The Andromeda Strain (1971) Poster

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10/10
A Sci-Fi with a capital "S".
haggar22 May 2004
I have always been attracted by science, since my early childhood. I remember seeing this movie and being fascinated by the science and technology on display in it. Today, as a MSC EE, I can see that the science in "Andromeda Strain" is accurate. In fact, it's the most accurate of all Sci-Fi movies I have ever seen (and I have seen the great majority of Sci-Fi cinema).

That's one reason I love this movie.

But there are other, probably subjective reasosn for my adulation of "Andromeda Strain": believable people and believable situations (no "last microsecond decision/action/occurance", no over-the-top behaviour, just human quirkyness, no one-man-does-it-all but teamwork and birth of ideas) and the avoidance of the cliche of only-1-will-survive. So, yes, I liked the script a lot.

I also thought the actors were good and the setting was brilliant. I am not put off by dated computer technology: the film clearly illustrates the computing capabilities at the beginning of the '70, and I find something educative and strangely reassuring in that.

I give it 10/10, and am sad that nobody produced a Sci-Fi as scientificly accurate ever since.
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9/10
Near Perfect
henry-girling20 March 2003
Robert Wise is an under rated director but in his body of work are such gems as 'The Body Snatcher', 'The Set-Up', 'The Day the Earth Stood Still', 'Odds Against Tomorrow', 'The Haunting', 'West Side Story', 'I Want to Live!' and on its own terms, 'The Sound of Music'. He managed to make genre films more interesting and watchable than other more celebrated directors.

'The Andromeda Strain' is an engrossing film from beginning to end. It is science fiction, alien virus comes to earth type thing, but has more depth than just that. The scientists, played very well by Arthur Hill, David Wayne, Kate Reid and James Olson, are fallible and have real emotions. Yet in them is a longing to know, to discover, to solve. Most popular cinema celebrate the fist or the gun but part of the excitement of this film is the use of the intellect to tackle the problem. Brains and not brawn is key.

The early scenes in the town of Piedmont are fascinating. Nothing dramatic, only small details adding up to a large tragedy. Restrained film making is not common but in this case it is really effective. After these scenes the film moves on as fear and wonder grip the scientists to a satisfying conclusion.

The electronic music is just right, the sets are atmospheric, the hard ware plausible and the photography simple and effective. A mention should be made of Paula Kelly as a nurse, an excellent actor and shamefully under used in films. (She is great in 'Sweet Charity' too.)In a supporting role she gives an intelligent, spirited performance.

A near perfect film. Hopefully no one will re-make it.
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8/10
The finest example of how to make science-fiction movies
danila_123 December 2002
The Andromeda Strain is virtually perfect. And it doesn't need the special effects of Alien to succeed in telling the similar story of alien life and our contact with it. The movie is captivating right from the starting credits that introduce us to story. Of course, the director had a brilliant novel of Michael Crichton, but he also did his best to bring this novel to the screen sacrificing neither the main idea, nor the minor details. Actually, all the details that mark every scientific thriller by Crichton are there in the film. The Andromeda Strain doesn't have any dinosaurs, it only has a small virus, but overall it is a much better film than any of the Jurassic Parks. And it succeeds in telling us a great story about science much better than some modern CGI-filled movies like Invisible Man.

Finally, the acting is flawless, the actors are great, sets are excellent. If you want to see a great sci-fi movie, choose this one and you want be disappointed.
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You alread know how it ends
Joe Eeee13 December 1999
And yet, you just can't help yourself. Under Robert Wise's direction, this tale of microbiological Armageddon unfolds with such perfectly metered suspense that by the 100th viewing, you STILL find yourself glued to your couch. You HAVE to see how it turns out, even though you already know.

Although the film is well over 20 years old, and the computer equipment at the Wildfire laboratory shows its age, this is a perfect change-of-pace film for any movie monster fan. Heck, you've probably already let your kids see the bloody carnage in "Jurassic Park" anyway.

