THE ANDROMEDA STRAIN [1971] movie review – recommended

August 9, 2013 · Print This Article

A stunningly cerebral sci-fi thriller, THE ANDROMEDA STRAIN [1971] was all business with no gimmicks and plenty of building tension. It was not at all what I expected.

This is one of those movies whose title was long in my mind, not really knowing much about it. I came about watching it by a hodge podge number of triggers, as is often the case with movies like this. First I heard a line quoted from it on a podcast, then saw it come up in Netflix, then noticed that it was adapted from a Michael Crichton (of Jurassic Park fame) novel and boom, it got selected for immediate viewing. I was really surprised to find out the part of Crichton, since this was a 1971 movie and Jurassic Park the movie came out in 1993.

I thought this would be more of a horror movie as the synopsis just said an alien virus kills everyone except two people in a small town. Only the beginning of the movie keeps us in that small (68 people small!) New Mexico town first approached by two army soldiers on a mission to recover a satellite. Next another pair scientists touch down after contact is lost with the soldiers. Through clever split screen views we see body after body found nearly frozen in place from apparent instantaneous death.

The majority of the movie takes place in Wildfire, super secret government lab commissioned by a brilliant scientist. I could not get over the production value of the sets. There were amazing robotic arms manipulating tiny objects, well machined metal control panels, just things I totally did not expect to see in a 1971 era movie.

From the moment we are shown Wildfire I was fascinated with its procedures and protocols. Just to get to the level where the recovered satellite could be studied took hours and hours of immunization and decontamination tests, all of very high tech design.

I feel I had seen before the accordion like rubber suits used by the doctor to examine the two living people from the small town. Maybe just in a clip from the movie? Again, the science and tools featured in the movie were shockingly modern and forward thinking.

I was enthralled by learning about the step by step scientific process for measuring the size of tiny particles, how they infect victims, and what exactly are they made of. Some might find this terribly dry, I liked the seriousness of it all.

Looming over all this is a fail safe detonation of a nuclear bomb that would incinerate the whole underground lab in case of contamination breech. Again, how this is introduced to us was super interesting. The climax comes on fast and perfectly ends this sci-fi thriller.

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