A lot of my fellow Science Fiction geek friends have been recommending the new HBO series, Westworld to me. So I figured before I go check it out I might as well watch the original. Based on this I decided that this week’s selection theme would be Androids.

Wednesday double feature androids westworldSo back to Micheal Crichton’s directoral debut, Westworld which tells the simple story (so simple that he recycled a bit of it for Jurassic Park) of Delos an expensive luxury resort in the near future that features three different worlds, Roman World, Medieval World and Westworld. All of these settings are “manned” by lifelike androids with whom you can live out your every fantasy.

In the first half of the movie we follow the point of view of two friends visiting. We follow them as we watch them as they participate in every cliche westerns have to offer from getting into a bar fight, mingling with ladies of negotioble affection in the town brothel, breaking out of prison and winning a shootout with a sinister gunslinger played by Yul Bryner.

As the film goes along we gradually are shown scenes “below stairs” where technicians are noticing an increasing number of systems failures. Soon this escalates to androids killing guests and our heroes running for their life to escape the gunslinger.

I found myself enjoying this more than I expected. My biggest problem came from my tendency to nitpick. While the technicians talk about the failure cascade’s it’s never completely clear why this is happening. A virus is used as an analogy, but since the concept of a computer virus was just starting out in the seventies, I’m not sure if this would have even occurred to Crichton. Theres a scene where the thought of closing down the park to deal with the problem is nixed as a way to use corporate hubris as an antagonist. We’re dealing with a setting where the guests come in on scheduled visits and it should be easy to have scheduled maintainance cycles along with the nightly repair periods that the film shows in loving detail. And even if we’re assuming everything’s working you’d think there would be a few more precautions regarding safety precautions, like emergency shutdowns or at least have a hatchet so you can escape the control room that seals up completely when there’s a power outage. Finally why would you give a gunslinger robot advanced tracking hardware let alone live rounds in the first place.

But Yul Bryner rocks so I forgive much.

Wednesday double feature androids stepford wivesPretty much all I knew about The Stepford Wives, based on the Ira Levin novel of the same name, was that it had become the nickname for the cartoon nineteen fifties creepily submissive housewife. Naturally I was curious about the rest of it.

Joanna (Katharine Ross) and her hu Husband Walter (Peter Masterson)move with their two daughters from New York to the Connecticut suburb of Stepford. All seems nice at first it’s one of those nice traditional neighborhoods where you don’t have to lock your doors. As things go along we find that things might be a little too traditional with a lot of the woman being so straight-laced about their roles as housewives who are obedient to their husbands that it starts to get creepy. But this is nothing compared to the local mens’ group that Walter is invited to join.

Things get creepier as Joanna and her friend, fellow recent transplant Bobbie, played with wonderful high on life glee by Paula Prentiss, try to put together a women’s group. The only person interested  is a fellow recent arrival. But soon she changes her mind as does Bobbi who suddenly becomes another happy home maker.

Joanna’s increasingly worried that she’s next and it turns out she’s right. The Men’s group was replacing the woman with lifelike robots.

This film was well done but for the most part I couldn’t get into it. The first half came off as a dry art film though the feeling of low key paranoia was well done. As for the sci-fi bits the movie’s more interested in the robots as a metaphor than anything else. And any questions about them like if this small group of men can create robots like this why don’t they mass produce them and make a fortune? Are frankly irrelevant.