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Westworld (1973) - Blu-ray Review

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Westworld - Movie Review

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5 Stars

Yul Brynner’s iconic silver-eyed gunslinger makes his debut on blu-ray this month and, as if no time has passed, Westworld reclaims its throne as the unstoppable thriller that it is.  This lean and mean thriller was an afternoon staple of my youth but, seeing it now as an adult, it’s very easy to see why exactly audiences responded so favorably toward it.  It’s a frightening morality play in a not too distant future designed by Delos.  Yes, before Schwarzenegger was The Terminator, writer/director Michael Crichton was terrifying audiences with murderous humanoid robots in this classic of the science fiction genre.

Picture an amusement park, broken into themes much like Disneyland, where guests – because there are no rules – can “live” in the past as freely as possible.  They can joust their way to victory, become bank robbers, and rule thrones.  For $1,000 a day, tourists can relive the Medieval World, the Roman World, or the Western World.  It’s completely up to their individual taste.  Each one offers robotic women, criminals, and vendors.  Sex and violence for sport!  Imagine it.  The weapons of each era; however, can only be used on the robots.  Never on humans.  They are guests afterall.

Welcome to Westworld.  There are no rules.

As imagined by Crichton, technology runs amok for the neurotic Peter (Richard Benjamin) and the confident John (James Brolin) after they enter the old west and drink their first whiskey in the saloon.  The programmed Brynner wants to fight.  And, because they’ve paid their money to answer the call, the humans kill.  The same goes for whatever their imaginations tell them to do.  Different woman every night?  Okay.  Rob a bank?  Sure.

Each night the robots are restored, replaced, and repaired by the men behind the scenes.  Yul Brynner shows up again.  Except something’s different.  He acts on vengeance.   And the loop is repeated.  Brynner is repaired and reprogrammed.  Each time he’s more aggressive.  The gunslinger is becoming the god.  It’s not until the snake-bitten John is violently murdered that Peter begins to understand something is truly wrong behind the scenes at Westworld.

The terror is real.  You, as a modern day audience, will feel it, too.  Westworld is that tight of a movie; expertly directed by Crichton.  All of its sci-fi elements never feel forced or, for that matter, its meaning is never heavy-handed.  Intelligent, certainly, but never is it too high-brow for its own good.  And to think that critics at the time were not “over the moon” for Crichton’s forward-thinking masterpiece is just baffling.  The opening television commercial spells it out for you: the elite vs. the slaves.  While it never pushes the limits of its PG rating, Westworld, thematically, also never plays it safe.

The fault of the machine lies behind the scenes.  In the observation of their creations, scientists note the breakdown of their robots but continue to Band-Aid their creations instead of closing the park.  Sound familiar?  It should.  The “future” of Westworld is only a few years away … and that aspect of Crichton’s film might be more terrifying than a bald android, dressed all in black, with murder on its mind pointing its gun right at you.

{2jtab: Film Details}

Westworld - Movie ReviewMPAA Rating: PG.
Runtime:
88 mins.
Director
: Michael Crichton
Writer
: Michael Crichton
Cast: Yul Brynner, Richard Benjamin, James Brolin; Dick Van Patton
Genre: Sci-fi | Western | Action
Tagline:
...Where nothing can possibly go worng!
Memorable Movie Quote: "Doesn't anything work around here?"
Distributor:
Metro Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM)
Official Site:

Release Date:
November 21, 1973
DVD/Blu-ray Release Date: March 5, 2013

Synopsis: A robot malfunction creates havoc and terror for unsuspecting vacationers at a futuristic, adult-themed amusement park.

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Westworld - Movie Review

Component Grades
Movie

Blu-ray Disc
5 Stars

5 Stars



Blu-ray Experience
4.5 stars

Blu-ray

Blu-ray Details:

Available on Blu-ray - March 5, 2013
Screen Formats: 2.40:1
Subtitles
: English SDH, French, Spanish, German SDH, Italian SDH, Korean
Audio: English: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 (48kHz, 24-bit); French: Dolby Digital Mono; German: Dolby Digital Mono; Italian: Dolby Digital Mono; Spanish: Dolby Digital Mono; Spanish: Dolby Digital Mono (Spain)
Discs: 25GB Blu-ray Disc; Single disc (1 BD)

Warner's decidedly decent 1080p/AVC-encoded video transfer isn't the prettiest presentation in the studio's catalog collection BUT many of the transfer’s issues are source related and only a small handful could have been improved with a tighter overhaul. The earthen palette is strong and pleasing on the whole, the image is teeming with sufficiently sharp edges and intermittently revealing textures, and the film's grainfield and the filmmakers' artistic intentions are intact. Significant macroblocking, banding, aliasing, ringing, and smearing aren't factors, and notable print damage is nowhere to be found. All told, most fans will be happy with this return to the future.

Supplements:

Commentary:

  • None

Special Features:

Well, there’s nothing new.  It’s all vintage SD material which is unfortunate.  Up first is an EPK with interviews from Crichton, Brynner and Peter Bengamin.  There’s an interesting 1980 TV Pilot, Beyond Westworld, which is included with the release of this blu-ray.  This is back when CBS was interested in making it a weekly show.  It stars James Wainwright and Jim McMullan and, while interesting, doesn’t feel all that unique to the mythos.  The trailer for the original film is also included.

  • Featurette (9 min)
  • Beyond Westworld: 1980 TV Pilot (48 min)
  • Trailer (3 min)

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