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The 1973 android disaster classic “Westworld” finally gets a Blu-ray treatment via a single-disc debut package.
This film is the first directorial work of novelist and filmmaker Michael Crichton. It was released a good two decades earlier than the more familiar classic “Jurassic Park,” which was originally written by the same man behind “Westworld.” The said Steven Spielberg opus is actually an adaptation of Crichton’s 1990 novel “Jurassic Park.” The two movies “Westworld” and “Jurassic Park” clearly utilize a very similar “high-tech theme park gone wrong” plot.
“Westworld” is set in a futuristic Western-themed amusement park with highly advanced human-like robots programmed to serve vacationers who want to live out their fantasies. However, a computer breakdown leads to an android gunslinger stalking the human guests with murderous intent. As the technology totally goes out of control and all the rebellious machines are on the loose, the humans trapped in their supposed escapist playgrounds are left to fend for themselves. This 1970s catalog title stars Yul Brynner, Richard Benjamin, and James Brolin.
This Blu-ray edition does a fairly good job with its encoding. There is a fine balance between improving the original visuals with today’s technology, while still paying reverence to the look of the original presentation. It is good to note that there are no signs of excessive digital enhancement, dirt, and scratches plaguing the picture.
Some parts have variable color, contrast, and sharpness. Video noise is occasionally noticeable. A few shots yield a little toward the hazy or soft side. Nevertheless, these age-related shortcomings are not observable to the point of annoyance.
The film sports a remastered five-channel lossless track, along with a couple of dubbed options presented as mono tracks. These alternative tracks include two in Spanish and one each in French, German, and Italian. For a 20-year old piece, the mix has little in the way of impressive surrounds, but the surround channels still offer a few jolts during escapist moments in the park and a couple of musical cues in the soundtrack.
The transfer provides a decently wide soundstage that favors the front speaker array. For the most part, the firmly anchored speaking lines are easy to understand. A clear sense of stereo separation and a solid bottom help create a relatively expansive presence for the narrative’s world of make-believe. There are no traces of harsh aural problems to report anywhere in the mix.
The package features three supplements. These include the brief vintage featurette with interviews with Crichton, Brynner, and Benjamin, which is simply entitled “Featurette,” the pilot for the “Westworld” TV remake entitled “Beyond Westworld: 1980 TV Pilot,” and the film’s theatrical trailer. All these extras are presented in SD format. Subtitles are available in a number of languages including English SDH, Spanish, French, Japanese, German SDH, Italian SDH, and Korean.
“Westworld” is a dated picture that still imposes itself as a forward-thinking masterpiece. Despite its relatively limited budget, old-fashioned effects, and retro aesthetic, this ominous sci-fi thriller does a satisfying job in telling its story. Naturally, the supposed lavishness of the special effects and sets haven’t aged well because of the production’s budgetary restrictions. Yet, there is something appealing about it; thus, allowing it to obtain cult status among film fans over the years.
The film also conveys a strong allegory for people’s overdependence on modern technology, which leads to their increasingly dysfunctional indulgences. With its straightforward direction, engaging cast, and timeless message, it never feels heavy-handed. It deserves a spot as one of the most memorable genre offerings of the 1970s.