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Michael Crichton
James Brolin, Yul Brynner, Richard Benjamin, Dick Van Patten
Michael Crichton Synopsis:
A robot malfunction creates havoc and terror for unsuspecting vacationers at a futuristic, adult-themed amusement park.

Rated PG.

Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1
English DTS-HD MA 5.1
French Dolby 1.0
Latin Spanish Dolby 1.0
Castillian Spanish Dolby 1.0
German Dolby 1.0
Italian Dolby 1.0
Latin Spanish
Castillian Spanish
Supplements Subtitles:
Latin Spanish
Castillian Spanish

Runtime: 89 min.
Price: $14.97
Release Date: 3/5/2013

• “On Location” Featurette
• 1980 TV Pilot
• Trailer


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Westworld [Blu-Ray] (1973)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (December 3, 2018)

Though best-known as a novelist, Michael Crichton jumped to the director’s chair for 1973’s Westworld. Set in the then-future of 1983, the film introduces a high-tech theme park called Delos, a location where guests can involve themselves in any of three period experiences: Medieval World, Roman World and Westworld.

In these domains, participants mingle and interact with lifelike robots who act out their historical roles. Despite assurances nothing can go wrong at Delos, it does, and guests Peter Martin (Richard Benjamin) and John Blane (James Brolin) find themselves stalked by a relentless, homicidal Gunslinger (Yul Brynner).

At the very least, Westworld boasts an inspired premise. Even if the robots didn’t go all screwy, the “living theme park” sounds amazing, and the deadly twist gives the film potential drama.

HBO’s Westworld TV series has done a great job in terms of the way it develops the themes, but the source film lacks the same dynamic feel. Of course, that seems inevitable given the time restrictions – clearly a 20-hour series (so far) can explore topics better than an 89-minute movie.

Nonetheless, the shallow nature of the 1973 Westworld creates disappointment, particularly because Crichton takes his time in terms of development. This shouldn’t be rocket science: the movie should set up its characters, give us basic exposition and then launch into the main plot/action.

Which Westworld does, but in a strangely sluggish way. The movie uses far too much of its limited cinematic real estate with slow, superfluous scenes. For instance, a segment in which Delos staff collects and repairs damaged robots goes on far too long.

In addition, the film diverts to situations outside of Westworld too often. I get the desire to show the other worlds, but with only 89 minutes at its disposal, the movie should stick with only one. The shots in Medieval World become a distraction that add little to the experience.

Westworld feels like a much longer story that Crichton chopped down to 89 minutes – and one in which he kept too much unnecessary material. Much of the movie seems episodic, like Crichton came up with “bits of business” that appealed to him and he forgot to develop the plot instead.

Because of this, we end up with a seemingly endless bar brawl mid-film, and it seems like a waste of space. At this point, the movie has started to develop the notion of the malfunctioning robots, and it should push firmly toward that path. A long scene in which our leads yuk it up feels out of place and like a distraction.

Westworld still boasts a few enjoyable sequences, and I continue to like the concept. The end result seems too spotty and poorly developed, though.

The Disc Grades: Picture C+/ Audio B/ Bonus C+

Westworld appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.40:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. The transfer seemed competent, though it showed its age.

A fair amount of variance came here, as the image could look pretty good at times and fairly drab at others. This meant sharpness seemed up and down, with some well-defined elements and plenty that lacked clear delineation.

I saw no issues with jagged edges or shimmering, and the image lacked edge haloes. Print flaws also failed to materialize here.

The film’s palette tended toward a rustic brown feel that suited the largely Western motif. The colors didn’t pop, but they seemed adequate.

Blacks were acceptably deep, though they could seem somewhat inky at times. Shadows followed suit, as low-light situations tended to come across as a bit murky. This wasn’t a bad image, but its inconsistencies created frustration.

As for the film’s DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundtrack, it also appeared erratic, but it leaned toward the good side of that equation. The soundscape focused on the front and displayed nice stereo presence for music.

Effects seemed less consistent, as they occasionally broadened to the side and rear speakers in a vivid manner. We also got occasional instances of localized speech.

However, some scenes felt closer to monaural. This meant the soundscape usually offered reasonable breadth but it varied somewhat.

Audio quality seemed dated but acceptable. Despite occasional edginess, speech was fairly natural, and I detected no issues with intelligibility.

Effects appeared similarly restricted, and they could be a bit distorted at times, but they usually appeared reasonably clear. Music fared best, as the score sounded full and rich. Given the movie’s vintage, this felt like a “B” soundtrack.

A few extras round out the disc, and the prime attraction comes from Beyond Westworld, a 1980 TV pilot. It runs 47 minutes, 52 seconds and gives us a look at the theme park after the robots malfunction. The series only lasted a handful of episodes, and I can see why, as the pilot isn’t very good.

In addition to the film’s trailer, we find a vintage featurette called On Location. It fills nine minutes, seven seconds and offers a few notes from writer/director Michael Crichton and actors Richard Benjamin and Yul Brynner. Despite a few good behind the scenes shots, this mostly becomes promotional fluff.

Despite an inspired premise, Westworld sputters too much of the time. The movie fails to develop its themes and characters in a satisfying manner, as it dallies too much and wastes a lot of its limited length. The Blu-ray provides pretty good audio along with mediocre visuals and a few bonus features. The film winds up as an erratic disappointment.

Viewer Film Ratings: 3.5 Stars Number of Votes: 4
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