Westworld (1973, USA)

Let me get my two (spoilerizing) disappointments about Westworld out of the way first. I kept waiting for the image of Yul Brynner as it is shown on the movie poster. That never happened. I admit that his body, as a villain robot’s, got destroyed in several waves, but there was not a frame in the movie where he looked like he does on the poster. For me the image of the metal skeleton of a robot showing under the half torn human face is the iconic representation of Arnold Schwarzenegger in the Terminator movie. I wanted to compare the two, but didn’t have a chance.

Richard Benjamin and James Brolin played the two main human characters in the movie. Brolin was the cool and collected old-timer, while Benjamin the nervous rookie. Based on this set up and how much manly I think Brolin looked as a cowboy I was expecting him to be the hero. But he was shot down and only Benjamin managed to survive. I am sure the scriptwriters intentionally arranged this scenario to surprise the viewers. It worked, but for me it didn’t fit the genres. On the one hand it was a western movie, set in the classical imaginary old west, complete with vivid bordellos, bar and gun fights, gunslinging cowboys and whisky drinking crowds. In that framework it is always clear who the heroes, the sidekicks and who the villains are. Looking at the movie from this point of view the role of the sidekick and the hero got unexplainably reversed.

On the other hand it was a science fiction flick exploring the theme of man versus its creation: a revolting/malfunctioning cyborg as a modern Frankenstein. In this genre I value the ambiguity, where the robot is somewhat right, or has some values inherited from man to make the story and its possible message more intriguing. We had none of that here, the robot was all evil, without even being aware its wrongdoing. The killing of the would be hero was simply accidental, part of the programming that went awry. Not much of a moral challenge going on there.

Despite what I wrote above I liked the movie a lot, exactly for the points I mentioned. It was a funny combination of a cold-blooded western and a cruel sci-fi, using some of the best imagery and tools of both.

DVD @ Amazon.com.

IMDB’s summary:  A robot malfunction creates havoc and terror for unsuspecting vacationers at a futuristic, adult-themed amusement park.


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