Film Review – WESTWORLD (1973)

WESTWORLD (1973, USA, 88m, 15) ***½
Action, Sci-Fi, Thriller, Western
dist. Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM) (USA), MGM-EMI (UK); pr co. Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM); d. Michael Crichton; w. Michael Crichton; pr. Paul N. Lazarus III; ph. Gene Polito (Metrocolor | 2.39:1); m. Fred Karlin; ed. David Bretherton; ad. Herman A. Blumenthal.
cast: Yul Brynner (Gunslinger), Richard Benjamin (Peter Martin), James Brolin (John Blane), Norman Bartold (Medieval Knight), Alan Oppenheimer (Chief Supervisor), Victoria Shaw (Medieval Queen), Dick Van Patten (Banker), Linda Gaye Scott (Arlette), Steve Franken (Technician), Michael T. Mikler (Black Knight), Terry Wilson (Sheriff), Majel Barrett (Miss Carrie), Anne Randall (Daphne), Julie Marcus (Girl in Dungeon), Sharyn Wynters (Apache Girl), Anne Bellamy (Middle Aged Woman), Chris Holter (Stewardess), Charles Seel (Bellhop), Wade Crosby (Bartender), Jared Martin (Technician).
Michael Crichton wrote and directed this tale set in a futuristic theme park where paying guests can pretend to be gunslingers in artificial Wild West, Roman and Medieval settings populated by androids. After paying a sizable entrance fee, Brolin and Benjamin are determined to unwind by hitting saloons and shooting guns. But when the system malfunctions the escapist fantasy suddenly takes a dark turn. Crichton builds his setting with humour and not-so subtle comments on fantasy fulfilment, but it is not until the system failure, embodied by Brynner’s steely cold robot gunslinger, that the story catches fire. The finale, with Brynner’s relentless pursuit of Benjamin, is full of tension and can be seen as a major influence on John Carpenter’s HALLOWEEN (1978) and James Cameron’s THE TERMINATOR (1984). Crichton himself would revisit his plot in a different setting for his novel “Jurassic Park”, which was sensationally filmed in 1993 by Steven Spielberg. Followed by FUTUREWORLD (1976). Later adapted for TV as Beyond Westworld (1980) and Westworld (2016- ).