Movie Review: Westworld (1973)

Westworld (1973)
Classic Film Review
Directed by Michael Crichton
Starring: Yul Brynner and Richard Benjamin

by Mike Peters

Synopsis:

In the future, there will be extravagant amusement parks for adults that will cater to every whim and fantasy imagined. John (James Brolin) and Peter (Richard Benjamin) are two of the guests visiting one of the three parks offered. For a thousand dollars a day, John and Peter decide to visit Westworld where they can kill, fight and fornicate with machines disguised as humans. However, things do not go as planned and the machines begin to act irrationally which, as a result, threatens the very existence of every human being at the resort.

Review:

Many people have pointed out numerous flaws with this film and I will be the first to agree with them. This film is not perfect. There are many plot holes and the acting is amateurish (even campy) in certain instances. However, the film attempts to convey an eerie message that is even more prevalent in this day and age. Man’s fascination and obsession with technology and the consequences as a result.

As was the case with Stanley Kubrick’s “2001: A Space Odyssey”, Westworld attempts to showcase man’s fascination with attempting to create a simpler and better world through the means of technology. As the film exemplifies, this is not always a sensible step. Technology can be used to improve life and make it simpler but there are far too many consequences that can result if man is not careful. Technology can rear its ugly head and turn on the human being who believes he is in control.

When Peter and John arrive at Westworld, they are allowed to do what ever they want to whom ever (as long as they are a robot). In one instance, John and Peter are at a bar when the gunslinger (Yul Brynner-his wardrobe referencing his character of Chris in “The Magnificent Seven”) bumps into Peter. The gunslinger is an antagonist machine and belittles Peter. Peter does not step down and enters into a draw with the gunslinger. Peter kills the gunslinger and, in this instance, he is allowed to feel the rush of killing another man/machine.

These incidents are closely monitored by a group of scientists who play God in a sense by creating scenes that are fixed and staged. They have everything under control. When the robot is killed, he is taken back for repairs and then placed back onto the stage for another scene. In fact, the gunslinger continues to return but is repeatedly murdered by Peter. However, things begin to get a little suspicious as the robots systematically begin to rebel against their creators. They begin to refuse the advances of the guests and even begin to harm them. The scientists are concerned but decide not to shut down the park because it would cost them financially in the end. Is there ever another reason?

This film plays like an updated version of the Frankenstein story. A being is created who cannot be controlled, begins to think for himself and commences to run amok causing terror and tragedy. However, Westworld does not merely have one Frankenstein monster but rather hundreds. The three worlds created for this park, Westworld, Medieval World and Roman World, begin to self destruct as a result. Rules are ignored and chaos and violence mount. Ironically, these worlds sink into the type of behavior that helped to define them in the first place. For instance, the West was known for being uncivilized and a violent era of time. It is only when rules and creeds were instilled that the West became civilized in a sense. The scientists are not prepared for this sort of reality. One cannot instill rules into an era that never had them in the first place. The robots are forced to act in a land that is unaccustomed to them. The West embodies individuality and violence as a way of solving problems and the machines seem to take this to heart.

The film is a cautionary tale for society dependant on every innovative gadget that is created. In this day and age, people rely on the means of technology to help them get through their day. It makes life easier and simpler. It is only when people begin to worship the gadgets in their possession that problems can arise. Technology can still cause many problems and drive people bonkers. WE NEVER OWN TECHNOLOGY. In fact, it can control us through society’s dependence on it.

Westworld is a film that attempts to tell a cautionary tale but as well strives to entertain. In the last twenty minutes of the film, there is a chase scene that occurs that is both exhilarating and suspenseful. Peter has witnessed first hand that the machines are out of control and takes off on a horse with the gunslinger (who has targeted Peter and John personally) close behind him in full pursuit. The machines have taken control and we, the audience, fear for the human’s lives. The characters no longer take anything for granted. They are now the hunted.

Michael Crichton wrote and directed this film. He is a world renowned author who has penned such stories as “Congo”, “Sphere” and, of course, “Jurassic Park” which incorporates sort of the same story as Westworld except with a much larger budget. Crichton does an adequate job of directing but he must be commended for his incorporation of digitalized effects into the film. In fact, Westworld is the first feature film to ever include the use of computer digitalized effects (not used for monitor graphics) which is reflected in the gunslinger’s P.O.V.

All in all, this film is not perfect and does have many glaring holes. However, the story is taut (and relatively short at a mere 88 minutes), the performance are good in instances (especially by Yul Brynner who conveys so much in the film but yet says so little. He was truly a tremendous talent).

This film arrived during an era that was undergoing great change. Films were attempting to convey meaning and messages about society throughout their stories and characters. Although, not widely known, this film is one of the more important one’s of the 70’s. It conveyed a message that was before its’ time and is still a message to be thought of dearly in the present day.

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Died Today (October 1st): Tom Clancy (1947–2013)

tomclancyTom Clancy (1947–2013)

Born: April 12, 1947 in Baltimore, Maryland, USA
Died: October 1, 2013 (age 66) in Baltimore, Maryland, USA

Married to:
Alexandra Marie Llewellyn (26 July 1999 – 1 October 2013) (his death) (1 child)
Wanda Thomas (1969 – 1998) (divorced) (4 children)

Wars are begun by frightened men.

The difference between fiction and reality? Fiction has to make sense.

There are two kinds of people: the ones who need to be told and the ones who figure it out all by themselves.

Success will ruin your life.

Helicopters don’t fly, they vibrate so badly the ground rejects them.

