The late Michael Crichton was one of the “mega authors,” a novelist who was an industry onto himself, cranking out best-seller after best-seller.
Crichton’s trademark were thrillers with realistic science and technology that made his futuristic threats plausible and believable.
The incredible success of Jurassic Park took Crichton’s career to a whole new level, but his first breakout hit as a filmmaker was Westworld, which just came out on Blu-Ray. Yul Brynner as a murderous cowboy robot became an iconic ‘70s image, and it will be interesting to see how today’s audiences enjoy the film.
The 1978 Crichton film Coma hit Blu-ray last year, and Entertainment Weekly was surprised at how chilling the it is today. Meanwhile, the site Highdefdigest wrote that in Westworld, “the technology on display may seem a little dated, [but] the movie holds up as an entertaining tale of robots run amok at a theme park.” The Daily Telegraph also called it a “richly suggestive, bleakly terrifying fable – and Brynner’s performance is chillingly pitch-perfect.”
Crichton wrote novels to get himself through college, and he also penned screenplays before his book, The Andromeda Strain, was adapted into a film by Universal in 1971. Robert Wise (The Day the Earth Stood Still) directed Andromeda, and Crichton soon had his own sights on filmmaking.
Westworld was Crichton’s debut as a director, and it was a big hit for MGM in 1973.
Variety called it a “smash drama about automation gone berserk. Combines solid entertainment, chilling topicality…” And one thing I remember hearing about Westworld that is in fact true is it was the first movie to use computer graphic animation that was created by John Whitney Jr and Gary Demos, who both did the FX for The Last Starfighter, a major groundbreaker for CGI.
Of course there is a remake of Westworld that has been in the works for years, and it’s a perfect high concept idea for today.
So it should definitely be interesting to go back to the sci-fi world of the 70’s, pre-Star Wars, with a tale that like The Terminator tried to warn us about the dangers of technology. It should also be interesting to check out Crichton’s first big breakthrough as he was on his way to becoming one of the biggest writers in the world.