Instead of the usual radioactive mutated towering apparition that flattens cities and topples skyscrapers, the monster in "The Andromeda Strain" is so tiny, it takes powerful electron microscopes to see it. The average movie monster can only cause damage wherever he can stomp, smash or exhale a blast of fiery breath. Andromeda has the potential to be carried to every corner of the world by the winds, where it could conceivably wipe out all life. Try to top THAT, Godzilla!

The real star of the film is Wildfire itself. A government facility located (we thought) safely away from populated areas, it bristles with everything a microbiologist needs to avert a biological disaster. . .or does it?

Seeking an unprecedented realism, director Robert Wise insisted that everything on the set be real, from the computer terminals (with their quaint light pens) all the way to the electron microscopes. The Wildfire set is every microbiologist's dream come true and it's populated by a quartet of actors!

Since the presence of a big-name star might blunt the impact of this high-tech visual feast, Wise carefully assembled a cast of fine actors who just don't happen to be household names. Without rehashing the characterizations, we'll just say that Arthur Hill, David Wayne, James Olson and Kate Reid couldn't possibly have been more perfect for their roles. With a less competent cast, "The Andromeda Strain" could have degenerated into a parody of itself. This is gritty work, saving the world from biological annihilation. It takes real ACTORS, not just pretty-boy movie stars!

Go ahead. Be scared out of your wits by something so tiny, you can't even see it. I dare you to try and get up before it's over.
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10/10
Love this film
mentalist28 September 2004
I really love this film, and its funny because most people Complain about its slow pace, but I believe that this is one of the reasons that the film is so good, and pace does build up towards the end.

I understand that this film isn't for everybody, but I am a Michael Crichton fan, and I enjoy the way he introduces his sci-fi characters into his novels.

I agree with other user comments that this film was way before its time, and disagree with others who don't seem to be able to differentiate between the music and the sounds in the film.

The film has so many qualities, and is a must see for any sci-fi fan.

9/10
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9/10
Great hardcore sci-fi. Crichton's best
mstomaso3 July 2005
The 1970s were a time before some of the "intelligentsia" of American culture began to abandon rationality and reject science on pseudo-ethical grounds. Unsurprisingly, then, 1970s sci-fi is often better informed by science than the sci-fi of later decades, and it is also often more thoughtful and intelligently written. The Andromeda Strain is one of the best hardcore sci fi epics from a decade which brought us such genre classics as 2001, Solyaris, Silent Running, and the original Rollerball. Unlike most of these films, however, Andromeda Strain does not strain believability beyond its bounds, nor does it indulge in metaphysical tangentializing or philosophical moralizing.

Developed from what I consider to be Michael Crichton's best book, the Andromeda Strain takes its cue directly from the hard realism of that book, along with its documentary style and scientific background research. Though aspects of the plot defy biological probability, if not law, almost the entire film is plausible. Also borrowed from Crichton's writing is the general point the film attempts to make - one which is present in nearly all of Crichton's work - that along with technological advance comes risk. Fortunately, however, this story does not reach the near-paranoid levels of technophobia which sometimes appear in later works.

A great ensemble cast full of not easily recognized character actors represent a team of scientists called together to contain and manage a deadly virus-like organism which has arrived on a crashed space research probe. The virus has already wiped out an entire town, and now the scientists must work at a breakneck, sleepless, pace to determine what the organism is, how it spreads and grows, and how it can be killed or contained. Their only major clues, it seems, are an old man and a baby who survived the initial outbreak. To avoid spoilers, I will avoid any further details regarding the plot.

The only aspect of the film which really seems dated is the strange electronic soundtrack, which, at times, seems more derivative of 1950s sci-fi than more modern stuff. Suffice to say that this is one of the best uses of the 'as-it-happens' documentary film-making style. The entire film is delivered in a very refreshingly straightforward manner, with believable dialog, actors that look like real people, and a pace that builds constantly from start to finish.