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Happy Birthday: Tom Hooper

tomhooper.jpgTom Hooper

Born: October 1, 1972 in London, England, UK

I’m sitting at the Oscars [in 2012] pretty sure that I’m going to direct “Les Miz” but not sure at all who I’m going to cast. And Anne Hathaway steps forth, to the front of the stage and sings a rendition of “On My Own,” to Hugh Jackman. And I’m going: Hold on a second, is Anne Hathaway using the Oscar stage as the ultimate auditioning platform for her talents and is she also suggesting Hugh Jackman while she’s at it? Or is this just coincidence? She claims it’s coincidence. I think she’s too shrewd. But we’ll never know.

THE KING’S SPEECH
2010
dir. Tom Hooper
starring
Helena Bonham Carter
Colin Firth
LES MISERABLES
dir. Tom Hooper
Stars:
Hugh Jackman
Russell Crowe
The Damn UnitedThe Damn United
dir. Tom Hooper
Starring
Michael Sheen
Colm Meaney
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Happy Birthday: James Whitmore (1921–2009)

jameswhitmore.jpgJames Whitmore (1921–2009)

Born: October 1, 1921 in White Plains, New York, USA
Died: February 6, 2009 (age 87) in Malibu, California, USA

I have no regrets, real regrets about any darn thing . . . I think second-guessing one’s self and your life is the most futile thing in the world.

I certainly wasn’t the idol of millions. I just happened to get good parts. And so I wasn’t worried . . . because I could see these character parts stretching on into the, you know, dim days of the future.

 

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Happy Birthday: Walter Matthau (1920–2000)

waltermatthau.jpgWalter Matthau (1920–2000)

Born: October 1, 1920 in Lower East Side, Manhattan, New York City, New York, USA
Died: July 1, 2000 (age 79) in Santa Monica, California, USA

Married to:
Carol Grace (21 August 1959 – 1 July 2000) (his death) (1 child)
Grace Geraldine Johnson (1948 – 1958) (divorced) (2 children)

[1984 remark on Barbra Streisand] The most extraordinary … er … uninteresting person I have ever met. I just found her to be a terrible bore … She was doing something and asked the director if I wouldn’t mind saying my lines in a certain way. I think I said something to her like, “I was acting before you were born, so please don’t tell me how to act.” And she said, in her own inimitable way, “Is this guy crazy or something?”.

A Face in the Crowd
1957
dir. Elia Kazan
Starring
Andy Griffith
Patricia Neal
CharadeCharade
1963
dir. by Stanely Donen
starring
Cary Grant
Audrey Hepburn
The Fortune CookieThe Fortune Cookie
1966
dir. Wilder
starring
Jack Lemmon
Matthau
Hello Dolly!
1969
dir. Kelly
starring
Streisand
Matthau
EARTHQUAKEEarthquake
1974
dir. Mark Robson
Starring
Charlton Heston
Ava Gardner
MOVIEJFK
1996
dir. Oliver Stone
Starring
Kevin Costner
Tommy Lee Jones
MOVIE POSTERTHE LIFE AND TIMES OF HANK GREENBERG
1998
dir. Aviva Kempner
DOCUMENTARY
MOVIE POSTERBAD NEWS BEARS
1976
dir. Michael Ritchie
Stars:
Walter Matthau
Tatum O’Neal
MOVIE POSTERGRUMPY OLD MEN
1993
dir. Donald Petrie
Stars:
Jack Lemmon
Walter Matthau
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Happy Birthday: George Peppard (1928–1994)

georgepeppardGeorge Peppard (1928–1994)

Born: October 1, 1928 in Detroit, Michigan, USA
Died: May 8, 1994 (age 65) in Los Angeles, California, USA

[on being fired from Dynasty (1981) after disagreements with the producers] Everyone thought I was crazed because of my career being in the dumps at the moment. I’m so glad I wasn’t drinking. I bet a lot of people thought when I did certain things, I’d been drinking, and now they found out it wasn’t the booze at all, it was me.

 

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Happy Birthday: Randy Quaid

randyquaidRandy Quaid

Born: October 1, 1950 in Houston, Texas, USA

Married to: Evi Quaid (5 October 1989 – present)

When I was a kid and the carnival would come to the shopping center, I’d go down and talk to all the people running the rides. I like that whole lifestyle, moving from town to town in a nomadic existence.

The Last Picture Show
1971
dir. Peter Bogdanovich
Cast
Timothy Bottoms
Jeff Bridges
THE LAST DETAILThe Last Detail
1973
dir. Hal Ashby
Starring
Jack Nicholson
Otis Young
Quaid
DAYS OF THUNDERDays of Thunder
1990
dir. Tony Scott
Also Starring
Nicole Kidman
Robert Duvall
GOYA’S GHOSTS
2006
dir. Milos Foreman
Stars:
Javier Bardem
Natalie Portman
THE PAPER MOVIE POSTERThe Paper
1994
dir. Howard
Starring
Michael Keaton
Glenn Close
Marisa Tomei
ConstantineBrokeback Mountain
2005
dir. Ang Lee
starring
Ledger
Jake Gyllenhaal
REAL TIMEReal Time
2008
dir David Koepp
Starring
Randall Cole
Starring
Randy Quaid
Jay Baruchel
MOVIE POSTERTHE SLUGGER’S WIFE
1985
dir. Hal Ashby
Stars:
Michael O’Keefe
Rebecca De Mornay
MOVIE POSTERWHAT’S UP DOC?
1972
dir. Peter Bogdanovich
Stars:
Barbra Streisand
Ryan O’Neal
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