As the first season of the new Westworld series on HBO finally wraps up, it's time to look back at the film that started it all. Penned by Michael Crichton and released in 1973, the movie was a descent into hell as the world's most ingenious theme park slowly but surely meets its end.
Guests pay a lot of money to visit Westworld, a recreation of the Old West with realistic-looking robots populating the town. You can interact with them however you please, you can even shoot them but they can't hurt you. There's also an equally convincing Roman World and Medieval World not too far away. We follow two guests, Peter and John, played by Richard Benjamin and James Brolin respectively, as they enter the park and try out some of its key features like duelling with enemies, drinking, fighting, breaking out of jail and, of course, visiting the brothel. When the scientists running the show discover some discrepancies with the robots, whose sensors have become temperamental, they decide to make this group of guests the last bunch before a complete recall of all the machines. Unfortunately, soon enough the robots refuse to respond to any commands and things take a turn for the worse leading us to a tense, nail-biting climax.
Yul Brynner is the intimidating robot designed to engage the guests in various confrontations, which usually ends with him getting shot. He is one of the first machines to go haywire and the third act of the film is basically a Terminator-style chase as he pursues one of the guests relentlessly through the entire theme park. Unlike its TV reboot, this Westworld is very straight-forward with the robots not being so advanced that they're basically human and their rampage happening pretty quickly. The movie version of the genial but doomed theme park is less sophisticated which makes it slightly more believable somehow. The journey to the park is not too glamorous and you can easily recognize who is a robot and who isn't by their flawed hands so, like every theme park, it's far from perfect but it works. Benjamin and Brolin are both very good as the two friends who find themselves in the wrong place at the wrong time but it's Brynner who steals the show in a genuinely chilling role.
Westworld is a cult sci-fi treat with a clever concept, impressive practical effects, a dark sense of humour and some unnerving moments. Whether you prefer the series or not, it's hard to deny just how well done the original is and it remains one of the 70s' best sci-fi movies for sure.