Lively, entertaining reviews of, and essays on, old and newer films and everything relating to them, written by professional author William Schoell.

Thursday, June 1, 2017


Mr. Intense: Yul Brynner
WESTWORLD (1973). Written and directed by Michael Crichton.

The amusement park Delos, primarily for the very wealthy, offers something that even Disneyworld can't provide: incredibly lifelike robots who can interact -- and even have intercourse -- with the guests. Delos is divided into sections where guests can live out their fantasies: Westworld, Roman World, and Medieval World. Peter Martin (Richard Benjamin) and John Blane (James Brolin of The Car) check into the wild west and tangle with an intense, unfriendly gunslinger (Yul Brynner), who has little to say and seems to die quite easily -- at first. Things start going wrong at Delos and suddenly the robots aren't so compliant ... Westworld has a terrific (if probably not very original) idea, but its execution is hit or miss. There isn't much internal logic for one thing: why do the robots' guns have real bullets in them, and since you generally can't tell a human from a robot, can't a guest accidentally wind up injuring or killing another guest? There is some mild suspense at the climax, but this never really develops into much of anything. It certainly could have used a better script and a bigger budget. Yul Brynner has little dialogue but he easily walks off with the movie with his trademark intensity; Brolin is satisfactory; but Benjamin -- admittedly this material is not exactly Diary of a Mad Housewife -- mostly walks through the movie, but in the wrong way.  Jared Martin is a technician; Dick Van Patten a horny guest; and Majel Barrett [As Young As We Are] a madame. Followed by the film Futureworld, the TV series Beyond Westworld, and a 2016 HBO series.

Verdict: Somewhat entertaining but basically disappointing. **.


Neil A Russell said...

Crichton's films are a little hit or miss. For instance, the remake of "Westworld" otherwise known as "Jurassic Park" under the direction of Steven Spielberg was remarkable.
Maybe it was because when he tried to write and direct his films his vision was just a little more than the technology of the time would allow.
(I was about to give him credit for "Andromeda Strain", but that had Robert Wise at the helm)
I haven't seen all of his other directorial efforts, never saw "Coma" or "Runaway", so I can't speak about those. I did however see "Great Train Robbery" and while I thought it was terrific when I saw it on the big screen, a subsequent viewing left me simply bored.
Then there was "Looker" which for 1980 or so was a very visionary concept. Trouble was when it was put to the screen the idea of a company killing off its models after copying their likeness to a computer (and yes, I realize there was a deeper plotline involved), and then overlaying those computer generated images onto animatronic props in commercials is downright silly.
Anyway, as usual, I digress. I saw "Westworld" when it was first out in theaters and I was about 12.
From that perspective and what I remember of it, I thought it was great.
Twelve year old great probably if I were to see it again now.
I do remember that the robots were capable of shooting real bullets, and the knights had real swords, and I suppose the Romanworld baddies were similarly equipped and you are right; what point would that serve other than to cause heart failure in the Delos legal department?
The whole concept was just one big liability that existed for no other reason than to move the plot along.
Some years later I saw the sequel and was disappointed in it, maybe because it didn't live up to my perceptions of the original but certainly because Yul Brynner only showed up in a dream sequence even though he was featured prominently on the posters.
I've been catching up on films that I watched as a kid and will now have to add these two to the list.
Off the topic, I recently uncovered a lost film called "Arnold's Wrecking Company" from 1971 which aired once on Georgia Public TV and had to be the first stoner film far ahead of Cheech and Chong (if that's an endorsement) but it is interesting in that it was written and directed by Steve De Souza who would go on to have an actual Hollywood screenwriting career penning films like "Die Hard" (again, as if that is an endorsement).
Again, I digress...

Neil A Russell said...

Oh, and how appropriate for "Westworld" that I have to declare that "I am not a robot"!

angelman66 said...

I totally agree with your assessment, Bill, this is a suspense- and thrill-free suspense thriller.

Neil Russell is so smart--Jurassic Park boldly steals the whole premise two decades later. Never noticed that until now...

And for the record am NOT a fan of the HBO reboot. I love the nudity, but what a bore that show is!

William said...

Neil: talk about "hit or miss" -- when you revisit a movie you originally saw in childhood it may turn out to be as wonderful as you remember, or you may thinjk "why did I ever like this piece of shit?" I didn't have any fond memories (or many memories) of "Westworld," which I saw in theaters, so I'm not surprised it made little impression on me today.

Crichton also came up with -- and often borrowed -- some good concepts, but in my opnion he wasn't that great a writer and he never really made his mark as a director. I have a video of "Looker," which I also saw in theaters, and I'll "look" at it one of these days. I never heard of "Arnold's Wrecking Company!"

Chris: I'm glad you've warned me off the HBO "Westworld" series. As for "Jurassic park," Crichton lifted the premise from a novel called "Carnosaur" which had the same idea but put its monsters in a private zoo instead of a public one. Nothing new under the sun!

Neil A Russell said...

The most embarrassing thing is to chase down a film you loved as a kid and without previewing it; showing it to friends and realizing what a stinker it really was!

I have to admire Chris for actually plowing through the new series. I saw some of the previews and promptly forgot about the whole thing.

That "reboot" and your comment about nothing new brought to mind something I thought was funny.
A couple of weeks ago Sony was hit with one of these computer lockup things and apparently their latest Disney "Pirates" movie was held for some kind of digital "ransom".

Sony said they'd never pay and the hackers could do what they wanted.

I don't like the idea of all the hacking/theft/extortion business, but it struck me that Hollywood just had a great idea for a film dropped in their laps about computer espionage and all they can see is the next sequel or comic book remake!

William said...

Excellent point, Neil! Shows you how Hollywood is obsessed with sequel-itis to the exclusion of all else!

I love what you had to say about showing an old movie you loved to friends without previewing it first. I had two friends who used to show 16mm movies (that they hadn't seen in years) in their apartments and I've no doubt that what you described happened to them dozens of times. As it did to me when I ran the film club in college. You're so sure it's a great movie that everyone will love, but as you sit watching it you get this sinking feeling ... you just want to slink out of the room before the lights go up, LOL!