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Futureworld (1976) - Blu-ray Review

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Futureworld (1976) - Blu-ray Review

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3 Stars

Making an inferior and unnecessary sequel to a seriously solid film is nothing new to Hollywood.  Producers and studios gamble all the time with sequels.  Sometimes they win big and sometimes they lose.  It comes with the territory when you have to rely on a fickle public and a line of critics all sharpening their pencils for the attack.  I’m sure a sequel to Michael Crichton’s Westworld sounded like a good idea to MGM in the years following its original release.  But somewhere along the line in its development they dropped the project in favor of Logan’s Run.  That didn’t stop Futureworld – a largely dismissed film - from happening, though.

Written by George Schenk and Mayo Simon, Futureworld has Delos reopening – all but Westworld, that is – but still financially suffering from all the bad press it got back when the steely-eyed Yul Brynner went berserk and started “offing” people.  Reporter Chuck Browning (Peter Fonda), who first reported the original fiasco three years ago, receives a phone call from a stranger who says he has important information concerning the new operations at Delos. When they meet, the contact is killed but uses his last breath to say … Delos.  With that, the corporation is back on Browning’s hit list.  Something is up and, like a good reporter, he sniffs out a way to get back into the park.

The Delos Amusement Park, after two years and some $1 billion in “improvements”, has opened its doors again.  They want good press this time and offer an olive branch to Browning (after forcing himself back in) and TV reporter Tracy Ballard (Blythe Danner).  All they have to do is visit the park and report on the improvements to show that it is now a safer and kinder amusement park.  Browning soon discovers that the park has a much more sinister intention behind it than just entertainment.  We’re talking replication of Delos guests and issuing their clones into the larger population.

Eerie and intentionally not mainstream, director Richard T. Heffron (Newman’s Law) spins the idea of Crichton’s Westworld into another realm – one of world domination by robot – and still manages to unsettle his audience with atmospheric conditions and strange robot/human relations.  We don’t merely rehash the territory of Westworld.  This is something different.  It’s an investigative thriller per say with a couple of journalists trying to get behind the scenes and get the big scoop.  If that sounds a bit too TV and formulaic for you, well, that’s where it falters.  Futureworld is very formulaic; never terrible, mind you, just very familiar in its structure.

Released this month from Shout Factory, Futureworld gets the benefit of a 37-year long rest and, looking upon it now, the film is not the car wreck so many critics have claimed it to be.  The film – due to Heffron’s static direction – is a bit flat with little tension.  The violence has been toned down, too.  Sure, the cameo appearance by Brynner in a fantasy dream sequence is ridiculous but at least the movie answers – in a very disturbing way – why the robots originally decided to attack (and strike again) against the guests at Delos.  We are a danger to them and the planet.  Interesting, right?

There are some interesting things going on, though.  Futureworld is the first film to use 3D computer-generated imagery as both a hand and a face are animated and, materializing its actors over a background, it also uses 2D digital compositing.  Also of interest is just how far behind the curtain it goes.  Down in the depths of Delos is a repairman who has a strange attachment to a faceless robot and their friendship is explored.  There’s also, minutes before the repairman and his robot are introduced, a strange moment when three samurai attack our journalists for no apparent reason.

Some of it works and some doesn’t but, at the very least, Futureworld doesn’t attempt a retread of what went before.  It’s a bit cyberpunk before there was such a thing.  And, as if cementing its attitude toward its many critics, the film ends with its Fonda giving those conspiring minds at Delos the bird.  How punk rock is that?

{2jtab: Film Details}

Futureworld (1976) - Blu-ray ReviewMPAA Rating: PG.
Runtime:
108 mins.
Director
: Richard T. Heffron
Writer: Mayo Simon, George Schenck
Cast: Peter Fonda, Blythe Danner; Yul Brynner; John P. Ryan
Genre: Sci-Fi
Tagline:
Futureworld - where you can't tell the robots from the machines - even when you look in the mirror!
Memorable Movie Quote: "But ya like a little bit don't cha? Anyway we're going to be alone together for a week, so what the hell. "
Distributor:
American International Pictures (AIP)
Home Video Distributor: Shout! Factory
Official Site:
Release Date: August 13, 1976
DVD/Blu-ray Release Date:
March 26, 2013

Synopsis: It has been several years since the disaster at the Delos resort (events of "Westworld"), and Delos is ready to reopen, replacing Westworld with the new "Futureworld," which is getting rave reviews. However, one of Delos's most famous critics, reporter Chuck Browning, is still not convinced that Delos has cleaned up its act, especially after an informant with inside information about Delos is murdered. Chuck teams up with fellow reporter Tracy Ballard and goes to Delos to find out why his source was killed. What they discover is beyond any of their imaginations.

{2jtab: Blu-ray Review}

Futureworld (1976) - Blu-ray Review

Component Grades
Movie

Blu-ray Disc
3 Stars

3 Stars



Blu-ray Experience
3 Stars

Blu-ray

Blu-ray Details:

Available on Blu-ray - March 26, 2013
Screen Formats: 1.85:1
Subtitles
: English
Audio:
English: DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0
Discs: 25GB Blu-ray Disc; Single disc (1 BD)
Region Encoding: A

Okay, so it pales in comparison to what Warner Bros did with their release of Westworld.  But, the folks over at Shout Factory have done a good job with this 1080p transfer considering its low budget B-movie status.  Surprisingly, the transfer is very good. It is a clean print with strong colors, though lacking in the sharpness we might expect from another release from this era.  Unfortunately, there are moments where a few scratches, some dirt, and other minor defects creep in. The look of the digital transfer, though, accurately reflects the film stock of the 1970s, and so its softness actually creates the right kind of nostalgia. Fans of the movie should be pleased.  The DTS-HD track doesn't provide much in terms of immersion but it does the job.

Supplements:

Commentary:

  • None

Special Features:

This is a Blu-ray only release from Shout Factory.  While the supplemental material is next to nil, one – if a fan of the Westworld concept – should pick this up regardless.  You get the original trailer, two radio spots for the movie, and a 60-second slide show consisting of preproduction artwork and movie posters for the film.

  • Theatrical Trailer (3 min)
  • Radio Spots (1 min)
  • Still Gallery (1 min)

{2jtab: Trailer}

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