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"Have We Got a Vacation for You...."
on July 14, 2004
Welcome to Delos, an adult amusement park where, for a mere $1000 per day, guests can experience the excitement of life in America's Old West, Medieval Europe, or Ancient Rome. Lifelike costumed androids populate the park and interact with guests, and said machines are programmed to fulfill all human desires, be those yearnings romantic, heroic, violent, or whatever. But the robots have also been programmed with a fail-safe that prevents them from harming the guests in any way. Think of Delos as a high-tech Disneyland for wealthy grown-ups.
Businessmen Peter Martin (Richard Benjamin) and John Blane (James Brolin) are looking for a few days of excitement and relaxation, and the Old West section of Delos, designated WestWorld, seems like just the ticket. But it turns out there's an unexplained glitch in the main computer that controls the park's network of androids, and unfortunately for Martin and Blane, the error just happens to manifest itself while the two are visiting the park. The robots are suddenly able to exercise free will--which includes the ability to override the directive that prevents them from harming guests--and it's not long before Martin and Blane find themselves pursued by a ruthless android gunslinger (Yul Brynner).
This minor opus from Michael Crichton marks his first directorial effort and is also the first theatrical flick based on an original Crichton screenplay rather than an adaptation of one of his novels. While the special FX in 1973's WESTWORLD are decidedly cheesy and low-tech by contemporary standards, this sci-fi thriller still stands up today due to the tight, well-paced script and the solid performances from principals Benjamin, Brolin, and especially Brynner (here playing a robotic version of his character from 1960's THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN). WESTWORLD is a bit too earnest to have yet become a CULT classic--a status it is likely to achieve as technology continues to grow leaps and bounds beyond that which the film depicts--but it continues to be held in high regard by the majority of SF fans.
Though Crichton was connected (as a writer) with a few films and TV shows prior to WESTWORLD, it is really this film that brought him widespread notice and launched his high-profile Hollywood career. WESTWORLD did well enough at the box office, in fact, that it even spawned a sequel--a lesser film entitled FUTUREWORLD (1976).
Warner's edition of WESTWORLD on DVD is a no-frills disc that offers the film in both anamorphic widescreen and pan-and-scan, with the only bonus being the original theatrical trailer. The digital transfer is pretty good, but there was obviously no effort to clean up the dust and other filmic artifacts that are visible from time to time. Digital artifacts, if any, are minor, though there is some occasional color drift. (To be fair, color drift could be on the source rather than a result of the digitization.) All in all, it's an acceptable DVD of a film that most longtime SF fans will want to have in their collections.
(Rating breakdown: Film gets 5 stars; DVD gets 3. Average rating is therefore 4 stars.)