Before preserving his DNA in that big piece of amber in the sky, author Michael Crichton left us with plenty of bubblegum to smack on. Crichton is best known as the author of The Andromeda Strain and Jurassic Park and for creating the television series ER, but my favorite creation of his was always Westworld, the 1973 film he wrote and directed about the ultimate staycation “where nothing can go worng.” (sic) The American Cinematheque is screening the film as a double feature with The Lost World: Jurassic Park this Friday at the Aero Theater at 7:30 p.m.
In Westworld, Crichton takes the basic premise of Philip K. Dick’s 1966 novelette We Can Remember It For You Wholesale (later turned into the Paul Verhoeven-directed Total Recall) but replaces Mars with the Wild West and implanted memories with an elaborate theme park populated by androids programmed to please — be it sexually or by letting visitors blow them away in a gunfight. Richard Benjamin and James Brolin star as two city slickers who sign up for a weekend of simulated danger, but it’s Yul Brynner’s pre-Terminator portrayal as an unflinching robotic killer that steals the show.
Photo: Beta’s a Bitch. Yul Brynner in Westworld. Film stills courtesy of The American Cinematheque.