Michael Crichton was interested in the idea of a theme park going wrong long before his dinosaur-related ideas were put down on paper. In the early 70s, after his novel The Andromeda Strain was adapted into a decent film, he managed to get the job writing an original screenplay about a Wild West resort populated with android cowboys, one of which starts to terrifyingly malfunction. He even somehow got the nod to direct it, showing some impressive technical nous, utilising pixellated photography to show the android point-of-view (the first time this had been done on film). It’s a shame he didn’t direct more in fact (his later adaptation of The First Great Train Robbery is highly underrated) – Westworld was probably his most successful film behind the camera, spawning a disappointing sequel and replete with science fiction themes that were considerably ahead of their time.

The obvious main threat it plays off is the fear of technology going awry, our mechanical playthings turning on us and punishing us for our scientific hubris. This is embodied memorably by Yul Brynner’s robotic antagonist – perfectly cast – whose bald head and piercing gaze make him eerily effective. His unstoppable force is a strong template for later cinematic robotic assassins, but the film was also prescient in its manner of mixing genres – it has as many Western tropes in it as it does sci-fi ideas. There’s also a strong streak of humour – some of which is deliberate and a little out of place, and some of which is completely unintentional, but that’s what you get when you try and make Jurassic Park in the 70s with not much money. If you can look beyond the budget limitations and see the thinking though, there’s a wealth of great ideas here to admire.

Jurassic Park, but with robot cowboys instead of dinosaurs5
Some surprisingly cutting-edge directorial ideas8
Inventive and prescient science fiction themes8
Yul Brynner playing off his Magnificent Seven persona9
Bizarre humour - some intended, some not5
Bechdel Test Passes
  • n/a
Bechdel Test Failures
  • I can only think of one named female character
7Overall Score

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