Highly recommended.
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well what a surprise this is!
gerritjankoster18 January 2004
I saw this movie quite a while ago, but it made a cracking impression on me. Really if you like 60/70 sci-fi movies this is definitely the movie youve been searching for. Brilliant camerawork ,acting, scenary. And the story is so *****in good. Its too bad they dont make these anymore nowadays.

Believe me if i tell you that im a very critical moviefanatic but this movie is really the best sci-fi movie after A space Odyssey 2001.

9+ / 10 GREAT!!!!

Well on second hand 10 / 10
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9/10
Gripping
Spleen19 May 2000
Easily - EASILY - the best film Michael Crichton has had anything to do with. (That is, of the ones I've seen. For the record, the rest are: `Westworld', `The First Great Train Robbery', `Disclosure', `Jurassic Park', `Twister', and `Congo', although I've never made it to the end of `Congo'.) Does this say something about Crichton's career, or the state of film-making, or neither? Can't say.

Whatever - this is pretty darned good science fiction. Sure, it has the vices we've come to expect: scientists with a tendency to act like the crew of the Enterprise, and central protagonists who begin the film by swimming through treacle and end it by leaping tall buildings in a single bound. As for the former problem, well, it's not so bad here as it usually is. As for the latter, well, it's easy to forgive, because we're put through a very tense ride before our heroes crawl out of the treacle - even afterwards. They don't make films this tense these days. Or at least, this particular film would have been less tense if it had been made these days. I don't think a modern director would have resisted the temptation to goof off at some point.

THAT'S part of the charm. The film's idea of how scientists behave is rather a silly one, but at least the scientists aren't forced to act GOOFY in order to show that scientists are really human, after all - as if there was any need to show this. And I'll say this: whatever the scientists were like, the SCIENCE is much more intelligent than a modern public has any right to expect. So far as I could tell (not that I'm an expert in anything) it only stretches into fantasy when it needs to. Wise gives us information, and plenty of it - not techno-babble.

I've heard people snicker at the thirty-year-old look of the film, but I think they're nuts. The art direction is wonderful. In a way it does the same thing as the original Star Trek: it creates a coherent, claustrophobic world by force of sheer simplicity. But to see `The Andromeda Strain' is to see it done WELL.
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They wouldn't make it today
rmax3048237 May 2003
Warning: Spoilers
It reminds me a bit of "The Forbin Project" in that it presents us with a puzzle that needs solving by intellectual means, and with a problem that has momentous overtones. They wouldn't make it today. Look at the cast. Arthur HILL? Kate REID? They'd need DeCaprio and Roberts at least. And "angstrom units"? And not a single gun or punch in the mouth? And the bomb doesn't EXPLODE? No, no, no -- all wrong.

Well, the movie IS dated, true, but not in ways that count. I can handle the fact that clerks still use typewriters instead of PCs. I can live with the awe that is supposed to be instilled in us when we watch somebody use the mechanical hands. And the references to "love ins", and "SDS", and "protest marches," and the notion that the collection of deadly organisms from space may have been deliberately carried out by the DOD. (I forget who objected to that implication but I don't find it the least implausible, not anymore.)

The story proceeds logically, step by step, through the introduction of the characters (with Kate Reid providing some welcome Thelma-Ritter-type comic relief), the introduction of the organism (if that's the proper word), and the identification of its nature. Never for a moment does the script lapse into mumbo-jumbo. We're never lost. We always know who's doing what, and why.

And in the age of ebola, AIDS, and SARS, I think we can forget about the fact that some of the technology is dated, because the issue certainly isn't.

On the other hand, I wish the end had never come, because the movie completely implodes during its last ten minutes or so, by deus ex machina. I mean, here these guys are, working like hell to solve a problem, and when they're just about to do it, the problem goes away by itself and is completely forgotten. Instead we have a conventional chase scene. Can James Olsen stop the nuclear device from detonating, while alarm bells ring and a recorded voice counts down the minutes and seconds, and automatic lasers are shooting at him? Are you kidding? The Wildfire station may not be destroyed but the heretofor well-constructed story is.

