Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Yippie-ki-yay, motherboardf*cker: "Westworld"

If it weren't for "The Magnificent Seven," it might be impossible to imagine the King of Siam as a robot who goes apesh*t at a big-spender pleasure resort. Fortunately, Yul Brynner had that earlier performance to send up in this '70s sci-fi classic, and he does it well.

Seriously ... look at this guy. Pretty damn creepy, and that alone makes "Westworld" worth watching. I saw this several years ago but jumped to TiVo it because I remembered Brynner's deadpan robot gunslinger so well. The story: Westworld is one of three themed "worlds" (along with Roman and Medieval) at a high-end resort. Guests interact with lifelike robots with no consequences, meaning they can kill or screw them pretty much as they please.

Sounds great, right? No way anything could go wrong, right? Um, yeah. When the robots start short-circuiting or whatever, people start to die, starting with James Brolin ("Pee-Wee's Big Adventure"). Yeah, I guess that's a spoiler, but isn't a movie in which you know Brolin bites it a "must-see?" Or perhaps you just love "Pensacola: Wings of Gold?"

Anyway, it's not about Brolin. It's all about Brynner. Even before he starts stalking Richard Benjamin ("Saturday the 14th"), Brynner is quietly menacing. Just consider these lines when he first bumps into Benjamin: "Sloppy with your drink? ... Get this boy a bib! ... He needs his mama." Damn ... I know robots couldn't kill guests at that point, but old Dicky B. almost dropped dead right there.

Of course, director Michael Crichton -- yes, that Michael Crichton -- would go on to use the "theme park gone bad" idea with "Jurassic Park." (That's what the TCM guy told me.) But this is a leaner story that succeeds without raptors running all over the place. Plus, you have Mr. Bradford from "Eight is Enough" rising to the role of Westworld sheriff -- one of more bizarre (and forgotten) plot lines I've even seen. Now, if Nicholas Bradford had been causing all the trouble, then I would understand ...


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