Written and Directed by Michael Crichton
I am not talking about the TV show. I am not sure how that show really connects or even inspired this movie. But that is a discussion for another time.
A man and his friend visit a futuristic theme park where a malfunction causes the robotic entertainment to kill. Like a REALLY bad day at Chuck E. Cheese.
This is a small slice of mid 70s science fiction. A little clunky at times but not completely bad. Its major flaw is that it was done on the cheap. This was made back in the olden times of movie making but in four years from this release we had Star Wars and a few years prior the original Planet of the Apes series began and both looked far superior to this. While a science fiction film, most events took place in the Wild West section of the park and it looked little better than a cheap television production. That is confusing since Westerns were still being made in good numbers. You would think the sets and costumes to make this look good would be readily available.
The two leads of actor Richard Benjamin (Peter Martin) and actor James Brolin (John Blane) were reportedly cast about 48 hours before production began and it shows. I am left with the feeling they adlibbed a lot of it. The dialogue was flat and gave the feeling that the mythology they were laying out was being made up on the fly. Either that or they did not have enough time to study their dialogue. The supporting android characters were more lifelike than the two human leads or even the technicians that were providing exposition in their meetings on what is going on with the androids.
The film itself is more like a series of events connected by the narration of what is going on behind the scenes and capped off by the machines running amok at the very end. It is not a story with a beginning, middle and end. The main characters are on vacation and things go bad at the very end. There are some moments where the character of Peter is helped by John to get over his divorce but that is quickly dropped. I am talking about the divorce subplot and John’s help. Even the kids which caused Peter some emotional distress are only mentioned once. We do not even know how many he has.
There are no indications during the course of the film aside from the snake among the characters that anything is going wrong. The reveal and progression of the breakdown is all done with boring meetings among the technicians. Boardroom meetings do not generate tension or excitement.
I am not sure if it was the cheapness of the production or something to do with getting a certain rating for theaters, but the blood looked like paint. I know when color first became prominent being bright and garish was the norm, but this movie came out in 1973 and by that time color was the standard. I could understand the machine blood looking fake but when people started getting shot it still looked as bad.
I am sure the pixelated vision of the Gunslinger (Yul Brynner) was a nice effect for the time but it is also very nonsensical. Look at the scene where he is staring at Peter up in the hills for example and I challenge you to see anything that indicates Peter in those hills. You cannot even really see the hills.
And the movie just kind of ends. The Gunslinger gets burned and then his burned body meets up with Peter in the dungeon set of the Medieval area, but nothing happens. He just falls over and that is it. He smokes a little and we are done with the movie.
If you discovered this as a child, you will still find a soft spot in yourself for it. It is an interesting premise-at least it was at the time-but it was a movie that was just thrown together. It lacks an actual story and the main characters are barely characters. They are more like commentators. It does manage to be entertaining enough but it is not a must see.