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WESTWORLD ($25) is something of a personal favorite amongst 1970's science fiction movies. The fact that WESTWORLD was written and directed by Michael Crichton certainly elevates the film above standard science fiction fare. Crichton's work has an intelligent, almost clinical precision about it that gives both his writings as well as his films a realistic, yet dark and frightening quality. Had Michael Crichton's fingerprints been all over the film version of JURASSIC PARK, instead of Steven Spielberg's, I'm sure we would have had a film worthy of the novel.

WESTWORLD is set at a time in the future where seventies fashions have come back with a vengeance and science has progressed to the point where robots have been made realistic enough to pass for human beings. These robots are the featured attraction at an adult Disneyland known as Delos, where a person's every whim can be brought to life. Delos is broken up into three separate complexes, each offering a different historical settling. Persons vacationing at Delos have a choice of experiencing one of the three adult theme parks known as Roman World, Medieval World and Western World. The story of WESTWORLD centers on two vacationers staying at the Western World complex. Richard Benjamin stars as Peter Martin, a first time traveler to the robot populated western town and James Brolin is his friend and guide John Blane. At first, both men enjoy their vacation by killing a notorious gunslinger (Yul Brynner) and escaping from the local jail in the best outlaw fashion. Western World seems like a dream come true, however the robots begin to malfunction and Delos' once perfectly harmless vacation environment turns deadly. Things get progressively worse at each of the three facilities, leading to the film's final showdown between the robot gunslinger and Western World's only surviving guest. The cast of WESTWORLD also features Alan Oppenheimer, Dick Van Patten and Majel Barrett.

MGM Home Entertainment has made WESTWORLD available wide screen only in a rather nice looking transfer. This presentation features the anamorphic enhancement for wide screen televisions, plus it restores almost every bit of the film's 2.35:1 Panavision aspect ratio. WESTWORLD was not a very inexpensive film, however the inventive production design makes it look like a whole lot more. The only thing limiting the look of WESTWORLD on DVD is the motion picture film stock available during the early seventies. For some reason, the majority of films from this period have drab color. WESTWORLD is no exception. However, some video tweaking has improved the film’s color scheme over previous home incarnations. Additionally, the transfer is sharp and has an overall solid level of detail. Film grain was mild in spots; this too is attributable to the film stocks available during this period in motion picture production. Digital compression artifacts were usually well disguised. WESTWORLD has a two-channel Dolby Digital soundtrack that decodes to standard surround. While the track isn't exemplary, it does have a strong sense of atmosphere that draws the viewer into the film. The film's music is featured prominently in the mix, while actual directional effects are somewhat limited. A French language soundtrack, plus English and French subtitles have been encoded into the DVD. The interactive menus offer the standard scene and language selection features; they also give one access to a theatrical trailer.

WESTWORLD is a minor science fiction classic that benefits from Michael Crichton's unique touch. The DVD looks pretty good and will make a worthwhile addition to the collections of science fiction fans. Recommended.




DVD reviews are Copyright 1998 THE CINEMA LASER and may not be copied or reprinted without the written consent of the publisher.
THE CINEMA LASER is written, edited and published by Derek M. Germano.



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