RETRO REVIEW: Westworld (1973)

Theatrical Release Poster - Neal Adams - MGM
Theatrical Release Poster – Neal Adams – MGM

The following is a quick retro review of Michael Crichton’s Westworld.

At the time of writing, I am completely obsessed with HBO’s Westworld series. It is a perfect mixture of western and science fiction elements, for me. Now, I have to admit that I had never heard of the film before I heard of the show. But now, after having seen the first two episodes of the series, I decided to finally watch the original Michael Crichton film. 

“Boy, have we got a vacation for you!” – In Michael Crichton’s Westworld, two friends – John (played by James Brolin) and Peter (played by Richard Benjamin) – travel to an amusement park that offers three distinct worlds – West World, Medieval World, and Roman World – there they can do whatever they want. You see, the people at the park are robots and the theme parks have been designed so that you can use them in whichever way you would like.

You can sleep with any and all robots, kill whoever you may want to take out. You can become whoever you want in these worlds. But, one day, things start to go terribly wrong for the technicians at the park as the robots are now able to harm the visitors.

I have to admit that I didn’t think I would like this film very much. I expected to like the concept of the film, seeing as I’m already spellbound by the HBO series, but I didn’t expect to like it as much as I do. I enjoy films from the 1970s, but I didn’t have high hopes for the film. After all, Westworld – the movie – had never appeared on my radar, so to speak.

There are some things that don’t quite work for me, though. My primary problem with the film is that even though there are three distinct theme park worlds, the film only really spends any energy and focus on one of these worlds – West World.

That is where Richard Benjamin, James Brolin, and Yul Brynner’s characters are all present – and they are clearly the best characters and they give the best performances in the film. Similarly, the story behind the scenes of the theme park worlds isn’t all that compelling compared to what is going on in the worlds.

I was also pretty shocked to see how much humor there is in this film. I’d even go as far as saying that there is an inappropriate amount of humor for a story like this one. It works, to an extent, due to the fact that you really feel like the visitors are having fun.

But this is really an entertaining film to watch. Sure, the best thing about the film is the concept, but the Gunslinger (played by Yul Brynner) is a pretty solid ‘bad guy,’ and both Benjamin and Brolin’s characters are fun to watch. Westworld is an amazingly ambitious film – especially for 1973 – and you have to respect that ambition because the film actually works pretty well.

7.9 out of 10

– Jeffrey Rex