The Andromeda Strain on DVD
Robert Wise directs this fascinating and gripping Michael
Crichton tale, a look at Mankinds first contact with an alien species - a
microbe capable of killing any animal life unlucky enough to inhale it.
The film is a pretty faithful adaptation of the book, which is a
nice change, and as is so often true with Crichton tales its a ripping
yarn the deals with the potential conflicts between technology and nature,
and/or man and nature, this time as a potential germ warfare project blows up
in the faces of its creators and threatens to wipe out all animal life on
The havoc breaks out when a Project Scoop satellite comes back to
earth near Piedmont, New Mexico and some of the locals stupidly open it up to
see what makes it tick. The next thing they know, theyre dead - as is the
rest of the town around them with the exception of an annoyingly colicky baby
and an old wino.
The incident causes a special team to be assembled, rapidly, and
housed in a special, top secret underground lab designed to let them isolate,
identify, and (with luck!) find a defense for the extraterrestrial
Director Wise assembled an excellent cast of no name stars. Well,
that probably isnt fair to Arthur Hill, David Wayne, Kate Reid, and James
Olson; they probably arent Hollywood A List actors, but
they're good actors and that works for the films benefit because you can
watch the movie unfold in an almost documentary fashion without pointing at the
screen and going Look! Its (Insert Movie Star Name Here)!
The documentary feel really works to the films benefit, too.
Though you know this is a work of fiction, director Wise and screenwriter
Nelson Gidding have used Crichtons trick of treating all the fiction as
fact, and it takes The Andromeda Strain right out of the sci-fi
movie realm and gives it a realism that over the course of the movie creeps up
on you almost without your knowledge.
The cast is outstanding, and added to that is the sterile, almost
antiseptic production design of a Wildfire facility thats so realistic
you could swear the film was shot on location (watch the Making of
documentary, though, for some interesting insight into that).
Douglas Trumbulls special effects are also perfect for this
film. They never jump out at you, and are completely convincing in a
documentary-like way that matches the overall film.
Even the music is worth remarking about. While it almost seems as
if there is none (or at least very little), there really is - but its
electronic in the tradition of the theremin of Forbidden Planet and
kept in the background where it doesnt intrude on the realism.
About the only time the movie comes close to becoming formula is
the climactic scene where Olson has to climb the central core to prevent the
auto destruct sequence from blowing the facility into a nuclear neverland.
Its well done, of course, and we cant imagine the story without it,
but its also the closest thing the story has to an action scene and as
such that makes it seem a tad out of place. But its easy to forgive it
and, as mentioned, we cant imagine the movie without it since its
an integral part of the story and not some tacked on action sequence designed
to sell tickets.
The DVD is very good. Though theres some grain (quite a bit
in a few places, in fact), the anamorphic widescreen (16x9 TV compatible)
picture is generally first rate, with great color - though in some of the
Wildfire sequences the colors obviously are mostly not used.
Audio is Dolby Digital mono and is unremarkable. Yet even that
kind of works in the films favor because it adds to the documentary sense
Extras include an excellent Making of documentary and
a fascinating portrait of author Crichton. You also get the trailer.
An excellent film, done justice by this Universal DVD.
The Andromeda Strain, from Universal Home Video
131 min. anamorphic widescreen (2.35:1), 16x9 TV compatible, Dolby Digital
Starring Arthur Hill, David Wayne, Kate Reid, and James Olson
Nelson Gidding, Directed by Robert Wise
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