The Gunslinger of Westworld
This week on The Heroes, Villains and Sidekicks Show we’ll be taking a look at the first villain not from a comic but from a movie. The villain we’ll be learning about on today’s episode is The Gunslinger from the 1973 Sci-Fi classic Westworld.
And that’s what we’ll be doing on The Heroes, Villains and Sidekicks Show, we’ll be learning and talking about the origins and backstories of heroes and villains throughout the comic book universe and pop culture. We’ll look at both popular and obscure characters you may have never heard….but I think you’ll dig.
Westword is one of those classic sci-fi movies that I go back to often. Its one of my favorite weekend lazy flicks. For me it’s right up there with Logan’s Run, Soylent Green, Silent Running and Invasion of the Body Snatcher.
Now I totally wanted to do this episode because I have been really enjoying the new Westworld HBO series they have based off the movie, they even elude to the disaster from 30 years ago in the new show cementing it in the timeline of the old 70’s show.
So let’s get into the classic 70’s Westworld and learn about this week’s villain, The Gunslinger.
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The movie Westworld, written and directed by novelist Michael Crichton, was released in 1973 and was shot in only 30 days. It starred Yul Brynner as a lifelike android in a futuristic Western-themed amusement park where guests could come to live out their fantasies paying 1,000 a day. Main characters Peter Martin (Richard Benjamin), a first-time park visitor, and his friend John Blane (James Brolin) are the human visitors to the theme park of the future. Now the theme park, named Delos, didn’t just have Westworld, but also Medieval and Roman World. But as you may have guessed by the title, we spend much of the movie in WestWorld, passing through the other lands and the even visiting the control center of Delos once problems with the androids start popping up.
Before everything hits the fan Brolin and Benjamin are having a great old time, drinking, sleeping with robo-prostitutes and having repeated run ins with The Gunslinger, repeatedly killing him in gunfights. See the guests guns are real, but will only fire on something with low body heat, they only fire on cold-blooded androids. It almost become a joke that they just shoot up this gunslinger everyday.
So we not only get to see the action going on in the theme park, but we are taken behind the scenes into the labs where the androids are built and maintained. It’s there we learn that the park is experiencing many more central processor failures than normal. We see this start to affect the park on a small level when James Brolins character is actually bitten by a snake while in the badlands.
Things go rapidly downhill from there. A guest’s sexual advances are denied, and then in medieval world a guest is killed by the black knight.
The scientists and engineers who run the park frantically try to shut everything down but only get themselves trapped in central control when the doors automatically lock. At this point all the robots in all the area are killing the guests and general mayhem ensues.
Well Brolin and Benjamin wake up from a hard night drinking and brawling unaware of what is happening in the other areas. The Gunslinger confronts them, unaware that they are now in actual mortal danger, Brolin lazily draws on The Gunslinger and is easily killed. Benjamin is then chased throughout the park by Yul Brynner’s character trying to escape the fate of his friend.
Benjamin is chased through all the areas in Westworld and makes his final stand deep in the maintenance catacombs of Delos. There he defeats The Gunslinger by throwing acid on his face damaging his optical sensors. Since The Gunslinger is partially blinded be cannot distinguish Benjamin’s figure from a group of torches he is standing behind. Before The Gunslinger gan strike, Benjamin sets him on fire with the torches and he is destroyed.
So in preparing this podcast it suddenly started to creep into my mind that The Gunslinger isn’t a villain. Sure most dictionaries define villain as, a character in a story or play who opposes the hero or heroine, and The Gunslinger does that. So he is technically the Villain of the movie, but he seems to me more like a shark. There is no good or evil in his actions, he is just hunting. Just doing his job per his programming. He actually reminded me of the shark from Jaws. The shark in jaws isn’t evil, he’s just, I don’t know hungry, having a bad day, but not evil. I was actually watching Westworld while I was working on the Podcast and I noticed something. We see The Gunslinger a few times when Brolin and Benjamin first battle him and he seems very deadpan, no AFECT. When he later kills Brolin, he turns to Benjamin, smiles and evil little smile and says, “draw”. Am I reading into that, he gives a little smirk in the next scene also, but then that’s it. He’s back to being a cold robotic killer, a shark, just doing his job, being a gunslinger.
Well I want to thank you for listening to this week’s episode of the heroes, villains and sidekicks show. Next week we’ll be featuring everyone’s favorite bat heroine, Barbara Gordon…Batgirl.
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