Bored Chicago businessmen John Blane (James Brolin) and Peter Martin (Richard Benjamin) shell out $1000 a day for a holiday at Delos – a fully-functioning theme park containing three Disneylands of the future; Roman World, Mediaeval World and Westworld – a simulacrum of the Wild West populated by in-character androids. The consequences are, naturally, fatal.
Here there are textbook illustrations of sci-fi’s now-disused ability to employ the fantastical to illustrate the psychologically realistic.
When a quivering Benjamin shoots the malevolent black hat android played by Yul Bryner for the first time – over a saloon bar spat about spilt whisky that could have appeared in the first reel of any cheapo Western – you’re not thinking about robots and theme parks.
You’re thinking about the fear and the guilty thrill that seize comfortable, unprepared men when they’re confronted by sudden violence.
Benjamin can draw and gun down the Brynner machine because he knows he’s not in the West, he’s in a Western – and he’s wearing the white hat.
Soon he and Brolin are swaggering about town shooting and whoring with the bored assurance of children who know they’re beyond punishment.
But it’s not long before the re-wired resurrected Brynner is dishing it out instead of taking it, and we are left to rue feckless modern man’s pursuit of artificial pleasures.
The other robots also revolt and incite a bloodbath, slaughtering the theme park visitors. In the end, Peter is the only survivor in a mass of dead bodies and melted machines.
Let this be a lesson to you, Xbox players!
Futureworld (1976), a sequel by Richard T Heffron was released in 1976. Mercifully a planned 2003 Westworld remake starring Arnold Schwarzenegger never eventuated. Quentin Tarantino was approached to direct but turned it down.
Dick Van Patten
Linda Gaye Scott