Michael Crichton is best remembered as the juggernaut author of popular books like “Jurassic Park”, “The Andromeda Strain”, “Congo”, “Rising Sun”- but he had a solid career as film director as well, and Westworld is his debut. Crichton was just 31-years old at the time.
Crichton is an important science fiction figure- and even at a young age in 1973 he already had his work on The Andromeda Strain (a superior work- directed by Robert Wise in 1971) under his belt.
Westworld is an adult-themed amusement park. It serves as a futuristic escape for vacationers. At the park there is the titular Old West section of the park, there is a medieval world, and a Roman world, too. This is not virtual reality, but one can see Philip K. Dick’s influence on Crichton. Crichton here is really warming up for Jurassic Park as well- the similarities between Westworld and Jurassic are readily apparent -a theme park turned into a nightmare.
Westworld stars Yul Brynner (as simply “Gunslinger”), Richard Benjamin and James Brolin. Benjamin is the uneasy newcomer to Westworld. In an old western saloon, he orders a vodka martini on the rocks with a twist. Brolin is the much more masculine experienced vacationer. Brolin fits well into a western- not sure why he did not have a better career in western movies. Brynner is a robot. The film works best when sticking with these three. The story of Delos and the chief scientist/supervisor (Alan Oppenheimer) just has no grab at all. The story also oscillates to the medieval world much more than it needs to. Brynner relentlessly chases the Benjamin character for the third act and some of the best sequences in the film. One can see the cold inhuman hunter/killer influence on Halloween (1978) and Terminator (1984) as well.
Gradually more and more of the amusement park breaks down. There is a nice progression there.
Westworld was made in the wake of The Wild Bunch and Peckinpah of course. There is a slow-motion shootout with Brynner’s gunslinger falling out of the second story window. There is a quick zoom in on Benjamin, too. Brynner’s casting (he has these artificial piercing eyes which work well) and even his costume in the film is a nod to his work in The Magnificent Seven (1960 from John Sturges).
Westworld is noted for being the first use of computer-generated images. Crichton uses this for Brynner’s robot computerized grid point of view. This is a perfect use of technology- and a precursor to Predator (1987) among other future uses.
The results are not overly ambitious, but the Westworld is an engaging film and artistic success.
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