Below is a heap of facts about the 1973 film, Westworld, from the movie’s inspiration to key plot points, all presented in an easily digestible format. If you’re more than familiar with the Westworld TV series, but know NOTHING about the film, here’s your cheat sheet.
A guide to Westworld (1973)
1) Written and directed by Michael Crichton, Westworld tells the story of an amusement park filled with life-like robot characters, existing in historical situations (Wild West, Medieval etc). During the course of the movie, the robots malfunction and turn on the park’s guests.
2) Michael Crichton was inspired to write Westworld largely because of an interest in astronauts and Disneyland. “I think I got the idea for Westworld because I was very interested in the astronauts. I was fascinated by the fact they were being trained to be machines. Then I was also fascinated by the animated figures at Disneyland. The two tendencies toward making people as machine like as possible and machines as human as possible are creating a lot of confusion.” (Source: Michael Crichton.com)
3) Westworld (known as Western World in the movie) is situated in the vacation destination of Delos, an amusement park touted as “the most exciting vacation spot in the history of man”. Delos comprises three separate theme parks: Western World – a cowboy themed amusement park; Roman World and Medieval World.
4) In the movie, guests pay $1,000 a day to enjoy a stay at Delos. They are told there are “no rules” during their stay and they are made aware that they can fight with the robots, or even sleep with them if they wish.
5) Westworld starred Richard Benjamin and James Brolin in the lead roles as theme park guests, Peter Martin and John Blane. In the movie, Peter is visiting Delos for the first time, however, John is on a repeat visit.
6) Yul Brynner played the role of Westworld’s black-clad robot, the Gunslinger. Prior to appearing in Westworld, Brynner had made a name for himself in a string of hit movies, including The Magnificent Seven (1960). The Gunslinger is a nod to Brynner’s character, Chris in The Magnificent Seven.
7) Alan Oppenheimer played the role of the Delos’ Chief Supervisor. During the 1960s, Oppenheimer starred as robot expert, Dr. Rudy Wells on hit TV show, The Six Million Dollar Man. Fans of ’80s ‘toon He-Man and the Masters of the Universe will also know Oppenheimer as the voice of Skeletor, Man-At-Arms and Mer-Man.
8) Majel Barrett played the role of Miss Carrie in Westworld. The late actress was perhaps best known for roles in hit sci-fi series, Star Trek. Barrett was also married to Star Trek creator, Gene Roddenberry.
9) At the beginning of Westworld, a description of Medieval World states that the owners have “spared no expense” in creating the attraction. A similar comment is made by John Hammond the creator of Jurassic Park in the 1993 movie of the same name. Jurassic Park was based on a novel written by Michael Crichton.
10) According to Michael Crichton, Westworld was purposefully structured around old movie clichés. “We very much tried to play on an audience’s vague memory of having seen it before, and, in a way, wondering what it would be like to be an actor in an old movie.” (Source: Michael Crichton.com)
11) The first indication that something might be amiss in Western World, takes place 24 minutes into the movie, when Peter sleeps with a robot. However, another 20 minutes pass before a defective snake ignores its program and bites John. It is almost an hour into the movie before staff at Delos completely lose control of the robots.
12) The Gunslinger is a 406 model, complete with sensory equipment. The visual effect used to convey his pixelated vision utilised a new digital technique which had not been seen on screen before the movie’s release in 1973. Michael Crichton said: “Westworld was the first feature film to process imagery by computer. We obtained a sort of blocky, animated effect that was remarkable in 1973 – and a cliché seven years later, when similar imagery appeared in everything from perfume ads to paintings by Salvador Dali.” (Source: Michael Crichton.com)
13) The Gunslinger is killed twice within the space of 35 minutes; both times due to gunfire. When he returns for a third time it takes acid and fire to eventually stop him. The effect of burning acid on the Gunslinger’s face was created using Alka-Seltzer and splashes of water.
14) Westworld was shot on a budget of $1.25 million – an extremely small budget by today’s standards.
15) A novelisation of Westworld was released in 1974. The book was an adaptation of the movie’s script, with a few alterations. As the book is now fairly difficult to come by, copies sell for a good price on the secondary market.
16) Westworld spawned one movie sequel – Futureworld (1976). Yul Brynner was the only cast member to return for the sequel, although his reappearance was nothing more than a brief cameo.
17) A short-lived TV spin-off series was broadcast in 1980, called Beyond Westworld (1980). The TV series was not well received and was cancelled very quickly.
This post was originally published on the Honcho-SFX blog.