Michael Crichton was invited to take a tour of Universal Studios during the production of this film. His guide was none other than Steven Spielberg, who went on to adapt Crichton's most successful novel, Jurassic Park (1993).
A few additional details about the controversial death scene of the monkey in the laboratory: 1) It was approved by the ASPCA who was present during the filming of the scene. 2) While the monkey was filmed suffocating on CO2, assistant director James Fargo was standing just off camera wearing scuba gear and holding a second oxygen source. 3) The monkey was revived just seconds after going unconscious - a little too fast as it turns out. Watching the scene closely, the viewer can clearly see a shadow moving towards the monkey just as it goes limp. And since there was only one take it couldn't be edited out.
When Dr. Stone's wife tells him someone is at the door to see him, he says, "The SDS has arrived, no doubt." "SDS" is an acronym for "Students for a Democratic Society", a protest group active in colleges in the late 1960s.
Michael Crichton wrote the rough draft for the novel from which this film is adapted while he was still a medical student. He was inspired after a conversation with one of his teachers about the concept of crystal-based life-forms.
Screenwriter Nelson Gidding broached the idea to director Robert Wise that one of the four scientists should be a woman. Wise initially envisioned female character being something like Raquel Welch in Fantastic Voyage (1966) and objected strenuously to the change. However, after Gidding described in detail the character eventually played by Kate Reid, he convinced Wise that it was a positive addition to the story.
The computer error "601" occurs because of a system overload while trying simulate Andromeda's growth and mutation. The error number is a reference to the computer overload error of "1202" (exactly double) which occurred on the LEM during the first lunar descent.
Leavitt, in a protest against inserting something to clean out the GI tract, makes the statement about "risked drowning in that foul bath". The book, but not the movie, had the Wildfire Team submerge completely in an antibiotic solution. The scene may have been cut, but Leavitt still makes reference to it in the movie.
At the plane crash site, the actor who was supposed to call out, "Major Mancheck," fell out of his trailer and broke his leg. He was replaced on the spot with Robert 'Bob' Olen, who did the lines but was never credited for it.
Mapping data shown for location of WildFire was from a Aeronautical Sectional Chart. The location of WildFire, as depicted, is just North of Searchlight NV and East of US-95 at approximately N35:31.94 W114:52.80. The statement regarding the reason for selection of the site was that there was no inhabitable area for a radius of 112 miles was erroneous since Las Vegas is only 27nm miles north.
Four actors would later go on to star in the hit tv series Little House On The Prairie. Arthur Hill would guest star as Lansford Ingalls (Charles Ingalls father). James Olson would guest star as a charismatic faith healer and Ramon Bieri (Major Manchek) appeared in the first ever episode as a ruthless local businessman. Richard Bull who had a smaller role as "Air Force Major" would take on the regular role of Nels Olsen, the owner of the Mercantile and star in the show for its entire nine-year run.
Patient Jackson states that he drinks "squeeze", otherwise known as Sterno, or "canned heat"; a gelled fuel made of ethanol and methanol that is sold in short, wide cans with resealable lids. When lit, it produces a low, even flame and is used primarily for heating food, as in chafing dishes. Although poisonous to drink, it became popular during prohibition, particularly in homeless camps. The product would be placed in cheesecloth or a sock and squeezed to produce the liquid alcohol, which would be mixed with fruit juice to make so-called "jungle juice." The nickname, "squeeze" is taken from this squeezing process.
The section of the film where the two scientists are in the town of Piedmont in their suits, is very similar to the opening of The Man from U.N.C.L.E.: The Finny Foot Affair (1964). They were even searching for some kind of biohazard material, too, which had been taken to a local doctor, but in a small town in Scotland, where they also found everyone dead. In the "UNCLE" episode, the biohazard caused rapid aging, which resulted in death.
In the film, the computer code 601 indicates a crash due to an overload of data. In the real world this code number indicates a variety of failures. With Windows computers, 601 indicates the failure of the internal CMOS battery (the battery that maintains the clock and other basic functions). In the computers of some automobiles it indicates corrupted flash memory. In remote accessed (VPN) computer systems, 601 means that a connection cannot be established.
During the closed hearing the General states that the scientist in question had not been made aware of the Wildfire facility for purposes of national security. The Senator responds approvingly, stating they'd had experience with scientists before. During the time of the Manhattan Project, which developed the first nuclear weapons, a group of scientists that was aware of the potential for developing such a weapon and tried to persuade the government not to attempt to build such weapons. The scientists included Albert Einstein. After the Manhattan Project had been completed, it was learned that the technology had been leaked to the Soviets by someone on the Manhattan team.
The trivia item below may give away important plot points.
The monkey was "killed" by being placed in a large set filled with carbon dioxide. When the monkey's cage, which contained oxygen, was opened the animal was rendered unconscious by the CO2. An assistant director was off camera and brought a breathing apparatus to the monkey, who recovered immediately.