Westworld (1973) 40th Anniversary Blu-ray Review

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Written and directed by popular novelist and Jurassic Park writer, Michael Crichton in his feature film directorial debut, Westworld is a sci-fi classic and has finally found a home on Blu-ray with a 40th Anniversary release in the United Kingdom.

A wonderful science fiction tale, Westworld introduces us to Delos, a destination in which three fantasy worlds exist that allow paying visitors, tourists to these resorts, to live out their deepest desires in their chosen land. Westworld, in which much of the film is set, is built around the Wild West, the other two lands, Roman World and Medieval World speak for themselves in what they represent. Allowing customers to jump into their movie-style dreams and play out fantasies, Delos is only increasing in popularity, and at $1000 per-day, it is only the most curious of consumers who visit. The world’s themselves are inhabited by robots who are designed using cutting-edge technology. They speak, they breathe, they bleed, they kiss, they screw and they are almost impossible to tell apart from their human counterparts but for their hands which are not yet “perfected” in design. We follow a lawyer, Peter (Richard Benjamin) and his businessman friend, John (James Brolin) as they visit Westworld and begin to enjoy the spectacle of the whole thing. Taking part in shoot-outs, bar-room brawls and sexual engagements, the two are loving their time in the resort. We soon see that mild problems begin to surface with the robots, with some malfunctioning and shutting down, or not doing what they are supposed to do when interacting with guests, but things go from bad to worse and we learn that the futuristic vacation destination could very well be a nightmare for the paying guests as the robots take the amusement out of the parks and cause havoc.

Over forty years after the film was released and it is still as enjoyable, campy and entertaining as it’s ever been. Yul Brynner as Gunslinger, the robot who chases Richard Benjamin’s “Peter” around Westworld with a gun and a technologically-psychotic glare, is great, and provides an iconic sci-fi character that becomes increasingly concerning as the film proceeds. A premise that is still intriguing and could so easily have seen dozens of sequels or spin-offs (of which there is only one, Futureworld), Westworld is one of those sci-fi flicks that ages in fashion, in acting and in music, but never in concept. The idea is realised well and there is rarely a dull moment in its ninety minutes. James Brolin, as John, is the show-stealer here. He offers a knowing grin and a laid back attitude as he takes full advantage of the park, not concerned that anything could possibly go wrong. Benjamin, as Peter, is something of an unlikely lead, someone who doesn’t seem plausible as a “hero” yet fights back against the machine that stalks him across the dusty western terrain. Amidst the action and adventure of the film’s more tense and violent scenes, there is plenty of humour here too, something I find endearing about the whole thing. There are some genuine comedy sequences that are done in such a way that they don’t ever feel out of place. New viewers might expect more action, more explosions and more violence, but I enjoyed the subtlety of the film and the way it explored the world before it allows the craziness to start.

It’s nice to see Westworld given the Blu-ray treatment thanks to Warner Home Video, but a finer and more deluxe package might have been nice. There are a couple of special features here that include an on-set featurette and a trailer, but it’s not nearly as much as it deserves, and for a film as well-loved as this is in many areas, it should have been given more thought. It looks and sounds lovely, and I doubt I will see it look any better, and regardless of my complaints regarding how special the release feels, it is still worth the price to pick it up and own merely for the film itself in this quality.

With Westworld and Futureworld now released in the UK on Blu-ray (and elsewhere) it feels nice to be able to visit these two films in glossy high-definition whenever you like. I’d been hoping for a Blu-ray of Westworld for a while, so I was very pleased when it was announced. Fans will enjoy seeing the film in this nice transfer, but will likely wish more effort had been put in to the special features and perhaps the packaging. Still, if you like the movie or are curious about it, I recommend picking it up, it’s a classic sci-fi movie that deserves a lot of credit for its brilliant ideas.

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