Sunday, October 02, 2016

Nostalgia Theater: The Westworld Franchise

Tonight marks much-anticipated premiere of HBO's big budget series adaptation of the 1973 feature Westworld . And while I've yet to see it, the star power of Anthony Hopkins and Ed Harris in front of the camera, and Jonah Nolan and J.J. Abrams behind, sure makes me think this could be a standout of the fall season. Of course, many of the folks excited about the new Westworld may not even realize that it's a remake of a respected film that was itself the recipient of its own TV spin-off.

For some quick backstory, the Westworld movie arrived at a time when science-fiction at the movies had just turned the corner into darker, more sophisticated fare. The film was written and directed by Michael Crichton, and told of a western-themed amusement park owned by the Delos Corporation, where a robotic gunslinger (Yul Brynner) goes on a rampage and targets two vacationing businessmen who are suddenly running for their lives. Here's the trailer for that:

The proto-Terminator premise, coupled with the familiarity of Brynner in the western milieu, was enough of a hook for the flick to earn $10 million against a $1.25 mil budget. Naturally that led to a sequel three years later called Futureworld. As the title implies, they eschewed the western setting for this one, instead focusing on another "wing" of the Delos theme park, this time with a futuristic setting. The sequel didn't involve Crichton (though he'd eventually revisit the "theme park run amuck" hook), and also wasn't nearly as successful. Watching this trailer, I can't imagine why:

So, by this point the franchise had racked up one hit and one miss. Normally that would be enough to cash out while they were even, but I guess they figured they'd give it one more shot. And so, just a few short years later, we got the TV series Beyond Westworld, which picked up the ball where Futureworld had left it laying. Again, Crichton was nowhere near this one despite retaining a "created by" credit. I gotta say though, I can't hate this gonzo opening title sequence:

Watching that vid, I think it's entirely understandable that Beyond Westworld had an abbreviated brodcast life. I think what is somewhat surprpising however is just how abbreviated that life was. The show aired for a mere three episodes on CBS in March of 1980 before the network quickly dropped the sword. This, even though a total of five were produced. I have no idea why they pulled the plug so quickly, unless ratings were just that catastrophic.

After it's quick cancellation, Beyond Westworld took its place as piece of TV trivia for decades, going mostly unseen until just recently, when Warner Bros. made the show available via it's manufacture-on-demand DVD service. After the show got the heave-ho, that was it for the Westworld brand until it made its way back to television this year. And while it's an open question whether it'll be a worthy endeavor, at least there's nowhere to go but up!

One Year Ago in Nostalgia Theater: Rediscovering The Rockford Files

Two Years Ago in Nostalgia Theater: The Flash's First TV Series

Three Years Ago in Nostalgia Theater: ABC's The Phoenix -- Bennu There, Done That

Four Years Ago in Nostalgia Theater: Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventures

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