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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Fantastic Planet aka La Planete Sauvage (1973)

One from the to watch pile…
Fantastic Planet aka La Planete Sauvage (1973)

The cover to the Umbrella Entertainment DVD


Film: In my stupidly overlarge collection of books about films, I regularly go back to the 1,000 Movies You Must See Before You Die, and this film is always present in the list.

This animated film was directed by French director René Laloux, and was animated by an all-female group of animators called ‘animatrices’, the production starting in Prague but eventually moved to France due to Communist authorities who were in power at the time.

Apparently this film was inspired by the Russian invasion of Czechoslovakia in the late 60s (I know this as it is written on the back cover of the DVD) but I won’t make any commentary on that as my understanding of politics and non-Australian history is somewhat lacking, and anything I may say would be superficial and I don’t wish to insult people based on a subject I know nothing about.

I like movies, and whilst I appreciate some have subtext and meaning, I’m not one to comment on something of which I know nothing about.

Based on the book Om En Série by Stefan Will (a pen name of Pierre Pairault, writer of La Mort Vivant amongst others), Fantastic Planet tells of a planet inhabited by the Draags, a gigantic race of blue beings whose appearance may be slightly similar to ours, but whose existence is completely alien.

Also on this planet is a race identical to ours called Oms. Oms are kept as pets by the Draags, and our story tells of a young Draag, Tiwa, who has an Om of her own whom she calls Terr. 

Like any young girl, Tiwa dresses up her pet and loves him dearly, but Terr isn’t like other Oms. Terr listens in on Tina’s school lessons, learning all he can about everything to do with the planet. 

Terr has some creature make him new clothes.


As Tiwa gets older, she grows out of her playthings and Terr decides to run away, taking with him an educational headset, which to him is huge, so he can learn more about the world. Quickly, Terr meets up with a tribe of wild Oms and with his knowledge becomes a full fledged member, but will his knowledge bring revolution, or destroy the Oms altogether?

The Oms gets an education from a Draag device.


The visuals of this film are amazing. Each frame looks like it is straight out of a comic as there is depth to the pencil lines, and a beautiful watercolour element to the colour tones. The animation is a little clunky, but the artistic style overpowers that and the overall result is a treat.

How alien the planet is is wonderful too. The creatures are horrifyingly different to most modern science fiction art styles, and look more like they have been torn straight off a 1920s issue of Weird Tales cover. They are all a delight to behold though.

The soundtrack is amazing, and straight out of a prog rock rulebook, with maybe a little bit of Euro-sleeze porn bass thrown in for good measure.

This film is nothing short of beautiful and is well worth the award it received at the 1973 Cannes film festival. It’s slow paced but the visuals and score make it a fascinating watch. It’s said to be a precursor to the work of Studio Ghibli and with its unusual pace and innovative art design, I can’t argue with that.

Score: ****

A rare sighting of a What-the-hell-is-that?


Format: This Australian Umbrella Entertainment all-region (NTSC) DVD release of the film runs for approximately 72 minutes and is presented in a clear 1.66:1 image with a decent 2.0 audio track. The audio track is available in either French or English, but without a menu it can only be changed via your player’s audio options. I couldn’t turn off the subtitles though so in English that did become distracting when the dialogue was different.

Score: ***

Extras: Not a skerrik, I’m afraid… not even a menu!

Score: 0

WISIA: I think I am going to have to watch it a few times just for the beauty of the artistic style of the film, but maybe not so much after that.

The only good Draag is a dead one, if you are an Om.