Spoiler Level: High
Is this movie a classic, or do I just think it's a classic because 2-XL included it in his "Science Fiction II" program and it was one of the few he asked about that I'd never seen? It is by Michael Chricton, after all.
It's definitely a product of the 70's, with its rooms full of computer consoles with white blinking lights, its 70's clothes and hair, and the almost mythical trust put into computers that will of course eventually go wrong. In fact, there's no technical explanation given for why the systems are breaking down beyond "it's getting sick." No, this is a straight-forward morality story-- create a system designed to indulge your every decadence, and it will ultimately destroy you.
The interesting part is how long it takes for the system to go wrong. The film takes its time showing you the marvel of the artificial worlds they've created; in addition to Westworld (often referred to as Westernworld) there's Medievalworld and Romanworld, with Romanworld obviously intended to be the most decadent. We're given long scenes showing how the system works and how fully the customers can indulge themselves, yet to 1973 PG standards so it's never as gratuitous as the premise would make it sound. (Nowadays, the content here would probably be PG-13 for blood and sexual situations; this is back when PG actually meant something.)
For some crazy reason, I also spent the movie thinking that James Brolin was a young Michael Douglas, so I assumed he was going to be the hero and Richard Benjamin was going to be the one to die. Imagine my surprise when it turned out to be the other way around.
Yul Brynner is the original Terminator, the unstoppable robot killing machine. Every time you think he's finally been destroyed he gets up again and continues his murderous march. Terminator does genuinely owe something to this movie.
The ending is particularly brutal, with Benjamin's character Peter Martin being the sole survivor, running through the different worlds strewn with dead bodies and Brynner's Gunslinger robot tracking him down, with no guarantee that Martin is going to make it.
My only complaint is that I'd like to know why the system actually broke down, but no one survives long enough to figure that part out. But that's more a sign of the times. My reaction that this was an essential part overlooked by the movie probably comes from us living in a more computer-oriented society. Back in 1973, computers were still something other-worldly. We didn't need to know why HAL went crazy in 2001; it's a flawed computer, and that's scary. Nowadays a flawed computer just makes you grumble and complain and reboot, restore or reinstall.
I'm interested to see how the fall-out from the events of this movie are handled in the sequel, Futureworld. This was an amusement park after all, and it's safe to say that any amusement park where all the guests died would never reopen again. But a successful film needs a sequel, so Futureworld, here we come!