Director – Richard T. Heffron, Screenplay – George Schenck & Mayo Simon, Producers – James C. Aubrey & Paul N. Lazarus III, Photography – Gene Polito & Howard Schwartz, Music – Fred Karlin, Visual Effects – Brian Sellstrom, Special Effects – Gene Griggs, Art Direction – Trevor Williams. Production Company – Aubrey Co/Paul N. Lazarus III/AIP.
Peter Fonda (Chuck Browning), Blythe Danner (Tracy Ballard), Stuart Margolin (Harry Croft), Arthur Hill (Duffy), John Ryan (Dr Schneider)
A group of journalists and international politicians are invited to a private tour of the Delos amusement park shortly before it is due to re-open under its new management. Two of the journalists, Chuck Browning and Tracy Ballard, become suspicious about what is happening and sneak away to investigate. There they manage to uncover a plot to replace world leaders with android duplicates.
Michael Crichton’s Westworld (1973), with its ingenious concept of an amusement park where androids enact Western myths for tourists suddenly going amok, was an unexpected success. The success of Westworld then ended up producing this sequel.
While Westworld was an ingeniously witty idea conducted with panache by Crichton, Futureworld on the other hand is merely a B film made on an A-budget. Michael Crichton used Westworld as a sharp and intelligent exploration of his recurrent fear of technology going amok, all underscored with a potent satire on the myths embodied by the movie Western. Futureworld merely reduces Crichton’s ideas to a B-movie mad scientist and android duplication and takeover plot. The film writes these clichés as though nobody had heard of them before.
Futureworld is clearly a film written by people who know almost nothing about electronics or computers. Much of what happens is poorly thought out – why, for example, is it necessary to have androids manning the control room and manually inputting data? If automation has developed to the extent that humans are not needed then why not automate the entire control room? Also rather amusingly it appears that having an android duplicate made of you means that it is also capable of reading your mind. There also seems a creative desperation involved in the insertion of a dream sequence, which is there solely to reintroduce Yul Brynner’s gunslinger from the first film, bizarrely enough this time to feature as an object of sexual fantasy.
The film gets a good deal out of shooting on location at NASA’s Manned Space Center in Houston, which gives an impressive hi-tech look that is much more lavish than the original. Peter Fonda and Blythe Danner, Gwyneth Paltrow’s mother, pass mechanically through their roles.
Futureworld was not the end to the Westworld saga – it was followed by a short-lived tv series Beyond Westworld (1980), which only lasted for five episodes. Westworld (2016-22) is a tv series remake of the original. Futureworld should not be confused with the subsequent James Franco co-directed post-apocalyptic film Future World (2018).
Director Richard T. Heffron has mostly worked in television. His one other film of any note is the remake of Mickey Spillane’s I, The Jury (1982). Heffron’s one other venture into science-fiction sequels was the tv mini-series V: The Final Battle (1984).