Still, this is worth seeing, for a number of different reasons. One of the main ones is that they so rarely make 'em like this anymore.
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10/10
Excellent, and ahead of its time.
ptmail22 September 2004
From the day I first saw this movie back when it first came out, it has stuck in my mind for over 30 odd years. Kind of makes you think about how many of the same facilities the government has and has had in operation doing the same functions. New military toys, area 51 and on and on.

A very well made movie that has etched itself into my mind. keeps you thinking and watching the movie keeps you glued to your seat.

I would advice anyone that has not viewed this movie to give it a shot. These same type of facilities are all over the world, the question is how many are really as secure as they were designed to be.

Just like in the movie there always could be some unknown or alien substances that cannot be contained, or might just feed on the materials used to restrain them.
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9/10
Treading a thin line between science fiction and science fact
virek21315 February 2002
Warning: Spoilers
Based on Michael Crichton's first novel, THE ANDROMEDA STRAIN, released in 1971, is a long but constantly intriguing science fiction drama whose concerns verge very close to science fact.

The movie concerns a satellite that crashes back to Earth, carrying with it an unknown but deadly organism. All but two (a drunk, and an infant) of the sixty-eight residents of the tiny town of Piedmont, New Mexico have been killed by the organism. It is up to a team of scientists working at an underground lab in the Nevada desert known as Wildfire to study and, if possible, eliminate the bug.

Arthur Hill, David Wayne, James Olson, and Kate Reid are the quartet of scientists who are given the task to learn more about this space organism. At Wildfire, they have all the equipment they could possibly need, including a nuclear device that is set to go off should the lab become contaminated. They learn, however, that the bug, code-named Andromeda, actually works like a reactor, changing matter into energy and vice versa. This means that the nuclear device meant to destroy it would only enhance it and spread it all over so that the human race will never be rid of it.

The nightmare they feared comes true, as Wildfire becomes contaminated. With only a five-minute delay between activation and self-destruction, Olson is given the task to get to a shutoff switch. He struggles but manages to prevent the unthinkable...with eight seconds to spare.

Brilliantly directed by Robert Wise, whose 1951 film THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL is one of the genre's all time greats, THE ANDROMEDA STRAIN is highly entertaining and strikingly intelligent, with a suspenseful climax. The four lead actors, neither of whom were big names, do extremely good work, giving this film a realism not found in many other films of the genre. The Wildfire lab is as accurate and realistic as anything today's production designers could come up with. Furthermore, the technology doesn't seem too terribly dated despite the film's obvious age. This is because of the innovative special effects work of Douglas Trumbull (2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY), James Shourt, and Albert Whitlock (THE BIRDS).

Rated 'G', though 'PG' would be more accurate (some scenes are frightening), THE ANDROMEDA STRAIN remains a significant film of the sci-fi genre as it confronts the increasing realities about biological war and contamination. Dated or not, it is a very prescient piece.
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10/10
This is one of my favorite movies.
dwezel21 March 2001
First of all, I must confess that I am a Si-Fi nut. I've seen lots of Si-Fi movies and The Andromeda Strain is definately in my top five. The plot is very interesting in that it deals with a microscopic organism from outer space that is brought back to Earth by a satellite. The cast is outstanding, especially Arthur Hill who plays the leader of the research team. One of the great things about the movie is that it moves right along. So many movies seem to lag, especially at the beginning as the characters are being introduced. However, in this movie, even the beginning is exciting. I've watched this movie over and over, and never seem to get tired of it. It's just plain fun.
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One of the Best
ace-10512 May 1999
This movie is an older movie, but it is still great.The plot is very exciting and keeps you on the edge of your seat with its twists.The characters aren't perfect and that makes them more real.There have been better sci-fi movies made,but it is quite entertaining to watch on a carefree weekend.
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A Perfect Film!
Mr_Spiffy20 April 2001
Most of Crichton's fabulous works have been made laughable when filmed. However, THE ANDROMEDA STRAIN is a wonderful adaptation of his classic novel. As others have told the storyline, I will not waste your time be regurgitating it. The one change of Dr. Leavitt from male to female improves the film, IMO. It also adds some great humor. It's also enjoyable to see scientists that look like scientists, not hot studs and big breasted bimbos. The story is realistic, and as I said, a perfect adaptation of his novel. My only complaint is the thrown in narration explaining the piece of paper that had caused the machine to not ring its bell when the new messages came in. Other than that, it's a fabulous film. :) (I was able to get one of the few remaining copies of the now out-of-print DVD widescreen version) Go to an auction site and get it if you can.. Highly recommended!
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10/10
The DEFINITIVE Sci-Fi Classic!
zabelardo3 June 2007
This is clearly Michael Crichton's finest work. The visionary, forward-thinking of Crichton, is remarkable- as evidenced in this film. Robert Wise' direction is superbly innovative, for its' time even. In addition, Douglas Trumbull's special effects warrants very special recognition, simply because his work was done entirely without the aid of advanced computer graphics(did not exist, in 1971). This is also the very first time I have ever seen computer touch-screen graphics demonstrated! I find this film 100% accurate- in terms of plot, story, technology and characters. The underlying theme of science fiction, meeting science fact- paints a very plausible occurrence in our foreseeable future(and NO- not a single animal was harmed during filming!)

