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Mr. Movie: Michael Crichton

Michael Crichton left us in 2008 at the way-too-young age of 66. He was perhaps the most cinematic writer of our time. Many of his exciting books were made into splendid movies. He also dreamed up, produced and wrote many of the episodes of the hugely popular TV show ER.


The Andromeda Strain (1971) is about a team of scientists racing against time to thwart a virus from outer space. The book is a real nail-biter, the film a little less so, but still a worthwhile watch. The 2008 remake is definitely NOT a worthwhile watch. It is simply awful.


The fascinating Westworld (1973) involves a future camp where people can participate in whatever fantasy they choose. Richard Benjamin picks the Old West and has a ball until it looks like the robotic denizens, led by Yul Brynner, have malfunctioned. It became a huge HBO series hint in 2016, which lasted for six seasons.


George Segal’s brain is wired in a risky experiment to save his life and of course things go terribly wrong in Terminal Man (1974). Not to be confused with the 2004 movie with Tom Hanks trying to figure our how to help a poor man trapped in an airport terminal because of a coup in his home country.


The Great Train Robbery (1979) is Crichton’s take on the most famous robbery in British history. It looks fantastic (replicating the 1880s) as the stellar cast (Sean Connery, Donald Sutherland) plot how to rob a moving train carrying gold. The incredibly complicated plan for the heist is cinematic gold.


The idea of Jurassic Park (1993), the cloning of long-dead dinosaurs from recovered DNA, is just brilliant. The book is great, the film less so. The story is pretty well botched by the movie, but oh, those dinosaurs! What a thrill! And the special effects are about the whole show in The Lost World (1997) involving a second island filled with killer creatures from the past.


There are no special effects or scientific marvels in Rising Sun (1993). It is a good old murder mystery with Sean Connery and Wesley Snipes trying to figure out who did in a visiting Japanese big shot, and how it happened. I did not see the amazing solution coming!


Also worth a look is the medical thriller Coma (1978), ably directed by Crichton from a Robin Cook novel. In a big city hospital, patients are being stolen for spare parts! Genevieve Bujold suspects the worst and Richard Widmark knows it.


All of the films in this column are available somewhere. All are for grown-ups.