Directed by Richard T. Heffron
Studio: American International/MGM
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 anamorphic
Running Time: 104 minutes
Audio: Dolby Digital 2.0 mono English
MSRP: $ 19.98
Release Date: December 2010
Review Date: January 28, 2011
Reviewer’s Note: MGM offered a review copy of one of their discs in their MOD program as being distributed by Fox through an arrangement with Allied Vaughn.
While Westworld was a whale of a good time as a sci-fi thriller, its sequel Futureworld only uses the idea of adult resorts as a backdrop to its own special sci-fi story which, apart from a fleeting appearance by Yul Brynner in his Gunslinger persona and the idea of robots fulfilling any person’s dreams of pleasure, goes its own way with its own rhythms and textures. It’s not quite the equal of its predecessor in terms of thrills, and director Richard T. Heffron doesn’t milk the suspense he has for what it’s worth. Still, it’s an entertaining if somewhat overlong sci-fi trifle.
Alerted by an escaped custodian that something isn’t quite right at Delos, the adult resort complex which after the events of the Westworld uprising has had to undergo a complete overhaul to prevent any future malfunctions, investigative reporter Chuck Browning (Peter Fonda) accepts the invitation of Delos’ managing director Dr. Duffy (Arthur Hill) to poke around the complex to his heart’s content. His companions are a formidable lot with television reporter Tracy Ballard (Blythe Danner), Russian prime minister Karnovsky (Bert Conroy), and Japanese diplomat Mr. Takaguchi (John Fujioka) among others along for the ride. Though on the surface things appear to be running smoothly, there is definitely malfeasance going on during the time the visitors are asleep. Aided by Harry, another curious custodian (Stuart Margolin), Chuck and Tracy eventually learn the truth, but will they be able to leave Delos alive to report what they’ve learned?
The screenplay by Mayo Simon and George Schenck has some plotting holes (Chuck is allegedly scared of heights, but you’d never know it watching him during the film’s climactic half hour), and director Heffron’s pacing is too languid for a would-be thriller. Both writers and director spend too much time with a silly contest winner who doesn’t add enough humor into the mix to warrant his inclusion, and the production design doesn’t do enough to suggest anything futuristic. Still, there is a genuine effort here to go in a different direction from Westworld rather than merely regurgitating that same plot again for the sequel (perhaps that’s why this film wasn’t nearly as popular at the box-office), and the movie sustains some of the same creepy vibe that made other sci-fi epics about losing one’s identity popular during the 1970s.
Peter Fonda has enough dogged tenacity to convince as a nosey newspaperman, but Blythe Danner’s television reporter is perhaps the least inquisitive journalist ever to appear on celluloid, her stubborn insistence on taking everything at face value and her genuine lack of curiosity about even the most suspicious events couldn’t possibly have won her any fans in the field of television journalism. Much more ingratiating, in fact, the film’s most bracing presence, is Stuart Margolin whose individuality as a comic actor saves scenes time and again with his dry wit and a truly caring nature. Arthur Hill adds stately authority to the proceedings without giving the game away while it’s wonderful to see iconic gunslinger Yul Brynner (in one of his final screen appearances) even if it’s only in a dream sequence and completely mute.
The film is presented in its theatrical aspect ratio of 1.85:1 and is anamorphically enhanced for widescreen televisions. Sharpness is above average (the opening game show sequence fools you into thinking the entire film is going to be this sharp and colorful, but it isn’t) and color saturation is fine but not outstanding. Black levels are fairly wan throughout leading to relatively weak shadow detail. Flesh tones look agreeable. There are minimal amounts of dirt and dust. The film has been divided into chapters every ten minutes, typical of MOD discs.
The Dolby Digital 2.0 mono track is decoded by Dolby Prologic into the center channel. It’s a typical mono sound mix of the era with dialogue, music (a very TV-series style score by Fred Karlin of undistinguished quality), and sound effects all together in the same track. Dialogue is easy to understand (sometimes volume levels are a bit loud leading to some distortion), and ADR is easy to distinguish.
The disc does offer a trailer which runs 2 ¾ minutes and is in anamorphic widescreen. It’s notably dirtier than the feature film on the disc.
3/5 (not an average)
This entry Futureworld in the MGM/MOD program features above average picture and sound quality and a trailer. Fans of the movie will be glad to have it looking and sounding this good and available at long last for purchase.