Westworld (1973): Michael Crichton’s Sci-Fi-Western-Actioner, Starring Yul Brynner

Michael Crichton directed Westworld, one of the first films that blends effectively the conventions of sci-fi, western, and action-thriller, yet emerges rather coherent.

The premise is rather interesting: Yul Brynner stars as an android in a futuristic Western-themed amusement park, and Richard Benjamin and James Brolin plays guests of the park.

The film was from an original screenplay by novelist Crichton made his feature directorial debut, based on his original script.

It’s credited as the first feature to use digital image processing to pixellate photography to simulate an android point of view.

Westworld was followed by a sequel, Futureworld (1976), and a short-lived TV series, Beyond Westworld in 1980.

The tale is set in 1983 in the amusement park Delos, which displays three themed “worlds”: Western World (American Old West), Medieval World (Europe), and Roman World (Roman city of Pompeii).

The resort’s three “worlds” are populated with lifelike androids, each programmed for their assigned historical environment. Delos’s ads promise “Boy, have we got a vacation for you!”

For a fee of $1,000 per day, guests can indulge in various adventures with the android inhabitants, including sexual encounters and simulated fights. Two men cannot resists the temptation. Peter Martin, first-time visitor, and friend John Blane, a repeat visitor, go to Westworld.

The firearms issued to the park guests have temperature sensors that prevent them from shooting humans, but allow them to “kill” the cold-blooded androids. it allows guests to draw their guns and kill it, and the android returns the next day.

There’s unexpected problem: an infection spreads among the androids in Roman world and Medieval world, who show breakdowns and failures.

The malfunctions become serious when a robotic rattlesnake bites Blane in Westworld, and an android refuses a guest’s advances in Medieval World. The failures escalate until Medieval World’s Black Knight android kills a guest in swordfight.

The resort’s supervisors try to regain control by shutting down power to the park, but the shutdown traps them when the doors automatically lock, unable to escape. Meanwhile, the androids run amok by using reserve power.

Martin and Blane, recovering from a brawl, wake up in Westworld’s brothel, unaware of the park’s breakdown. When the Gunslinger challenges the men to a showdown, Blane is amused–until the android outdraws shoots and killls him.

Martin runs away, but the android follows him. He finds other dead guests, damaged androids, and panicked technician, who is later shot by the Gunslinger.

The Gunslinger stalks Martin, who finally enters an android-repair lab. Martin pretends to be an android, throws acid into the Gunslinger’s face, and flees. Unable to track Martin visually, the Gunslinger tries to find him using infrared scanners.

The film was well received by most critics and became a commercial success.

A sequel, Futureworld, was released in 1976, with Brynner the only actor returning from the original cast to reprise his Gunslinger character.

Yul Brynner as The Gunslinger
Richard Benjamin as Peter Martin
James Brolin as John Blane
Alan Oppenheimer as the Chief Supervisor
Victoria Shaw as the Medieval Queen
Dick Van Patten as the Banker
Linda Scott as Arlette, the French prostitute
Steve Franken as the Delos Technician shot dead by the Gunfighter