STARRING: Arthur Hill,
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as topical and realistic, but it only seems outdated today.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That Andromeda Strain is outdated doesn't however distract from its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,
Trek - the Motion Picture.