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Some time in the near future, Peter Martin (Richard Benjamin) and John Blane (James Brolin) go for a vacation at Western World, one of several sections (the others are Mediaeval World and Roman World) in a huge theme park called Delos. These simulated environments, staffed by robots, allow their visitors to live out movie-like fantasies in a setting where nothing can go wrong. But then the robots start to break down in one part of the park, then another...

Long before Michael Crichton became famous as the author of Jurassic Park, he wrote and directed this brief, honed, and chilling science fiction parable, with a message that's more relevant today than ever. Like many films of the early 70s, it can be understood as a commentary on the breakdown of traditional Hollywood genres, and the confident assumptions that made them possible.As stand-ins for the audience, John and Peter get to re-enact many of the archetypal Western scenes - the bar-room brawl, the chase on horseback, the shootout at high noon. But in the simulated context of Western World, these are revealed as banal male fantasies as corny and pre-programmed as the canned honky-tonk music that accompanies them. It's hard to be sure how far this denaturing is intentional, but Crichton's bland direction and stiff, functional dialogue arguably works in the film's favor. As in Kubrick's 2001 (a clear influence) the humans consistently come off as more robotic than the robots. Neither the moronic middle-American tourists who flock to Delos nor the calculating scientists who manipulate them are treated with any sympathy, while the bland heroes are infinitely less memorable than the Terminator-like robot gunslinger played by Yul Brynner. Brynner's iconic presence is especially effective in the long, virtually wordless final chase sequence, where the film's several fictional worlds are collapsed together. Less spectacular but more cogent than later 'virtual reality' fantasies such as Total Recall and The Truman Show, Westworld illustrates the potentially lethal folly of muddling up real life with the simplistic fictional morality of the Western - a world where you're always the good guy, you always win, and no-one ever really gets hurt.
Jake Wilson

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CAST: Yul Brynner, Richard Benjamin, James Brolin, Norman Bartold, Alan Oppenheimer

DIRECTOR: Michael Crichton

PRODUCER: Paul Lazarus III

SCRIPT: Michael Crichton


EDITOR: David Bretherton

MUSIC: Fred Karlin

PRODUCTION DESIGN: Charles Schulthies

RUNNING TIME: 88 minutes


AUSTRALIAN RE-RELEASE: September 30, 2001 (Melb only)

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