Crichton's Wild West Park
Before Steven Spielberg gave us his adaptation of Michael Crichton's theme park inspired story "Jurassic Park", Crichton himself had in 1973 directed a movie which was also theme park inspired, that being "Westworld". "Westworld" is a story about a fantasy theme park where you could live in the wild west, medieval times or roman times bringing your wildest fantasies to life. And to be frank whilst now seriously dated "Westworld" is still impressive as it combines great story telling with suspense, comedy and wonderful imagination.
Delos is the place your fantasies come true and for just $1000 a day you can live in Medievalworld, Romanworld, or Westworld. Best friends Peter (Richard Benjamin) and John (James Brolin - Von Ryan's Express) are on their way to spend a few days being cowboys in Westworld where thanks to the clever life like robots you can shoot them, punch them or even visit them in old west brothels. But whilst there something goes seriously wrong and the robots malfunction, ignoring their safety systems and start attacking the human guests. Unfortunately for Peter than means he has the relentless Gunslinger (Yul Brynner - Return of the Seven) robot coming after him and nothing seems capable of stopping him.
One of the greatest things about "Westworld" is that not only did Michael Crichton direct but he also wrote the story and he is a brilliant story teller. He builds it up brilliantly taking us on a fantasy journey into a fantasy world where anything goes, quite literally. It's wonderfully imaginative from gunfights in the wild west, roman orgy like decadence in Roman world and for want of a better world gluttony in Medieval times. Think of those games you played as child, where you would pretend to shoot each other whilst playing cowboys and this is it brought to life. And the whole theme park idea feels pretty solid, you learn that guns can't be shot at other humans, at night those robots which are shot are removed to be repaired and the fact they're so real that even having sex with them isn't out of the question.
This whole build up, the intro to this theme park is all done with a touch of humour, with Peter Martin not use to the way of the West asking the bar tender for a vodka Martini instead of whisky, comical bar room brawls breaking out and an unlikely, clumsy sheriff taking charge.
But at the same time, whilst all this wonderful introduction to a fantasy world takes place you are also made aware that not all is running smoothly as there is an increase in robot malfunctions causing arguments between the inventors and owners of Delos. And this is where Crichton's mastery of story telling takes place because from going from this fun theme park where you can do what you like it becomes a deadly playground with robots running amok and the staff behind the scenes trapped as they try to bring things under control. The most significant side of this is the robot Gunslinger played by Yul Brynner, a malfunctioning machine which becomes a relentless killer as it tracks down and follows Peter Martin, think "The Terminator" and you will have some idea.
As for the acting well honestly Yul Brynner is the best thing as The Gunslinger, icy cold, relentless but in an almost identical black outfit which Brynner wore in "The Magnificent Seven" is also quite iconic. Funnily the star Richard Benjamin as Peter Martin makes less of an impact coming over a bit weak and too weedy rather than an unlikely hero figure, although maybe the weediness was done intentionally. Doing slightly better is James Brolin as Peter's best friend John Blane and comes across as a more typical action hero even if it's not the case.
But the thing is "Westworld" is seriously dated, special effects look rather basic, fight scenes lack the real power and the editing is a little sketchy. Crichton's ability to tell a story hides many of these issues but not enough to disguise all the weaknesses.
What this all boils down to is that "Westworld" is a very good movie, thanks to both the imagination of Michael Crichton and his ability to spin an engrossing story. It is dated and a little cheesy in places but with Yul Brynner's relentless robot gunslinger it still has some brilliant edge of the seat moments which makes it well worth a watch.