On iPlayer: Westworld

The original Westworld is available on iPlayer over the festive period, probably because it stars Yul Brynner.

This 1973 sci-fi/Western is written and directed by Michael “Jurassic Park” Crichton, a man obsessed with futuristic (or (pre-)historic) theme parks. Set in the impending 1980s, it follows two friends (Richard Benjamin and James Brolin) on a visit to the amusement park of the future where those wealthy enough can play out their wildest fantasies in worlds populated by sophisticated robots; Western World, Medieval World and Roman World. As someone who spent a lot of birthday parties at the recently defunct Laser Quasar Hemel Hempstead, the appeal is obvious.

As in Itchy & Scratchy Land, the robots soon start to malfunction; the cowboy gunslingers begin killing people, the medieval wenches reject the men’s advances and we don’t get any scenes from Roman World but presumably the lions start arguing with the guests. Brynner is brilliant as a proto-Terminator among various other influential elements, including a pre-Blade Runner slow-mo glass-shattering shootout and a fun Western vibe later found in holodeck episodes of Star Trek.

There’s no Blade Runner-style exploration of the AI’s feelings or Jurassic Park-type satire of consumerist desire or corporate greed; this is a straightforward killer robot movie, and another warning from Crichton to leave the past in the past. Suffice to say he’s no Spielberg, but his entertaining and snappy 85-minute execution makes Westworld a worthy entry into the Crichterion Collection.

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