The Andromeda Strain 1971

{The Andromeda Strain 1971 Robert Wise}

{Synopsis} Scoop VI a military satellite returns to earth.  The population of Piedmont a small American town is decimated leaving just two survivors, an old alcoholic and a baby. An alien micro-organism is suspected and the satellite and survivors are transferred to WILDFIRE a secret research laboratory in Nevada. A team of specialists attempt to identify and isolate this lethal pathogen.

The Andromeda Strain was the movie I saw as a child which gave me a life long fascination with pathogens. Although there have been other films The Satan Bug, Twelve Monkeys, Outbreak and Contagion dealing with a biological crisis it is The Andromeda Strain that I find the most persistently engaging.

The film is highly procedural with the source book by Michael Crichton being heavily mined for inspiration. It is this aspect I particularly admire. There is an almost zero attempt to sex the science up with sensationalist dialog, fast cut editing or a grafted ‘will they or won’t they’ love story.

The casting of the film is devoid of youth and is instead populated by middle aged and older serious character actors. Kate Reid, who was cast in a role originally male in the source novel was particularly notable being portrayed as the equal to her male counterparts.


{Left to right Arthur Hill-David Wayne- Kate Reid-James Olsen}

The Andromeda strain is possibly notorious for the scene with the Rhesus monkey apparently dying due to exposure to Andromeda. The effect if you want to call it that was achieved by pumping all the air out from the sealed box it was placed in. The result looks completely convincing and is still shocking even now. At the end of the scene the camera cuts away quickly which enabled the immediate revival of the monkey which was unharmed. The whole scene was filmed under the supervision of the American Humane Society.

The special effects discussed in the extra on the recommended DVD below are extraordinary in their creative process and visual impact. It is to be admired the sheer intellectual ability and ingenuity of people like Douglas Trumbull, James Shourt and Albert Whitlock. With today’s CGI computing software and tools there is no effort or concern required for conceiving, solving and then building the actual machinery or process required to create an effect and as such practically no matter how visually stunning modern CGI is it never really trips the question “How did they do that?”.

The best release of the Andromeda Strain is the German Steel Book Blu-Ray release. This has the full English soundtrack together with a complete unedited copy of the firm, with intact titles and ticker tape sequences.