James Brolin and Yul Brynner in Westworld (1973)

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Michael Crichton’s Westworld

Michael Crichton (1942-2008) wrote and directed Westworld for MGM. Crichton, the best-selling author of such novels as The Andromeda Strain, Jurassic Park and Prey, had gotten the idea for his story following a visit to Disneyland where he had observed the animatronic Pirates of the Caribbean.

Yul Brynner (The Gunslinger), Richard Benjamin (Peter Martin) and James Brolin (John Blane) head the cast. Other players include Norman Bartold (Medieval Knight), Alan Oppenheimer (Chief Supervisor), Victoria Shaw (Medieval Queen), Dick Van Patten (Banker), Linda Gaye Scott (Arlette), Steve Franken (Technician), Michael Mikler (Black Knight), Terry Wilson (Sheriff), Majel Barrett (Miss Carrie), Anne Randall (Servant Girl), Julie Marcus (Girl in Dungeon) and Robert Hogan (Interviewer).

Westworld Filmed in California

Westworld was filmed exclusively in California, with MGM Studios in Culver City serving as the principal in-house production facility. Silent film star Harold Lloyd’s fabulous Greenacres Estate in Beverly Hills was used as the site of Romanworld gardens. Other filming took place at Red Rock Canyon State Park in Cantil, the site of the robotic chase scenes.

Yul Brynner Stalks Richard Benjamin and James Brolin in Westworld

Two Chicago businessmen, Peter Martin and John Blane, jet to a unique amusement park called Delos. Comprised of three different facilities – Westworld, Romanworld and Medievalworld – Delos offers its guests the chance to live out their fantasies among humanlike robots. For $1,000 a day, guests can battle gunfighters at Westworld, lounge in palatial splendor at Romanworld or duel with the evil Black Knight at Medievalworld.

Buddies Martin and Blane opt for Westworld – with disastrous results.

Westworld is a high-tech hoot, with Michael Crichton crafting an intriguing story in which robots run amok in a futuristic theme park. Yul Brynner, menacingly outfitted in black as per his role as mercenary leader Chris in The Magnificent Seven (1960), delivers a “magnificent” performance as the mechanical gunslinger. “Draw,” the surly, evil-eyed Brynner commands, whereby James Brolin drops the pre-programmed robot in a fast-draw contest.

But Brynner garners the last microcircuit laugh, later challenging Brolin and filling him with lead. “How ’bout that,” a surprised Brolin mutters, clutching his blood-stained shirt and dropping prostrate in the dust. The haywire robot then turns on Brolin’s terrified friend, tracking him through the park with infrared vision.

James Brolin and Richard Benjamin genuinely appear to enjoy themselves playing the technology-smitten tourists. That is, until the robots morph into something else at idyllic Delos, “where nothing can possibly go wrong.”

Westworld Release, Reviews, Box Office, Sequels, DVD

  • Westworld was released on November 21, 1973.
  • “Westworld is an excellent film, which combines solid entertainment, chilling topicality, and superbly intelligent serio-comic story values. Michael Crichton’s original script is as superior as his direction,” reported Variety (8/15/73) in a sneak preview.
  • “Michael Crichton…makes a creditable debut as a film director with Westworld, a science-fiction melodrama about Doomsday in Disneyland,” offered Vincent Canby of the The New York Times (11/22/73).
  • Westworld was a modest box-office success, grossing $3.4 million.
  • Westworld was followed by one sequel, Futureworld (1976), starring Peter Fonda, Yul Brynner and Blythe Danner. A short-lived TV series, Beyond Westworld, ran for only five episodes in 1980.
  • Westworld DVD (Warner, 2000).

“Sloppy with your drink? Get this boy a bib,” Yul Brynner as the robotic gunslinger tells tourist Richard Benjamin, trying to provoke a fight at the saloon.

If Benjamin is smart, he’ll let it go…

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