This film was a result of bright minds, teamwork, and the dedicated acting of all actors involved- especially James Olson, and Kate Reid. I have always admired Arthur Hill's performances on television, back in the bygone days, when television was really worth watching.

I consider this film one of the few remaining, "G-rated" drama/thrillers, and highly recommended in every science-fiction fans' DVD collection, along with, "2001-A Space Odyssey," "Star Wars," "Soylent Green," and "Alien".
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8/10
They don't make movies like this anymore!
Boba_Fett113814 October 2003
These "old" science fiction movies always have a certain special tension and atmosphere like "2001: A Space Odyssey" and "Capricorn One". Something I sometimes miss in todays movies.

Sure the pace is slow, especially the beginning but that's what helps to build up the tension. It certainly makes the race against time ending even more suspenseful.

The style of the movie can be called unique. Especially the camera work and editing. It's very experimental, almost Brain De Palma like and I like it a lot. It makes the movie's style special and unique and it adds to the atmosphere.

The story is good and is told in such a way that it actually becomes to some extend believable. With the exception of some clichéd moments and the ending. The movie begins slow and mysterious and builds up the tension extremely well, while the ending itself is quite spectacular and fast. This also makes the movie special and worth remembering. Some of the scene's you will never forget. The virus itself (the adromeda strain) is pretty scary and disturbing, mainly because you don't know what it is or what it does and how it can be stopped.

There are also some nice character played by not so well known actors. What's great about the characters is that they all feel very human and not perfect. I like the fact that they don't all like each other and don't always agree.

A classic science fiction/thriller that deserves to be better known.

8/10

http://bobafett1138.blogspot.com/
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8/10
A swift, riveting thriller
Agent108 August 2002
One of the most rigorously complex books by Michael Crichton has managed to withstand the sands of time to remain a taught and gripping thriller. Instead of big special effects, this film relies on situations and dialogue, letting the intensity of the characters tell the story. All of the actors involved were excellent, exhibiting the complexity of their various roles and the scientific savvy they had to possess. While some will put down the film for its strange colors and lack of a bombshell actress (oh boo-frickety hoo!), the strength lies in the people's eyes. This technique is now being reused in films like Signs, and let's hope this method of fear and paranoia reasserts itself in the modern world.
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9/10
One of the best Sci-Fi movies ever made
fabio618 September 2001
This is a truly top-notch film, which never once insults your intelligence. Four top scientists are assembled to unravel the mystery of a deadly substance that has fallen to earth inside a satellite. An entire town, where it was found, is wiped out save for a crying baby and a wino. The survivors and the satellite are taken to a state of the art biological research facility to figure out what the substance is, how it works, and why it killed the townspeople and just as importantly, why it didn't kill the two survivors. Arthur Hill is perfect as the Nobel Laureate Dr. Stone. David Wayne, Kate Reid and James Olson are all quite good as his team. This film covers the entire range of the scientific realm from technology, to politics, to Murphy's law, to scientists egos. Of course the technology in the film is dated (1971), but the interaction between the team members is entertaining and Murphy's Law rears it's head at every turn. The supporting cast is particularly good, and Roberts Wise's direction is on the money. Read the book and watch the film!
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8/10
Childhood favorite remains inspirational
GrayNeon9 May 1999
I remember watching this film for the first time late one night with my father and younger brother. I was five years old, I already knew I was going to be a scientist, and I was *riveted* to the show. The next day I *demanded* that my mother take me to the library to check out the book. Despite having seen the movie, I read the novel with as much excitement and anticipation as I watched the film. I questioned every adult I knew who had any sort of science or medical background about the ideas I found in the story.

