Westworld (Michael Crichton / U.S., 1973):

A sort of Luddite Deliverance, expressed plainly to evoke cinema (the three Delos worlds are movie sets, baldly) as a palliative for the audience's lust and violence. The lowdown is a grand-a-day "unique vacation experience," an elite resort recreating roisterous epochs (Roman decadence, medieval times, frontier town) in which guests can interact (i.e. fuck and kill) with programmed humanoids. Richard Benjamin picks Westworld with pal James Brolin, and the satire is foregrounded as soon as the neurotic from Goodbye, Columbus and Portnoy's Complaint strides into the mock-saloon and finds himself facing down a replica of Yul Brynner's Magnificent Seven gunslinger. Robotic foes are equipped with Peckinpah's squibs for the customer's satisfaction, cyborg wenches are there for the quandary of the ages (is schtupping a sexbot considered cheating?). "Boy, machines are the servant of men" soon segues into "Doesn't anything work around here," which allows Brynner to play the deadpan joke -- a black-hatted amusement-park ride who decides to not let the other guy win -- to the hilt. Michael Crichton infuses H.G. Wells prophecy with Invasion of the Body Snatchers for a cold-eyed analysis of breakdown, from which Coma and Jurassic Park were to be reaped. Technology turns against human creators, fallout from the insurrection is everywhere: An imperial bust tossed into the Western stream, scientists slumped dead over their computers, the mecha-Queen and her Black Knight frozen in their thrones. The nerd becomes action hero by default, a shot of acid impairs Brynner's digital POV and reveals the microchip underneath the familiar visage. The idea exceeds the execution, though Crichton closes with an appropriately bad-aftertaste gag, a damsel dropped in only to be given a short-circuit. With Norman Bartold, Alan Oppenheimer, Victoria Shaw, Michael Mikler and Dick Van Patten.

--- Fernando F. Croce

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