This is one of those films I knew I’d seen at some point in my teen years, probably late night on Channel 4 one night on my grainy portable TV I used to have in my room. With the recent HBO reboot (of which I’ve only seen the first few episodes so far, but liked what I saw), I fancied a revisit, and as luck would have it, up it popped on Amazon Prime. Not as complex as I was expecting, but with some straightforward yet effective tech-thriller moments that mark it out as ahead of its time, and well worth a refresher.
I was surprised, and a little disappointed, to find that there is a comic relief character thrown into the mix, all be it briefly, in the form of an elderly, stout tourist who fancies himself as a bit of a gunslinger and has a few slapstick moments. It lightens the tone of the film that I always remembered as being wonderfully dark, but isn’t overdone. Apart from that, the portrayal of consumer-mad American tourists is generally comical, but that is more of a social comment I think, and works well.
Perhaps the few episodes of the HBO series I watched primed me too much, as this film has pretty much zero character development or back-story concerning the guests or the architects of the park itself. Therefore, there isn’t really much to grasp onto when it comes to emotional attachment.
It’s hard to mark this when it was made in a decade that can’t but help sometimes to be cheesy. However, as I mentioned in the ‘laughs’ section, the comic relief was a bit too slapstick and even for its time, I’m sure the filmmakers could have cut it out.
I didn’t realise when I originally watched this how much of a blueprint it was for things to come. Pretty much one big chase scene between crazed killer robot and man, you get the same feeling of tension and climax that was to appear a decade later in ‘The Terminator’, and I can’t imagine this wasn’t a direct influence on that and many others. Add to that the fact that it was written and directed by the work-horse Michael Crichton, who would go on to hone his amusement-park-gone-mad concept into the timeless Jurassic Park series, making this a film that puts the viewer in the chase, and feeling each gasp and triumph along the way.
With very creative use of the visual fx available at the time, and a chillingly soulless performance from Yul Brenner as ‘The Gunslinger’, this is the original terminator: a relentless technological force that drives the film and the human survivor deeper into danger with every infra-red scanned step. This is straight-up cat and mouse, but the cat happens to be a dead-eyed, psychotic robot gunslinger. Who can argue with that?!
Bonus Category: Classic Crichton +1
I’m going to use this an opportunity to award a bonus point purely for being the work of the unbelievably eclectic Michael Crichton. This guy produced a great deal of what we know as popular culture today, and was an unbelievably productive writer and producer. Just check out his Wikipedia (linked below) to see what I mean.
(Check the Leader Board to see how it compares…)
Michael Crichton Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Michael_Crichton
Wikipedia (Movie): https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Westworld_(film)
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