For someone who considers self-awareness, intelligence, and rational thought the defining and redeeming qualities of humanity, and the scientific method, from chipping stone tools to putting a man on the moon, the single greatest achievement of humanity thus far, it has always appeared to me that the arts have been overwhelmingly negative in their portrayal of science. The mad scientist and the evils of scientific progress, the superiority and 'humaneness' of emotionalism and impulsiveness over rational thought and diligence, all are staples of Western culture.

The Andromeda Strain is different; it is realistic in that good and evil are identified with people and their motivations. However it is used, science is powerful: as a tool for learning, understanding, and interacting with nature. Wildfire, the facility where a cure for Andromeda is sought, we learn, was actually built for darker purposes. Despite that, it serves to help the team of scientists understand a radically different form of life, a form of life with a unique origin. The characters of the scientists, also, are real people; brilliant in their areas of knowledge, yet bearing characters flaws. In the end, despite arrogance, irresponsibility, quarrelsomeness, it is their passion to learn, to understand, to solve a significant and meaningful problem, which overcomes their flaws and focuses their talents.

I remember this movie fondly, and watched it any time it came on TV (before the era of video tape). I still have an often-read paperback copy of the novel. I recently viewed the movie on video, and highly recommend it. There are a few isolated sections which are dated, but they don't harm the film. Since the film wasn't attempting to be "futuristic", I actually enjoy seeing the "advanced" technology of the time, and contrasting that with current technology. The special effects are still well-done. The scientific realism is due mainly to Chrichton; however, Wise deserves credit for keeping faithful to the novel. He doesn't add layers of glittery pseudo-technology and techno-babble.

