Saturday, 10 September 2011

Have We Got A Vacation for You! - Westworld (1973, MGM)

Imagine a theme park, filled with robots to indulge your every whim. Imagine that theme park was split into three 'worlds': RomanWorld, MedievalWorld andWest World. Now, imagine that the robots hit a glitch and started to kill all the guests, while the technicians who are trying to stop them suffocate, thereby unable to do anything. Thats Westworld in a nutshell. And was Michael Crichton's first directorial feature, which is a cracker.

Starring Richard Benjamin, James Brolin and Yul Brinner, Westworld sees two friends, Peter Martin (Benjamin) and John Blane (Brolin) take a boys vacation to Westworld, to get drunk, engage in bar room brawls and have shootouts with The Gunslinger (Brinner), a robot programmed to be constantly shot at. In this park, none of the guests can be harmed through failsafes, like the guns not firing at humans through temperature sensors. But, when a woman robot refuses the advances of one of the guests in MedievalWold, the technicians notice this along with other glitches, and try to pull the plug, only for the systems to not come back on, and suffocate them all. With no help to control the rampaging robots, one by one the guests get slain, with only Martin and Blane being left alive, until the Gunslinger comes a calling.

Crichton's first directorial job is a great one. It is superbly directed, with a great performances from Brolin, Brinner and Benjamin, especially Brinner as the psychotic Gunslinger, and is a blueprint for what was to come from the author turned director and, beings this was not based on one of Crichton's books, it's hard to not envision it starting out as a book. It's also the first film to have digital image processing to pixelate the view point of the androids. And it's a trick that still works well some 38 years after it's initial release.

Well worth watching more than once, just for the awesome Brinner playing against type as the bad guy.

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