102 minutes approx
Peter Martin -
John Blane -
Written by -
Directed by -
Delos is the ultimate pleasure park for the wealthy. In one of three themed areas (Romanworld, Medievalworld and Westworld), the guests can do pretty much whatever they like, helped by androids programmed to serve every whim they might have. Two such holidaymakers plump for Westworld and set about shooting the hell out of the resident gunslinger model, romancing the saloon girls and breaking out of the jail. Until it all goes wrong, of course, and the mild-mannered businessmen find themselves in a world where they are being hunted by the ultimate killing machine and it will not stop.
Westworld is coming out on DVD which gives us reason enough to review it retrospectively here on the Sci Fi Freak Site. Not that we ever really needed a reason because this is a pared down sci-fi actioner that actually deserves the cult reputation that it has. Originally released in 1973, it has clearly influenced some later and more famous movies. For example, itís unstoppable killer robot is over a decade ahead of THE TERMINATOR and the whole plot was rehashed by writer (and director here) Michael Crichton for JURASSIC PARK, albeit with dinosaurs instead of robots.
Michael Crichton isnít much of a director. He basically points the camera and yells action, but that actually is to the benefit of the film, allowing the story and action to flow unhindered by unnecessary directorial flourishes. And both the story and the action carry the film on their own anyway. We are given enough time early on to get to know executives Richard Benjamin and James Brolin before the mayhem starts so that their fate is more important to us when things do start to get messy. When that happens, itís a remorseless, tense chase as a man not used to having to rely on his wits for his survival has to find ways to outfox a machine that can see and hear better than he can, is stronger and absolutely will not stop.
Casting Yul Brynner as the unstoppable gunslinger is the filmís masterstroke, even kitting him out in his original MAGNIFICENT SEVEN outfit. Not only does he give an absolutely blank performance (just as required), but the subversion of the heroic character into the bad guy makes him all the more memorable as a villain.
The filmís not without its faults, of course. There clearly wasnít a huge budget available (although this is turned into a virtue, again feeding into the lean, clean structure) and the script does have some clunky expositional dialogue, especially where the scientists working behind the scenes are concerned. There are also logic lapses such as how any theme park could get past health and safety legislation when using real bullets. Surely some sort of laser/blood squibs scenario would be more likely.
WESTWORLD is an example of how to make an excellent science fiction film on a low budget with imaginative ideas and a tight plot.
And yes, that is Majel Barrett making one of her non-STAR TREK appearances as the saloon madame.Top
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