Westworld and the 1970's
The first of our “wild card” podcasts, we had no set guest and no specific topic points to discuss in this episode. Frank, Frank and Scott had just gone to a wonderful screening of Crichton’s classic sci-fi/western presented by Taylor White and Creature Features at The Theater at Ace Hotel in Downtown LA, and recorded this episode the following night to capture our enthusiasm for the unique stylings of 1970s American films.
While being a superb representation of cinematic tastes in 1973, WESTWORLD also proved highly influential on science fiction/action films to come amid the burgeoning computer boom in the decade. You’ll find strong WESTWORLD influences upon content and visual style in James Cameron’s THE TERMINATOR released eleven years later. References to Yul Brynner’s relentless, tireless pursuit of Richard Benjamin in WESTWORLD’s finale, the robot’s heat-vision imaging of his target, and the double-twist ending of the seemingly indestructible robot’s demise were all programmed into Arnold Schwarzenegger’s T-800 performance and character by Cameron in his 1984 blockbuster. Crichton was there first, and he dramatized similar science fiction themes and nightmarish scenarios once again in his best-selling novel JURASSIC PARK.
We also cite WESTWORLD as a perfect example of 1970s cinema to hire character actors to play leading roles, typified by Richard Benjamin embodying much more of an “everyman” aspect portraying Peter Martin instead of the musclebound macho leading men so common today. Yup Brynner proved to be the perfect casting to portray the android Gunslinger in his stoic, commanding physical approach to the role, a trait clearly carried over from his similar appearance 13 years prior in THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN. Via Richard Benjamin’s Q&A after the screening, we relate the details of how Brynner invented an inner psychology and evolution of the robotic Gunslinger that subtly informed his menacing performance. The DDG also appreciate Crichton’s under appreciated skills as a director of WESTWORLD which, despite its outdated technology on display, holds up very well to contemporary scrutiny over 40 years after its release.
Ultimately, the DDG rhapsodize about the heights of 1970s cinema and our favorite films of the era, including THE TAKING OF PELHAM 1-2-3, THE EXORCIST, DOG DAY AFTERNOON, NETWORK, and how their storytelling style is a unique and seemingly lost art in today’s blockbuster era. Even the movie posters were better in the 1970s, dammit. We wrap up with some insider previews of HBO’s upcoming remake series of WESTWORLD.
Trivia: not only did James Cameron's T-800 killer robot from THE TERMINATOR (1984) borrow much of its stoic menace from Yul Brynner's Gunslinger in WESTWORLD, it's been said that John Carpenter also played off the Gunslinger's relentless indestructible nature when creating his killer Michael Myers in HALLOWEEN (1978).
Trivia: as the Delos robots begin malfunctioning, their internal processing failures and "mutation" of programming become one one sci-fi cinema's earliest references and demonstrations of a computer virus.
Trivia: reportedly writer/director Michael Crichton was inspired to write WESTWORLD after being impressed by the animatronic characters in Disneyland's Pirates of the Caribbean attraction.
Trivia: there are numerous references and points of inspiration from WESTWORLD seen in THE SIMPSONS 1994 episode "Itchy & Scratchy Land," including a parody of the film's tagline "Where nothing can go wrong."
Trivia: to clarify an early point of debate in this WESTWORLD episode, Michael Crichton directed and wrote the screenplay for COMA in 1978, a medical thriller based on the novel by author Robin Cook.
WESTWORLD trailer - watch the original 1973 theatrical trailer for WESTWORLD by MGM
MichaelCrichton.com - visit the Westworld page at the official website for writer/director Michael Crichton
WESTWORLD - the developing page for information on HBO's upcoming 2016 cable series adaptation of WESTWORLD
WESTWORLD (Blu-ray) - purchase the Blu-ray, DVD or streaming edition of WESTWORLD via Amazon.com
JURASSIC PARK - purchase the original novel written by Michael Crichton via Amazon.com
THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN - purchase John Sturges' classic western starring Yul Brynner on Blu-ray via Amazon.com