If you want to inspire a young scientist or engineer, or simply offer some counterbalance to all the science-is-evil sentiment that saturates both information and entertainment media, read the novel, then watch the movie. Show them that challenge and excitement can be found in constructive, collaborative, and intellectual activities. I am doing that now with each of my children; when they have all read the novel, we're going to have an "Andromeda Strain" party and watch the movie together. We'll discuss what parts were realistic, the social questions at issue when the movie was made (biological warfare, the space program, the beginnings of genetic engineering), and what science it actually about. I hope it will be as inspirational to them as it was for me.
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9/10
You'd never see this kind of movie today
Gislef21 September 2000
Okay, well, you would. And we did. It was called "Outbreak." And if they ever did a remake, Outbreak is what we'd get. Kate Reid? Nah, let's get Cindy Crawford. And we'd need a Baldwin brother. Probably Jean Claude Van Damme as the head scientist too. Wise doesn't pander to anyone except people that want a realistic believable movie. The outbreak proceeds with a slow, methodical precision (compounded by human errors) that makes it much more realistic than Dustin Hoffman playing chicken with atomic bombers any day of the week. And a lot more horrifying to boot.
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An excellent film version of the ultimate Sci-Fi thriller.
sithlord_32 July 2000
This film was great, although it helps if you read The Andromeda Strain by Michael Crichton before the movie.Even if the ending wasn't that memorable, more or less the film had a lot of good stuff. If I ever do become a director I'll be sure to direct a remake of this classic.
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Suspenseful sci-fi thriller with brains
DarkObserver25 April 2000
The first time I saw this movie I was still in my early teens. Already having an interest in the sciences and the movies, "Andromeda Strain" really caught my attention. A recent viewing -this time as an adult in his early thirties- showed that the movie hadn't lost much of its riveting quality. It's not a low-brow action movie, but an intelligent sci-fi thriller about a micro-biological crisis (initiated by an extra-terrestrial(!) virus brought to earth by a space probe), made long before "Outbreak" and the like. Fine acting and the thorough re-creation of the scientific procedures described in Michael Crichton's novel -on which the movie is based- make this a first choice for viewers with an interest in sci-fi with more than a slight touch of reality. Hints at U. S. plans for biological warfare near the end also make this a political thriller of sorts! Only drawback: The colors appear a bit pale nowadays, as is the case with many 70's films, but since most of the scenes are set in a sterile, monotonous laboratory environment, this doesn't spoil one's viewing experience. Watch out for the eerie opening sequence set in a small desert town where everyone was killed by the "Alien" virus, except for an old drunkard and a baby!
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Excellent adaptation of Crichton's novel
ffrudder12 February 2000
With so many liberties being taken when writing screenplays based on novels, you often end up with a movie that is totally different from the book. Maybe some people like that, and since few people read books anymore anyways, rarely does anyone notice it. That is why I think this film is excellent. There were some small parts of the book that were left out, but from start to finish this film does the best job following the novel that I've ever seen from Hollywood.
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9/10
SF Thriller still packs a whallop.
Chazzzzz19 November 1999
After I viewed this film, which is excellently done in all regards, I discovered the one fault... it's G rated! This is way too intense for young kids!!! I can live with a PG, or better yet a PG-13, but not the G. The film is very realistic, very well acted, and has a believable story for the genre. A solid 9 from me, but keep the kids away, please.
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Great Movie
ultrapop1 June 2008
I'm glad to see all the positive comments for the original version of this story. I haven't read the book, but I remember what a phenomenon the movie was to kids of my age in 1971 (I was 11). This movie gets played to death on cable here, but I always end up watching parts of it, even though I have it on DVD.

What strikes me about the comments though is that nearly everyone describes it as dated, as if in 1971 people should have known to use touch screens and the like. This is the first instance that I know of which used science-fact technology instead of science-fiction projection to tell the story, and as such that's what made it so chilling. It's the grounding in things like typewriter-based computers that made it seem so real.

In fact the production design is the true star of this movie, as the story slowly leads us into the sterile, space-station-like world of the underground laboratory. We're taken on a tour of the Wildfire facility, and each step is explained methodically and in detail in terms that the audience could relate to and yet still feel like it was a newly expanding universe.

Such movies not only seemed entirely plausible in 1971, but also managed to condition us ordinary folks into the space-age notions that anything was possible, in both positive and negative terms. It was a time when we had just landed on the moon, when computers were the size of rooms, and the economy hadn't yet crashed, but there was still great fear of the unknown. What if those moon rocks they brought back carried a virus that could wipe out all living things on Earth? That question was what prompted Crichton to write the original novel, I would suspect.

There's no doubt that Andromeda Strain owes a great deal to 2001, and it recycles that movie's slowness and fascination with sterile technology in a more mainstream style. I enjoy how Robert Wise looks for ways to open up his movies, and I rarely mind the "old-man" sensibility he brings to so many of his later films. The fact that the principles in this are so unglamorous is a very smart and completely appropriate solution. It makes it all the more realistic, in that Robert Wise sort of simulated reality. He really deserves a lot of credit for the sheer variety of films he directed. I think he was a national treasure.

In retrospect it's great that this film holds up so well, and is a tribute to Wise's carefully modulated sense of humor, taste and style. Just trying to watch a few seconds of the remake demonstrates how subtlety and nuance and smart old people can trump pretty hacks at any time.
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