Yul Brynner gets to wear the black gunfighter’s outfit for the fourth and last time in “Futureworld,” the inferior, not-always-intentionally-funny 1976 sequel to writer-director MichaelCrichton’s inventive 1973 sci-fi chiller, “Westworld.”
In the first film, two fun-loving guys (Richard Benjamin and James Brolin) take a trip to Delos, an adult vacation resort of the future that offers a choice of fantasy worlds populated by very human-like, role-playing robots that are programmed for the amusement of the guests (including having sex with them) in the various themed areas of the park. There’s Medievalworld, Romanworld, and Westworld, and the two protagonists choose the latter, where they indulge in boyish fantasies of winning barroom brawls and gunfights — and bedding saloon girls.
But then things go haywire with the awesome automatons, starting with “The Gunfighter” (a pretty scary Brynner), and guests start getting killed.
“Futureworld” takes up two years later, when a new, improved and supposedly fail-safe Delos is reopened, and heads of state and corporate leaders from around the world are invited to the upgraded resort, along with top-rated TV commentator Tracy Ballard (Blythe Danner) and ace newspaper reporter Chuck Browning (Peter Fonda), who work for the same communications conglomerate and are guaranteed a behind-the-scenes exclusive story on the reopening.
Despite professional jealousies and constant bickering, Chuck and Tracy soon work together to discover that something evil is afoot that could lead to a world takeover.
Now, wait a minute. How is it that Delos is even allowed to resume business after scores of guests were slaughtered by cyborgs just two short years before? Seems the management would still be neck-deep in millions of dollars worth of lawsuits if nothing else. And why are all these world leaders dumb enough to even set foot in the place? That’s what screenwriters George Schenck and Mayo Simon and director Richard T. Heffron expect us to swallow from the outset.
Crichton was not involved in this film, and the only returning cast member from “Westworld” is Brynner, doing a cameo in a brief dream sequence that seems something of a cheat; an excuse for putting his name and iconic gunfighter image all over posters and trailers for “Futureworld.” And compared to the MGM original, this American International sequel seems to skimp on production values, not to mention action, while the Fonda and Danner characters just aren’t as engaging as Benjamin and Brolin’s vacationing buddies were.
The Blu-ray edition also skimps on special features, giving us a trailer, radio spots and a stills gallery.
But to answer a question we may have raised, Brynner’s previous appearances in the black gunfighter garb — aside from these two robot gigs — were, of course, in “The Magnificent Seven” and “Return of the Seven.” He must’ve liked wearing that get-up.
— Gene Triplett