek: The Next Generation had to deal with holodeck malfunctions.
The film itself is quite dated. But what draws you in is the concept and well just how much Brynner’s Gunslinger has become part of geek pop culture. As a geek what is interesting is looking at this film and how many other sci-fi shows and movies were connected.
Majel Barrett (Star Trek) is the madame of the brothel. Allen Oppenheimer (The Six Million Dollar Man’s original doctor Rudy Wells) plays the superintendent of the park. Jared Martin (War of the Worlds TV Series) plays one of the park’s technicians. Steve Franken (Mission Impossible) also plays a technician.
The final scenes with the Gunslinger tracking Peter over 35 minutes is overly long and the pacing is so slow. I think if he is fleeing for his life then the scene should be intense. And the very 70s theme make it the most dated scene in the film. Leads Benjamin, Brolin and Brynner all deliver great performances. Even Eight is Enough’s Dick Van Patten even shows up to give us some comic relief.
I think Westworld is screaming to be remade. But I would make it darker, sleazier and more horrific.
4 out of 5
So Says the Soothsayer