Liam Rudden: Returning to Westworld but still missing Yul Brynner

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MANY years ago, a good friend, Tom Mann, presented me with a present that to this day takes pride of place, framed for all to see, it’s a signed black and white 10x8 photo of the late, great Yul Brynner.

To many, Brynner, his iconic bald head a familiar sight long before the look was made more fashionable by Kojak’s Telly Savalas, will forever be remembered as The King of Siam in the 1956 musical The King And I. To others he will always be Chris Larabee Adams in The Magnificent Seven.

It’s another cowboy role, however, that comes to mind whenever I think of Brynner, that of The Gunslinger in the 1973 movie Westworld, a role he reprised for the sequel Futureworld three years later.

Just a kid when the original was released, it was a film I didn’t discover until in my late teens.

For those unfamiliar with the movie, Westworld is an immersive holiday resort peopled by robot hosts, where you can live out your wildest fantasies.

With numerous themed worlds across the resort, in the eponymous Westworld, holiday-makers travel back to the Wild West to become cowboys for the duration of their stay without fear of injury or danger... in theory, at least.

The concept captured my imagination and for decades I pondered the infinite possibilities a spin-off TV series held.

Only recently did I discover there was indeed an abortive attempt to do just that in 1980; titled Beyond Westworld, only five episodes were ever made and of those only three made it to broadcast before it was axed.

Now, not being a huge watcher of TV these days you can imagine my delight a year or so ago while visiting my sister, who has a telly with more channels that the BBC has programmes, to discover there was a box-set of the new HBO reimagining of Westworld ready to view right there and then.

I watched the lot in two binge sittings and have to say, the new Westworld makes the original movie look simplistic by comparison, although the basic idea remains the same.

Last week Season 2 arrived on my desk. A couple of hours later the first disc was spinning in the DVD player.

I’ll avoid spoilers by quoting a section of the publicity blurb:

‘In Season Two, the puppet show is over and the newly liberated ‘hosts’ are coming for humankind. Chaos takes control in this dark odyssey about the dawn of artificial consciousness, the birth of a new form of life and the evolution of sin.’

Multilayered, the series itself is a mesmerising puzzle and not one to be taken lightly - certainly not for casual viewing.

It’s intriguing and addictive and perfect for those who like their TV drama with an intelligent (artificial or otherwise) story line.

Just do watch Season 1 first.

Westworld is available now on DVD (£24.99) Blu-Ray (£29.99), Ltd Ed Blu-Ray Steel Book (£32.99), Season 1 & 2 DVD (£34.99), Season 1 & 2 Blu-Ray (£39.99), 4K Ultra HD (£39.99)