With his steely eyes, broad shoulders and then-exotic bald pate that gleamed menacingly from under the brim of a black Stetson, actor Yul Brynner was a scary-looking hombre, one who looked as if he'd put a bullet through your heart as soon as look at you. And he used that ambiance to good effect, playing gunslingers in movies such as director John Sturges 1960 epic "The Magnificent Seven."
So it was doubly chilling when Brynner portrayed a robotic version of his customary black-clad six gun-toting killer in "Westworld," a 1973 sci-fi thriller written and directed by Michael Crichton. The movie depicts an interactive theme park complex of the future, in which tourists seeking macho thrills pay $1,000 a day to pretend to be in medieval Europe, ancient Rome, or the Old West of the 1880s, and then do battle with incredibly realistic androids, which are subtly programmed to put on a convincing show and then let the humans win. But for a pair of Chicago businessmen portrayed by Richard Benjamin and James Brolin, who indulge their fantasies at Westworld, the problem is that the androids develop a glitch in their software -- "central mechanism psychosis" -- and start killing people instead of entertaining them.
The first sign that something is amiss: Brolin's character has a mock showdown with Brynner's character, the fake cowtown's sheriff, who shoots and kills him for real. Brynner than stalks the terrified Benjamin, who's forced to contend with the same sort of "it's fun until technology runs amok" meme that Crichton utilized repeatedly in his career, most notably in his best-selling novel "Jurassic Park." In any case, Brynner was so convincing as a malevolent robot that New York Times reviewer Vincent Canby wrote that his character "has no more humanity or sense of justice than a multicycle washing machine" [source: Canby].