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Westworld (1973)

February 4th, 2006 · No Comments

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Richard Benjamin and James Brolin play buddies on their way to Delos, a mega resort of the future. Tourists choose between Romanworld, Medievalworld or Westworld, which are populated with lifelike “robots” guests can interact with, kill, or get randy with, depending on your preference.

Since this high concept sci-fi thriller is written and directed by Michael Crichton, before you can say “Welcome to Jurassic Park!”, technology fails, and a computer virus turns the robots against the tourists.

Yul Brenner is extremely creepy as a robot Gunslinger who keeps coming no matter how far you run. The sequence near the end where he relentlessly pursues Benjamin below ground into the sterile corridors of the control center are the best thing in the movie.

John Carpenter might have been listening to Fred Karlin’s quirky, unconventional electronic score when he began scoring his own films. It’s basic, but eerie and highly effective.

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One thing that Carpenter mastered was how to make a low budget genre flick look like a big film. Crichton, the novelist and former M.D., had more resources than most first timers, but the movie just looks like crap. The park simply does not look like a place anyone would want to visit.

The concept of Westworld is kind of cool, but the flick itself is infested with cheese, some of it unavoidable considering the year it was made, others just weak. There’s a lifeless opening scene where tourists returning from Delos are interviewed on camera giving the dullest vacation reports ever. If this was meant to build suspense or stir the imagination until we got to the park, it doesn’t.

Crichton is renowned for his medical and scientific pedigree, but the conceit that a resort would be so technologically advanced as to have lifelike robots interacting with visitors doesn’t wash. For it to make sense, we would probably need to be at least 200 years in the future, whereas computer techs smoking on the job and tourists being billed only $1,000 a day indicate Crichton was forecasting this for the near future. It doesn’t make any sense.

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Yes, this is just a popcorn movie, but Jurassic Park took much better care of explaining the science and making a far-fetched scenario seem possible. And that park looked cool.

There are plenty of ’70s moments here for sure, such as the control panel with the blinking lights. These are excusable for the times, but Crichton’s direction is just feeble. What’s worse, his plot driven script is devoid of any interesting characters or dialogue.

This was the first major film to employ two dimensional CGI, for the point of view shots showing the heat signature vision of the Gunslinger. The first film to use three dimensional CGI would be the sequel, Futureworld in 1976.

 

 

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