Westworld (1973)

Delos, a high-tech amusement park, offers its guests realistic adventures in three historical settings for $1000 a day.  In Roman World, the guests enjoy the loose morals and gladiatorial games of the late period of the Roman Empire in a setting emulating Roman resort towns like Pompeii.  Medieval World allows the guests to experience life in the Middle Ages, participating in jousts, feasts, and palace intrigue.  For those guests desiring to experience life in the Old West of the 1880s, there’s West World.  In this setting, visitors can indulge their western fantasies and live the life of an outlaw or uphold the law as the town sheriff.

To make the guest’s experience as realistic as possible, lifelike robots, programmed to fulfill their desires and fantasies, populate the worlds of Delos.  These creations, only identifiable by their hands, enhance the experience by allowing the tourists to win in gladiatorial games, jousts, gunfights, and even provide sexual services if desired.

Arriving at the park via hovercraft, Chicago attorney Peter Martin and his friend John Blane, a previous visitor to West World, prepare to start their adventure in West World.  Before entering the park, they change clothes into the appropriate period clothing and choose a sidearm.  Upon reaching the western town, the duo checks into the local hotel and Peter bemoans the lack of comfort for the price.  John reminds him they are paying to experience life in the 1880s, not for a modern resort.

Peter, who is a bit uptight and having trouble getting into his role, and John go to the saloon for a drink.  While they are at the bar, a black-clad gunfighter enters and purposefully bumps into Peter, causing his drink to spill on his shirt.  While the gunfighter goads Peter, telling the bartender to get him a bib, John encourages Peter to shoot the man.  Acquiescing, Peter and the gunslinger square off, resulting in Peter shooting the man three times and he collapses in a bloody heap on the floor.  Exhilarated by the experience, Peter and John return to their room where Peter begins to worry that the gunslinger was a robot.  To allay his fears, John orders him to fire his pistol at him, and the weapon does not fire.  John explains they contain sensors that disable the gun if they detect body heat.  They will only function against inanimate objects or the cold temperatures of the robots.  Later in the evening, they visit a bordello and Peter has sex with a robotic prostitute as a gun battle rages in the streets outside.

While the guests sleep, the technicians power the park down and begin to collect the robot bodies in the different worlds, transporting them to a large underground facility.  Once inside, teams of technicians operate on the robots like doctors, repairing and damage and performing upgrades, readying them for the next day’s adventures.  The head technician is alarmed by the disturbing trend of central core malfunctions in the robots.  The breakdown rates of the robots spiked six weeks ago, spreading from one park to another like a disease.  The technicians find no reason for the failures.

In the morning, the park comes back to life.  While John is shaving, the gunslinger arrives, holding him at gunpoint, looking for Peter.  Returning from his bath, Peter realizes something is wrong and kicks the door to his room in, firing his pistol as he enters.  The gunslinger is repeatedly shot and falls from the window to the street below.  The sheriff arrests Peter for murder, locking him in the jail.  Later in the day, John organizes a jailbreak and guns down the sheriff.  The duo, now outlaws flee into the desert on horseback.

As they plot their next moves, a robotic rattlesnake threatens them and bites John on the arm despite its programming forbidding any harm to the guests.  The technicians monitoring the situation order the collection of the snake for study.  Finding deterioration in the logic circuits, the head technician recommends shutting down the park.  His superiors overrule him, agreeing to prevent new arrivals but allow the current guests to finish their adventures.  Other malfunctions across the park begin to occur, including a robot refusing the sexual advances of a guest in Medieval World in violation of her programming.

In the morning, the malfunctions spread through all the parks and become deadly.  In Medieval World, the Black Knight robot kills a guest in a sword fight, despite the desperate attempts by the technicians to shut it down.  They cut all power to the park, but the robots begin to run on their battery reserves, killing the guests throughout the park. Unable to bring power back on, the technicians find themselves trapped in the control room when the electronic doors lock and the ventilator stops working, dropping oxygen to dangerously low levels.

In West World, Peter and John are confronted by the gunslinger once again in the street.  John decides to challenge him to a duel and is surprised when the gunslinger shoots him.  As he writhes in pain and shock, the gunslinger fires again, killing him.  Turning his attention to Peter, he pursues him on horseback into the desert.

As the gunslinger hunts him in the desert, Peter lays a trap in a canyon, intending to shoot the gunslinger when he arrives.  Utilizing his enhanced acoustic sensors, the gunslinger hears Peter breathing and drives him off with his rifle.  Retreating further into the desert, Peter comes across a worker, who warns him he does not stand a chance against the superior gunslinger unless he can damage his eyes with acid.  As Peter leaves the employee, the gunslinger comes into view and shoots the man dead.

Leaving the borders of West World, Peter enters into Roman World and finds a utility access hole that leads to the underground facility.  Inside, Peter discovers the technicians dead in the locked control room and makes his way to the repair facility.  Finding bottles of acid, he grabs one and lays in wait for the gunslinger, who follows Peter’s heat signature into the facility with its infrared vision.  As the gunslinger searches the repair facility, Peter, who is lying on a gurney, throws the acid in the robot’s face, destroying its vision except for its infrared sensors.

Peter leaves the lab and is pursued by the gunslinger, who tries to shoot him, but the batteries in the gun have run out of life.  Fleeing the facility, Peter enters into Medieval World and has another confrontation with the gunslinger in the throne room.  With its vision damaged, the gunslinger is unable to see Peter’s heat signature when he stands near a torch.  As the confused robot gropes around for him, Peter betrays his position when he kicks a metal cup on the floor.  As the gunslinger lunges for him, Peter sets him ablaze with the torch and leaves the room as the burning gunslinger collapses.

Entering into the dungeon, Peter finds a woman chained to the wall and frees her from her bonds.  Finding a bucket of water, he forces her to drink against her will.  The woman, in reality, a robot, shorts out when the water touches her lips.  As a shocked Peter backs away, the horribly burned gunslinger reaches for him and collapses to the floor.  As it tries to rise, it’s face falls off, exposing its circuits and shorting out in a shower of sparks and smoke.

Michael Crichton, who wrote and directed the film, got the idea for Westworld after experiencing the Pirates of the Caribbean ride at Disneyland and was impressed by the animatronics.  Taking the technology to its extreme, he envisioned a park populated by robots that go berserk and murder the guests.  This same basic story would b re-used with dinosaurs in his novel Jurassic Park.

The movie is slow to get to the action, giving ample time for the audience to get to know and care for the characters.  This development pays off in the last third as the robots begin to malfunction and shockingly attack the guests.  While Richard Benjamin and James Brolin handle their roles well, the real star of the production is Yul Brynner as the gunslinger.  He imparts real menace in his calm, passionless performance that is a caricature of his role as Chris in The Magnificent Seven, even wearing the same black outfit.

Westworld, a precursor to such technological horror films as The Terminator, would be followed by a sequel, Futureworld (1976) and a failed television series, Beyond Westworld (1980), which lasted for five episodes.  HBO reimagined the film as a series in 2016.

Running Time: 89 minutes

Cast:

Yul Brynner, Richard Benjamin, James Brolin, Norman Bartold, Alan Oppenheimer, Victoria Shaw, Dick Van Patten, Linda Scott, Steve Franken, Michael Mikler, Terry Wilson, Majel Barrett, Anne Randall, Julie Marcus, Sharyn Wynters

Crew:

Producer – Paul N. Lazarus III; Associate Producer – Michael I. Rachmil; Director – Michael Crichton; Writer – Michael Crichton; Music – Fred Karlin; Special Effects – Charles Schulthies

 

 

 

 

 

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