We’ve recently reviewed the first season of Westworld and many viewers await the second installment. Long before the series, however, we had this film, which became a kind of late-night classic.

The original 70s Westworld, like Battlestar Galactica, made the superior, twenty-first century series possible. it also features Star Trek‘s Majel Barett in a minor role. This actually meant she was faring better than the rest of the TOS cast at the time. Shatner was shilling for a Canadian supermarket chain, Nimoy taking largely forgotten roles, and Deforest Kelley doing guest-spots in obscure TV series and that notorious 70s stinker, Night of the Lepus.

Title: Westworld

Cast and Crew

Written and directed by Michael Crichton

Richard Benjamin as Peter Martin
James Brolin as John Blane
Yul Brynner as Gunslinger
Dick Van Patten as Banker
Norman Bartold as Medieval Knight
Alan Oppenheimer as Chief Supervisor
Victoria Shaw as Medieval Queen
Linda Gaye Scott as Arlette
Steve Franken as Technician
Terry Wilson as Sheriff
Majel Barrett as Miss Carrie
Michael T. Mikler as the Black Knight
Anne Randall as Daphne
Julie Marcus as Girl in Dungeon
Wade Crosby as Bartender
Nora Marlowe as Hostess
Orville Sherman as Supervisor
C. Lindsay Workman as Supervisor

Premise:

In the near future, people attend an amusement park where they can live a few days without consequence among realistic robots in romanticized versions of the American Old West, the European Medieval Period, or ancient Rome.

Things go horribly awry, with a lot of death, but also some dark laughs.

High Points:

Crichton bases his film on some disturbing concepts that remain relevant, even if the script does not fully develop them. The actual story, if dated and a little cheesy, pulls the viewer along. I don’t consider this Westworld to be a true SF classic, but it remains watchable and entertaining.

Low Points:

The scenes really make it look as though the few characters we’re following are the only human beings in the park. When the technicians cue a bar fight, for example, everyone in the saloon immediately starts throwing punches, except for the two principal actors.

The Scores:

Originality: 4/6 The film blends some old and new ideas, and it’s the ideas that make this film work, more so than the uneven execution.

Effects: 4/6 I hate to mention dated tech, since every SF film eventually suffers from dated-looking tech. But the Westworld TV series, for example, tries to imagine some kind of technology we don’t yet have, and gives it a unique look. This film simply sticks actors in contemporary lab coats and ties in a room filled with already dated computers: tape reels and flashing lights. I should note, however, the Gunslinger-vision constitutes one of the first uses of digital effects, and the robot-related visuals are pretty good.

Acting: 4/6 The acting is fine, but not outstanding, and hampered by a relative lack of character depth or development. Brynner stands out in a stripped, down frightening role.

Production: 4/6

Story: 5/6 The story is simple, but effective. It’s worth noting that scenes were cut from the theatrical version. Some of these were restored for various TV airings.

Emotional Response: 4/6

Overall: 4/6 In the end, we have another old SF film with intriguing if underdeveloped concepts, too little budget to realize its visuals, adequate performances, and a passably entertaining story.

Many of the concepts, characters, and even a few lines from the recent series may be found, in rudimentary form, in this film.

I’m going to award +1 as halves for the acting and effects.

In total, Westworld receives 30/42