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Tag: 70s scifi

Westworld (1973)


I Shot The Sheriff
One was tempted to revisit the first movie to be directed by Michael Crichton, adapted from his eponymous novel, now that it’s given the TV series prestige treatment by HBO (more on that later). It’s one of those flicks you see when you’re a kid, which leaves an enduring trace on a young mind, its high concept being novel at the time. It’s also a movie best left in one’s attic, covered in the dust it so rightfully accumulated now that the idea of androids serving the base pleasures of not very interesting specimen of humanity is as antiquated as reel-to-reel computers and colour-coded golf carts.

Very poor in terms of story or character development, Westworld retains marginal interest in that he sets two templates. The resort/simulation park based on poorly controlled technology was exploited with alarming prolixity by Crichton in his seemingly neverending Jurassic Park franchise. The Gunslinger played by Yul Brynner predated by at least five years the unkillable killer of Halloween, Friday the 13th and countless other slasher movies, not to mention The Terminator himself, 11 years down the line.

The movie is indeed Crichtonian in its focus on process, even though that process is far from being as foolproofed as it was in the writer’s first screenplay, The Andromeda Strain, which was all process and almost no movie, and for that reason stands the test of time much better than Westworld. Starting with a commercial stating without irony that the guests lucky enough to fork out 1000$ a day (before inflation) will interact with “scientifically programmed robots”, the movie then becomes a very chaste buddy movie with malfunctioning machines, a clueless technical team exchanging cryptic dialogue when they’re not ordering waffles, and enough incoherences to make to viewer suspect they forgot the screenplay was printed recto verso and only filmed half of it.

The two buddies (Richard Benjamin and Josh Brolin, if this is of any importance) enter the town saloon as first timers a gay bath, overplaying the macho stance but clutching their towel hard in fear of what might happens. They are right away hit on by the Gunslinger, all clad in black and calling the slim guy with a moustache “boy”. This is as funny as it will get, the Gunslinger being the only bad guy in town, so he’s killed repeatedly until he won’t take it anymore, because of some glitch no one is able to explain. The ineffectuousness of that particular team of scientists is truly something to behold, Crichton having a total disinterest for logic and continuity.

To proof: the robots emit no heat even though they are used as sex toys (one couldn’t help but giggle at how the bacchanalian Roman World was glossed over, or how intercourse with a robot prostitute was filmed as passionate love-making).The night repair crews operate in plain sight and under bright lights when everyone is asleep and the robots disconnected (so much for wild resort nights, do they actually drug the guests?). Scientist deliver lines like “We don’t know exactly how they work” or “Is there anything working around here?”. The Medieval World’s (yes, there is one) only activity seems to be banquetting with wenches, waiting in line to bang the unfaithful Queen (yes, there is one, too). The robots run on two hour batteries except when they’re not, and their vintage 1860 rifles endlessly recharge… It is really a great movie for kids.

Still, Westworld‘s best scene has to be when the technical crew dies asphixied in the control room after they shut down power, which has the weird effect of locking the electric doors AND making impossible to restart power. Congratulations for the writing, Mr Crichton, this is worthy of a Darwin Award.

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