Peter’s Retro Movie Reviews: Westworld (1973)

February 17, 2012

by Peter Nielsen

”Hi. Ed Ramsey from Delos. If there’s anyone who doesn’t know what Delos is, well, as we’ve always said: Delos is the vacation of the future, today. At Delos, you get your choice of the vacation you want. There’s Medieval World, Roman World and, of course, Westworld.”

Wouldn’t you want to have the vacation of your dreams? To be able to do, more or less, whatever your heart desired? No repercussions or strings attached? You know… what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas? Or in this case Delos? Because in Delos you apparently can, provided it involves either frolicking with knights and fair maidens, spending time in decadent Rome or having an Old West adventure. For a “measly” 1000 dollars a day you can indulge in your every whim, in a completely authentic setting. An adult-themed amusement-park for the rich if you will.

John Blane and Peter Martin are seated aboard the hovercraft on their way to Westworld. John for his second time, but for Peter it’s a first so he’s as anxious and giddy as a school-boy on a first date. He’s played very convincingly by Richard Benjamin who’s been in Love At First Bite and Saturday the 14th for instance. He’s also an accomplished director who’s responsible for, among others, a little gem I’ve mentioned in an earlier review, namely Racing With The Moon.

Where nothing can go worng...

Where nothing can go worng…

John Blane is played by James Brolin from two other favorite movies of mine, Capricorn One and The Amityville Horror. He’s the calm one, trying to get his friend to relax and enjoy himself. Peter’s a young lawyer who’s just gone through a divorce and is a bit high strung and needs to unwind a bit. So… they go to the saloon, have a drink, shoot a guy and ends up at the local cathouse.

And everything is alright and perfectly safe, because nothing can harm you here. The inhabitants in Westworld are perfectly crafted androids, programmed NOT to harm humans, so you will not be hurt no matter what.

And now you have to bear with me here as I go on a little sidetrack. I’m a Trekkie, so I have to mention this… At the cathouse we get to meet the madam, Miss Carrie. She’s played by Majel Barrett-Roddenberry, wife of Gene Roddenberry, creator of Star Trek. She’s known for being on all six different incarnations of the show as the voice of the onboard computer. She was also nurse Chapel in Star Trek: The Original Series and Lwaxana Troi in Star Trek: The Next Generation and Deep Space Nine.

Strike a pose!

Strike a pose!

Still with me? Ok? Ok! Back on track! So…

The whole resort is run from a huge underground complex where everything is meticulously monitored around the clock by a large staff of technicians, but lately they’ve begun noticing small “glitches” in the programming and soon… Yup, you guessed it! All hell breaks loose! The machines become aware, so to speak!

I’m sure Westworld must have influenced several later moviemakers when they created other memorable and iconic screen-characters. I’m thinking of James Cameron’s Terminator, Paul Verhoeven’s Robocop and even John Carpenter’s Halloween. All of those have molded the main character on the gunslinger from Westworld.

So let’s talk about him for a little while, shall we? He’s portrayed by the charismatic Yul Brynner from The Magnificent Seven, The King and I and The Ten Commandments to name just a few of his many movies. He actually based the gunslinger on his own character from The Magnificent Seven. Supposedly he even wore the same outfit. John and Peter have a couple of run-ins with him and it always ends up with the gunslinger getting “killed”.

John and Peter on the hovercraft

John and Peter on the hovercraft

The creepy thing is that when things finally go bad he remembers this and goes after them specifically. He obviously doesn’t like losing to “inferior” humans, so when they face off for, what ultimately becomes the final duel, John and Peter thinks it’s still just fun and games. John jokingly asks if it’s ok if he takes care of it this time and gets ready. The gunslinger on the other hand just stands there with a little sinister smile on his face, because he “knows”…

Michael Crichton has both written and directed Westworld and is also responsible for Runaway, Looker, Coma, The Andromeda Strain and Jurassic Park. The last two wasn’t directed by him though. Westworld is a great thriller that actually still feels “fresh” even though it was made almost 40 years ago.

I suppose that has to do with the whole concept of the movie. I mean, just think about it… an amusement-park with fully functioning (ahem?) and lifelike androids at your disposal. And the way scientific progress is going who knows? Maybe it won’t be science fiction in the not too distant future.

An intriguing and yet creepy thought! Would you trust a machine to that level? Could you? I’m not sure I could. I mean, we’ve all seen far too many movies where robots and androids run amok, killing people, right?

Which, again, brings me back to the gunslinger. He’s as deadly as they come, but he does look damn cool coming after you. He doesn’t rush or hurry any! He takes his time because he knows he’ll eventually get you. He’s relentless, unstoppable and absolutely terrifying. The scenes where he chases Peter through the different worlds are superbly intense. So what are you waiting for?

“Why don’t you make arrangements to take our hovercraft to Medieval World, Roman World and Westworld. Contact us today or see your travel agent. Boy, have we got a vacation for you!”

Until next time my friends…


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