HBO's Westworld has made a big impression with audiences and critics. Blending the seemingly familiar with the coolly sinister, the series delves into a world where the surface and the underneath are very different, yet work in weird harmony with each other. Michael Crichton's story also shows that the West was truly wild, whether back then or in this brave new world.
However Westworld isn't an original idea, and it isn't the first time the staple of the Western genre has been subverted.
Over the years filmmakers have combined one of the fixtures of American popular culture with some unusual ingredients, in an attempt to shake things up and challenge preconceptions. From sci-fi mash ups to martial arts slapstick, those dusty plains have proved to be the broadest of canvasses.
In the interest of expanding your mind and your viewing experience of Westworld, this article counts down ten key examples where the conventions of the genre were turned on their head. Oh, and whether they were actually any good...
10. Dust Devil
Richard Stanley's serial
killer thriller and mystic curio took place in modern day Namibia. Yet despite the
non-American location, Dust Devil's imagery and influences are pure
Western, from the cowboy hat-wearing antagonist to the parched, unforgiving
landscape where it's set.
The story had
its roots in a South African case about a mysterious slayer with supposed
supernatural powers. Future Robocop Robert John Burke played the title monster,
the personification of an ancient predator, who roved the wilderness killing
strangers to satisfy his vicious temperament.
The helmer acknowledged a visual debt to Spaghetti Westerner Sergio Leone, whose
cinematic vistas made the territory a star of the film. Here Stanley did the
same, accentuating the exotic backdrop even further by bringing us the Dust
Devil, a fictional yet powerful mythic element from its distant past, who could
only exist in remote, superstitious areas where his reputation held sway.
The movie had production
problems and was butchered in the editing room, yet over the years has been regarded as a minor classic.
I am a journalist and comedian who enjoys American movies of the 70s, Amicus horror compendiums, Doctor Who, Twin Peaks, Naomi Watts and sitting down. My short fiction has been published as part of the Iris Wildthyme range from Obverse Books.