STARRING: Arthur Hill, David Wayne, James Olson, Kate Reid, Paula Kelly, George Mitchell, Ramon Bieri

1971, 130 Minutes, Directed by: Robert Wise

Description: Based on the best-selling novel by Michael Crichton, this 1971 thriller, about is about a team of scientists racing against time to destroy a deadly alien virus that threatens to wipe out life on Earth. The emphasis is on an exciting clash between nature and science, beginning when virologists discover the outer-space virus in a tiny town full of corpses. Projecting total contamination, the scientists isolate the deadly strain in a massive, high-tech underground lab facility, which is rigged for nuclear destruction if the virus is not successfully controlled.

In The Andromeda Strain, made back in 1971, a deadly virus from outer space threatens America. Years later, in the 1995 Outbreak the killer virus comes from Africa. Africa might as well be Outer Space for most Americans I suppose (this author is located in South Africa incidentally).

In the early 1970s when there still were something of space program the idea of an unknown virus being brought down to Earth to infect a small American town by a research satellite probably seemed realistically enough of a threat. Andromeda Strain goes out of its way to present itself as topical and realistic, but it only seems outdated today. As we all know, viruses come from Africa . . .

That Andromeda Strain is outdated doesn't however distract from its overall effectiveness. Unlike most of today's movies, it is populated by real people and not movie stars. Despite what recent movies like Hollow Man would like to tell you, scientists do not have supermodel looks and few of them are as well-endowed as Mira Sorvino (see Mimic). This might come as a shock I know. Sure, it is a talky movie, but at its heart is a solid sci-fi premise and mystery: why doesn't the virus strike the only survivors of a small town, namely an old alcoholic man and a babe in arms?

This is probably the most pure science fiction work that author Michael Crichton have ever done. Forget Sphere, the Jurassic Park movies and Congo. Usually Crichton is anti-science, but in this case whereas science has brought down the virus to earth, it is clear-headed scientists who save the day. Also, in typically 1970s antiauthoritarian fashion there is a conspiracy afoot and the military are the bad guys, a sci-fi tradition that Chris Carter would continue in his hit X-Files TV show a few decades later.

While some of the plot devices may seem to come straight out of Screenwriting 101 and although the movie is ultimately overlong, this is a stolid sci-fi outing by Robert Wise, the director who, in addition to The Sound of Music, gave us the classic The Day the Earth Stood Still and, er, Star Trek - the Motion Picture.

Worth checking out on late night TV one night.



 # 96
 of the
Top 100 Sci-Fi Movies
 of all time




Watch Trailer / Clip:





blog comments powered by Disqus

Latest Headlines

Most Popular

Copyright © 1997-forward James O'Ehley/The Sci-Fi Movie Page (unless where indicated otherwise).