Welcome to the 1973 sci-fi flick starring Yul Brynner.
Published April 20, 2018
Published 5 months ago
Long before HBO had us Googling "the Turing test," "Westworld" was just another mostly forgotten '70s Western, tucked away in the attic with the other VHS tapes. But while it may not have cracked the Criterion Collection, the film — written and directed by Michael Crichton, creator of "Jurassic Park" and other hits — was ahead of its time both thematically and technologically, and captured plenty of creators' imaginations along the way. To wit, talk of revisiting "Westworld" had been brewing for years before executive producers J.J. Abrams, Jonathan Nolan, and Lisa Joy rebooted the robo-amusement-park drama for the small screen.
So as "Westworld" comes back online for a second season, FOTO takes a wild ride through the 1973 original. Giddy-up.
Hulton Archive/Getty ImagesA FAMILIAR PREMISE"Westworld" starred Richard Benjamin (right) and James Brolin (left) as guests at a Western-themed amusement park populated by fantasy-fulfilling robots. When the tech starts glitching, the men find themselves fighting for their lives against an android assassin known as "The Gunslinger," played by Yul Brynner.Michael Ochs Archives/Getty ImagesDOPPELGANGERBrynner's Gunslinger look was actually cribbed from one of his characters in another Western: Chris Adams in 1960's "The Magnificent Seven." In fact, the two costumes were nearly identical.Hulton Archive/Getty ImagesA WHOLE NEW WORLDIn the film, Westworld is just one section of a much larger amusement park known as Delos. Audiences also bore witness to carnage in Medievalworld (pictured above) and Romanworld. (The creators of the HBO series have hinted that season 2 will also incorporate heretofore unseen worlds.)Hulton Archive/Getty ImagesNEW TECH"Westworld" is credited as the first film to utilize digital image processing. The effect rendered the Gunslinger's point of view pixelated, further driving home the man vs. machine premise.Michael Ochs Archives/Getty ImagesSMOOTH OPERATOR"Westworld" was a success for its studio MGM, and upon release earned a glowing review from Variety: "'Westworld' is an excellent film, which combines solid entertainment, chilling topicality, and superbly intelligent serio-comic story values. Michael Crichton's original script is as superior as his direction." A sequel, "Futureworld," was released in 1976 and CBS tried its hand (unsuccessfully) at a TV spin-off in 1980 called "Beyond Westworld."Movie Poster Image Art/Getty ImagesVERSION 2.0Of course, the film's most enduring legacy may very well be the HBO series (and the 1 million fan theories) it inspired. "I had been very struck by that film, by its sort of relentless world-building quality, you know?" Nolan told NPR ahead of the series debut in 2016. "Crichton had this amazing gift to sort of peer into the future and see what our technologies would enable for us. And here with 'Westworld,' he was anticipating not just AI, not just robots, which is a target that's been tackled before, but robots very specifically in this position of servicing our fantasies."