Thursday, August 15, 2013

Summer Cinema Double Feature: Westworld and The Terminator

The World's End is coming!  The movie, courtesy of Scott Pilgrim filmmaker Edgar Wright I mean.  What were you thinking of?  The Rapture?  The Rapture, part II?

To commemorate his promotional trip to Los Angeles, Wright is back at The New Beverly Cinema, curating a two week block of programming.  Last night represented his third fete of genre fare with The World's End Is Nigh:  We Are The Robots.

The special on tonight's menu?  A schlock filled appetizer of theme park robots run amok in 1973's Westworld followed by 1984's kinetic, tech-noir, "B-movie" masterpiece, The Terminator.

Westworld is one of three "lands" at Delos, a resort for the rich where adults can live out their fantasies (mostly of the violent and sexual variety) in seemingly real recreations of the old west, medieval times and the Roman ages complete with lifelike robotic populations.  Divorced businessman Peter Martin (Richard Benjamin) is taken by uber-cool buddy John Blane (James Brolin, distracting because Christian Bale looks just like him) to Westworld where they enjoy shootouts, bar fights and whore housing until they continually run into a black clad gunslinger (Yul Brynner, channeling Chris Adams from his Magnificent Seven days).  A robot "virus" begins infecting the supposedly non-violent machines and they begin to kill the guests. 

The film stands as a schlock-tastic 90 minutes filled with laughs, implausibilities and the most inept group of scientists and technicians you've ever seen.  Brynner's strong presence, lined face and bombastic voice are used to great effect as as the creepy robot gunslinger.  His unrelenting pursuit of Peter Martin is a precursor to Arnold's near unstoppable cybernetic Frankenstein in Terminator.  If Arnie is the T-101 then Brynner is a T-81 (Not a TI-81, the graphing calculator).  Written and directed by Michael Crichton, Westworld is like Jurassic Park beta edition.  The themes of creating "life", not being able to control nature and man's discarding of ethics when money is involved are on full display.  Westworld really primed the pump for The Terminator...and for that episode of The Simpsons when they go to Itchy and Scratchy Land...

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