Before Jurassic Park: The Works of Michael Crichton
I’ve been watching Westworld, the TV series on HBO, and I’ve been loving it. My wife came in at episode three and couldn’t take her eyes off the screen. Looking back, original 1973 film was pretty damned good, especially with Yul Brynner as the unstoppable Man in Black, sort of Terminator 1.0. When I heard they were making a series about it, I was a bit doubtful since people were messing with a classic. Screwing around with classics rarely bodes well for the material.
You can catch the full movie on YouTube.
However, after watching the first episode, I was hooked. The original film was only 88 minutes long, so we never get into the deep science edge like we do with the new TV series. Don’t worry, I won’t be giving away any spoilers here, since it’s more fun when you see it for yourself. Rather I’m interested in talking about the man who was a major force in science fiction films and novels. I mean the guy who wrote good stuff before Jurassic Park.
Here is the trailer for the film:
When I was still in school, The Andromeda Strain novel came out. Subsequently it was made into a film directed by the great Robert Wise in 1971. I read the novel before seeing the movie, and was unfortunately disappointed by the changes in the ending. In the film, one of the heroes is getting shot at by lasers, while in the book, well, it was curare darts used to kill and make sure no animals escaped a secure level of the facility. I kind of preferred the darts, though I understood why the changes in the film were deemed needed. It’s still good, though the film sort of suffers since it haven’t aged terribly well. However, I still recommend it.
If you look at Crichton’s novels and films, you’ll see that he craved to tell stories that were on the edge of technology, showing how scientific advances may affect our lives. His works include Terminal Man, the screenplay for Coma, a neat little TV movie about a possible nerve gas attack on a city called Pursuit (if you can find it), and the terrific Great Train Robbery.
He also wrote a couple less well-known films that I liked that also rode the cusp of technology. 1981’s Looker was about computer-generated models.
1984’s Runaway was about police who must deal with robots programmed to kill. Both are okay, albeit age-worn, science fiction films.
If you can, check out these films and, better yet, Crichton’s novels. Once Jurassic Park was released, that’s when Crichton seemed to hit his stride with a whole lot of interesting and controversial ideas. Perhaps in a future post I’ll delve a bit further into Crichton’s later work.
Meanwhile, let me know which of Crichton’s works you liked the most, and which didn’t work for you.
Read and watch everything you can, Deadies! Immerse yourself in the good, bad, and awful. And above all, keep your sense of humor.