Gearing up for tomorrow’s Doctor Who, “A Town Called Mercy”, which looks to have a nice outer space western theme to it, I decided to watch the original sci-fi western, Westworld tonight, so I would be able to see if there were any similarities tomorrow. As well I’m pretty sure I had never seen all of Westworld, so this seemed like a great opportunity to catch up on a classic bit of science fiction. Written in 1973 by Michael Crichton, Westworld marked the directorial debut of the celebrated author who wrote The Great Train Robbery, Congo, Andromeda Strain, Rising Sun, and of course Jurassic Park. In the rather near future there is a place called Delos, I’m not sure if it was an island or where exactly it was, but Delos was essentially the home to an amusement park for adults. Divided into three different themed sections, Delos housed Roman World, where one could experience the luxury of life at the height of Rome’s power; Medieval World, designed like castle-aged Europe; and Westworld, modelled after the American Western frontiers. Run by banks of computers and operated by technicians around the clock, the worlds of Delos were populated by robots that were designed to interact with the vacationing “guests”, allowing them to make their fantasies real. Roman gladiatorial combat, jousting with the Black Knight, or an old West showdown could all be experienced, and were all completely safe for the human participants. It wouldn’t be good for business to harm a guest, right? We follow two friends (Richard Benjamin and James Brolin) who visit Westworld for a vacation. They get involved in bar fights, bunk out in a hotel, ride a stagecoach, visit the local whorehouse, and Peter Martin (Benjamin) even kills a gunslinger in shootout. All 100% safe and designed as fantasy fulfillment…..then the malfunctions start to occur.
One morning the gunslinger Martin shot comes back from repairs looking for a rematch; unfortunately for Martin, the gunslinger he “killed” was Yul Brynner. As the robots all over Delos begin to kill the guests, Martin tries to escape from his gunslinger adversary, crossing over the borders to the other worlds, still being relentlessly pursued by a robot in scenes that looked incredibly similar to those in The Terminator that came eleven years later. The nice thing about movies from 40 years ago is that they were really quite short compared to what we get today. Westworld clocked in at 88 minutes, and was a nice, easy watch after a 12 hour work day. The first half of the movie was rather fun, watching Brolin and Benjamin see the sights and experience the world for us, as well as giving us simultaneous glimpses at the happenings in the other two worlds and the technical crew maintaining Delos. At about the halfway point, things start to go bad and the suspense and thrills escalate quickly.
The special effects were really minimal in Westworld but that didn’t really matter, there wasn’t really a need for a lot of flash. The movie was part period piece and part “futuristic” science lab, with computers the size of walls constantly spinning reels of magnetic tape, and technicians dressed as operating room doctors performing repairs on the robots. We saw a few shots from the view of the robots, that were just pixilated images made to look like the robots “infrared” view of things, and a few cool shots when a robot was being repaired and their “skin” was removed to show their circuits. There was a lot of clearly fake blood when a robot was killed, which may have been part of the atmosphere provided by Delos for its guests. What really made the movie tick; aside from a strong story that makes you wonder if man had become too reliant on his technology that it even controls his leisure time; was the acting of Yul Brynner. I loved him in The Magnificent Seven and The King and I, and here, again, he was just the perfect choice to play the cold, calculating and unrelenting “gunslinger”. His line delivery was amazing, for the few that he did have; his pace and timing were excellent, and brought the level of tension and fear to an amazing level with just a metallic look in his eye (courtesy of silver contact lenses), and an evil looking smile.
Posted on 12-09-15, in 3.5 Star, Movie Reviews and tagged 3.5 star, andromeda strain, fantasy fulfillment, great train robbery, Michael Crichton, movie, review, Westworld, Yul Brynner. Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.