Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Terrifying Tuesdays: The Andromeda Strain (1971)

Another science fiction movie set in New Mexico (although mostly filmed in California) is "The Andromeda Strain" (1971), based on the 1969 novel of the same name by Michael Crichton.  When a space satellite returns to earth and lands in the small town of Piedmont, New Mexico, all of the residents die mysteriously except for an alcoholic man in his sixties and a fretful infant.  The government gathers four scientists together at a top secret facility called Wildfire, created for just such an emergency, to investigate the cause of these deaths and to try to find a way to prevent its spread.  Leading the team is Dr. Jeremy Stone (Arthur Hill), one of the scientists who advocated the building of this facility.  He is joined by Dr. Charles Dutton (David Wayne), Dr. Ruth Leavitt (Kate Reid), and Dr. Mark Hall (James Olson).  All four race against time to identify the killer organism and discover how to destroy it.

The movie is a faithful adaptation of the book.  The scientific procedure of the investigation is followed closely, revealing both the strengths and weaknesses of the process, with subplots and character development kept to a minimum.  This does not mean that the movie has no action, however, and the scene near the end when Wildfire is threatened with destruction and Dr. Hall must save the day is enough to keep anyone on the edge of their seat.  While some feel that the plot is too impersonal and the pace too slow, I find the way this movie was filmed quite refreshing precisely because of its lack of distracting subplots.  This film may not be for everyone, but for science fiction fans it is a classic that was ahead of its time and well worth watching.

Interesting Facts:  The character of Dr. Ruth Leavitt was actually a man named Dr. Peter Leavitt in the novel.  The director, Robert Wise, reluctantly agreed to allow the screenwriter to make this change, but after the movie was made was glad he did, as he considered this character to be the most interesting one in the movie.  Also, the author of the novel, Michael Crichton, makes a cameo appearance in the film.

Gore Guide (0=none to 5=extreme): 0

From This Island Rod

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