Westworld (1973)

Westworld (1973)
  • Time: 88 min
  • Genre: Action | Sci-Fi | Thriller
  • Director: Michael Crichton
  • Cast: Yul Brynner, Richard Benjamin, James Brolin


An amusement park for rich vacationers. The park provides its customers a way to live out their fantasies through the use of robots that provide anything they want. Two of the vacationers choose a wild west adventure. However, after a computer breakdown, they find that they are now being stalked by a rogue robot gun-slinger.


  • The late Michael Crichton was a busy man. As well as being a prolific novelist, he has worked in TV and film for three decades, and had more than a few of his books, to varying degrees of quality, adapted for the screen. Some have been enormously successful (Jurassic Park (1993) and its ongoing franchise), and some have been quite diabolical (I’m looking at you, Congo (1995), the film I was subjected to as a child while my older brother went into the next screen to watch Pulp Fiction). One of his most intriguing ideas was his first stint as a feature-film director, Westworld, the tale of a futuristic theme park turned bloodbath.

    Company Delos have created a trio of parks based on celebrated historical periods, in which their customers are allowed to roam freely to indulge their darkest fantasies. Medieval World and Roman World are self-explanatory, as is West World, their most popular attraction. Park frequenter John Blane (James Brolin) treats his virgin friend Peter Martin (Richard Benjamin) to a fortnight of gun-slingin’, whore-frequentin’ and whisky-drinkin’ in West World, where robots disguised uncannily as humans play out their roles as bandits, saloon owners, and various other Western stereotypes. Peter is at first reluctant to get into the spirit, until he is bad-mouthed by the mechanical ‘Gunslinger’ (Yul Brynner) and blows the dead-eyed cyborg away. His inner primate is awoken, until the robots start to malfunction and begin to hunt every human in the parks.

    Although Westworld clearly wasn’t written with any sense of grand satire in mind and the film, for the most part, is certainly entertaining, the gaping plot-holes leave much to be explained. The guns are designed not to work when pointed at humans, so they are told that anything goes. Fists-fights and bank robberies are frequent events, so what is to stop someone from being stabbed or bludgeoned to death without the ability to tell human from metal? The men tasked with repairing the damaged and glitch-y robots comment that as the machine were part-created by computers, nobody really understand how they work, and are left scratching their heads as the malfunction incidents rise and rise. It’s convenient writing that almost borders on lazy, so it is pleasing that the plot moves at a brisk pace, becoming gradually creepier by the minute.

    The film, ironically, truly comes alive when Brynner is on screen. The opening third focuses mainly on John, Peter and various other tourists frequenting the other parks as they arrive with bright eyes, introduce us to their holiday destinations, and set about seducing, fighting, or whatever debauchery they have planned. These scenes are most comical, so the tone shifts significantly when the Gunslinger starts shooting people dead for real. Brynner’s stoic, emotion-free performance is chilling, and his climactic face-off with Peter is suitably nerve-jangling. Yet I feel an opportunity was missed somewhat, in favour of a more accessible, audience-friendly movie.. The story is full of possibilities and the ingredients were there to create a darker, weightier movie about a fantastical threat that we ponder more today than ever before, but I found it merely satisfying, greatly improved whenever Brynner shows his face.

    Rating: 3/5

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  • Throughout his career, science fiction novelist Michael Crichton has had a profound influence on the history of film and stories. Although the variety of Crichton’s work doesn’t differ greatly, much of his ideas bring up intriguing questions about our existence as the human race. Of Crichton’s work, the most popular of his films was Jurassic Park (1993) dealing with re-animated dinosaurs running a muck. Yet 20 years earlier, Crichton had wrote and directed another science-fiction film involving other creatures running a muck. The creatures this time are robots. With technology ever increasing in its complexity, people take it for granted more often than before. The question is, do we realize how realistic this technology has become? Everyday that passes, this applied science gets closer and closer to our personal lives to the point where we can interact with it as well. This is no longer a fantasy nowadays and that can be a scary thing. What happens with these machines become self-aware? Will we know how they’ll react?

    Taking place some time in the future, the world has created Delos, the “perfect vacation resort”. Consisting of three different time capsules; Romanworld, Medievalworld and Westworld, where each visitor can experience life as it was during that time for $1000 a day (oh yeah, pocket change). Helping make these three settings as realistic as possible, the Delos system uses robots that look like real people. The only way to tell the difference between a real human and these fake ones is by looking at their hands. Audiences will learn this after being introduced to Peter Martin (Richard Benjamin) and John Blane (James Brolin), two visitors to the resort; Blane of which is a returning guest. Martin on the other hand has never been to Delos and is excited to experience the authenticity of it. Behind the curtain of Delos, a sophisticated network of technicians and other workers help keep things moving. If a robot breaks down, it’s hauled back for repair. However, things are acting up more than usual lately.

    According to the Chief Supervisor (Alan Oppenheimer), the robots have been encountering frequent issues for strange reasons. There needs to be answers but no one knows why. How is that? The only answer given is that it’s some kind of “disease”, which is immediately impeded by another board member saying how could a machine have a disease? But that’s as far as it goes. For Jurassic Park (1993), saying that the dinosaurs became smart is somewhat acceptable and if that were the answer that would also work. Nevertheless leaving the inquiry as possibly a disease doesn’t solve much. The other noticeable problem with this film is its pacing. As Michael Crichton’s first theatrical film he directed, this could be the reason why his direction wasn’t on point. There are moments where scenes move slower than usual and some events that take place feel longer than necessary. Plus remembering that he also wrote for this film probably added to the amount of work Crichton had to deal with so it’s plausible he was under a lot of pressure.

    James Brolin and Richard Benjamin as the main two leads help give viewers a better understanding of what there is to expect from Delos. Benjamin plays the role viewers can relate to since any newcomer would have the same initial opinion. Brolin’s role is to assist in cementing the new belief. Co-starring with Brolin and Benjamin are also Norman Bartold playing another guest and Yul Brynner only known as the gunslinger. Bartold’s role isn’t greatly defined but he does play an important part for the viewer to see. Yul Brynner as the gunslinger may not have a lot to say but his appearance as a robot with reflective eyes is dastardly credible. The inflections in Brynner’s lines have just the right amount of flare to make him sound fake but dangerous all the same. The action / sci-fi & horror elements that show up throughout work too. Though it was given a PG rating at the time, it is far from it. There are blood squibs and some brutal violence throughout. For 1973, the makeup effects did wonders when it came to robotic creatures.

    Behind the camera was Gene Polito as the cinematographer. Polito’s camerawork is solid in every shot that occurs. That means capturing not only each setting’s background but also remaining completely still for action shots. There are also a number of slow motion shots that amplify how much Polito was able to capture in each frame. Looking at his entire career, it’s likely that this was the movie that he’s most widely regarded for. The same could be said for Fred Karlin, the musical composer. Understanding that the majority of the events featured will be in Westworld would incline that some of the score would include country music themes. This does occur and perhaps too exaggerated at points because sometimes it sounds like hillbilly music. However, what Karlin made efficiently dark and scary was the horror of his music. Relying on prepared piano (which is rare in most scores) and scratchy strings truly makes the horror cues much more intense because the sounds or so uniquely constructed compared to other compositions.

    Writing in particular is well thought out even though there are unresolved questions. The pacing in some areas may also be a bit slow but it’s made up with relatable characters, a twisted film score and well-shot cinematography.

    Points Earned –> 7:10

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