The Andromeda Strain (1971)

One from the to watch pile…

The Andromeda Strain (1971)

Film: Somehow this film, over all these years, has passed me over.

I mean I haven’t actively avoided it, I just never purchased it nor have I seen it on TV. Maybe there was always something else to buy or watch, but even after Jurassic Park and I discovered a love of writer Michael Crichton, I still didn’t get around to watching it, even though I did watch the… shall we say below average… Congo (in my defence it was after reading the book, which I love, so I was high on crazy white monkey business).

In addition to being based on Crichton’s writings, this film has some amazing pedigree. The script writer, Nelson Gidding, was responsible for the scripts for films like The Haunting (1963) and Odds Against Tomorrow (1959) so you know it’s well written. The director was Robert Wise, known for SO many famous films: Audrey Rose (1977), Star Trek: The Motion Picture (1979), West Side Story (1961), The Sound of Music (1965) as well as the aforementioned The Haunting and Odds Against Tomorrow. The blurb on the back describes Wise’s direction as ‘clinical precision’ and that description NAILS it.

The Andromeda Strain tells of a satellite that crashes to earth in the small town of Piedmont in New Mexico which releases something that causes the entire towns population to die quite quickly. Scientist Dr. Stone (Arthur Hill) and surgeon Dr. Hall (James Olsen) get into hazmat suits and search the town for answers, and eventually come across two survivors, a baby and the town drunk.

The return to their research facility in Nevada, Wildfire, and are joined by two other scientists, Dr. Dutton (David Wayne) and Dr. Leavitt (Kate Reid) who are all employed to find out exactly what has killed the townspeople.

Wildfire is an intense environment to do their research in as it requires 4 levels of decontamination before the research can even be started, and the threat of a nuclear cleansing is ever present should any of the alien material should leak from its housing.

Will the research scientists be able to find out what has caused all the death, or is mankind doomed?

This film is intense for sure, and at no time is it not a feast for the eye. The production design of the town is depressing and as sad as any film that shows the death of a town. The research station is an amazing visual too, albeit dated, and apparently the sets were so good they were used repeatedly throughout the 70s in Tv shows like The Bionic Woman and Buck Rogers in the 25th Century.

The direction style has this great multi-screen format at times which really tells the story in an exciting, almost comic book fashion, and the acting is of a high caliber.

The Andromeda Strain is a science fiction film that deals with a potentially real problem so very realistically that it is quite disconcerting and is conceptually horrifying.

Score: ****

Format: The reviewed copy of this film was the Umbrella Entertainment, multi-region DVD which is presented in a clear, though with the occasional artefact, 2.35:1 image with a 2.0 audio track which is just fine.

Score: ***

Extras: Nothing, not even a menu screen.

Score: 0

WISIA: It’s a long film so I’ll have to be really in the mood to take the time to watch it, but I’ll totally watch it again!

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