The Andromeda Strain (film)
|The Andromeda Strain|
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Robert Wise|
|Produced by||Robert Wise|
|Screenplay by||Nelson Gidding|
|Based on||The Andromeda Strain
by Michael Crichton
|Music by||Gil Mellé|
|Cinematography||Richard H. Kline|
|Distributed by||Universal Pictures|
|Box office||$12.4 million|
The Andromeda Strain is a 1971 American science fiction film produced and directed by Robert Wise. Based on Michael Crichton's 1969 novel of the same name and adapted by Nelson Gidding, the film stars Arthur Hill, James Olson, Kate Reid, and David Wayne as a team of scientists who investigate a deadly organism of extraterrestrial origin. With a few exceptions, the film follows the book closely. The special effects were designed by Douglas Trumbull. The film is notable for its use of split screen in certain scenes.
After a U.S. government satellite crashes near the town of Piedmont, New Mexico, almost all of the town's inhabitants die instantly. Suspecting that the satellite brought back an alien germ, the military activates an elite scientific team it had previously assembled for just this type of emergency.
Dr. Jeremy Stone, the team leader, and Dr. Mark Hall, the team surgeon, are dropped in Piedmont by helicopter, where they search the town for the project "Scoop" satellite in space-suit-type protective uniforms. In a primitive medical office, they find the town's doctor had opened the satellite out of curiosity. Stone and Hall retrieve the Scoop and find two survivors in the town — a sixty-two-year-old town drunk and a six-month-old infant.
The entire team of four core research scientists, including Dr. Charles Dutton and Dr. Ruth Leavitt, are summoned from their academic and research appointments to arrive at a massive, secret, high-tech underground laboratory in Nevada, named Wildfire, where they undergo a full day of decontamination procedures, descending through several disinfection levels of the lab.
After searching with a powerful electron microscope, the team discovers the microscopic life form responsible for the deaths. The greenish, throbbing, new life form is assigned the code name Andromeda. Andromeda kills organisms almost instantly and appears to be highly virulent. While most of the team studies the organism in an attempt to figure out how it works, the team's doctor, Dr. Mark Hall, tries to find a cure by figuring out why the old man and the baby survived.
Meanwhile Dr. Stone, the creator of the Wildfire Lab, is accused by Dutton and Leavitt of designing Wildfire for purposes of biowarfare research. In another development, unknown to other members of the team, Ruth Leavitt's research on the germ is impaired by her epilepsy, which is set off by flashing, red computer lights in the facility.
Just as Hall comes up with the answer (Andromeda can survive only within a narrow PH Blood range), Andromeda mutates into a form that degrades synthetic rubber and plastics and thus escapes the containment room adjacent to where Dr. Dutton is doing his research work. Once all the lab's seals start decaying from the Andromeda germ's escape, this triggers an automatic self-destruct mechanism designed to set off a nuclear explosion beneath the Wildfire complex, intended to incinerate all infectious agents before they can reach the open environment above.
Hall rescues Leavitt from an epilepsy attack set off by Wildfire's alarm system. Meanwhile, the team members studying Andromeda have learned that the alien microbes, having evolved in the harsh environment of outer space, would thrive on the energy of a nuclear explosion and would consequently be able to mutate into a supercolony of the germ, an action which could wipe out all life on Earth.
Having been entrusted with the only key that can shut down the self-destruct sequence before the five-minute countdown is up, Dr. Hall races against the clock and the lab's automated defenses to reach a substation before it is too late. Hall endures an attack by automated lasers as he crawls through the lab's central core, until at last he finds a working substation and disables the nuclear bomb with his key before collapsing.
Hall awakens in a hospital bed, where the scientists reveal that they've seeded clouds to cause rain to sweep Andromeda out of the atmosphere, where it will be destroyed by alkalinity of the Pacific Ocean. The movie ends with Stone testifying to a senator that, while they were able to defeat the alien pathogen this time, they may not be able to in the future.
- Arthur Hill as Dr. Jeremy Stone
- James Olson as Dr. Mark Hall
- David Wayne as Dr. Charles Dutton
- Kate Reid as Dr. Ruth Leavitt
- Paula Kelly as Karen Anson (nurse, laboratory technician)
- George Mitchell as Mr. Peter Jackson (Piedmont)
- Mark Jenkins as Lt. Shawn (Piedmont Team)
- Peter Helm as Sgt. Crane (Piedmont Team)
- Joe Di Reda as Sgt. Burk (Wildfire Computer Technician)
- Ramon Bieri as Major Arthur Manchek (Scoop Mission Control)
- Carl Reindel as Lt. Comroe (Scoop Mission Control)
- Frances Reid as Clara Dutton
- Peter Hobbs as General Sparks
- Kermit Murdock as Dr. Robertson (White House Science Advisor)
- Richard O'Brien as Grimes
- Eric Christmas as Senator Phillips (Vermont)
- Ken Swofford as Toby (Technician)
- John Carter as Capt. Morton (military police)
- Richard Bull as Air Force Major
- James W. Gavin as Dempsey (helicopter pilot) (uncredited)
- Garry Walberg as scientist (uncredited)
- Victoria Paige Meyerink as Additional Character
Film rights were bought by Universal for $250,000.
The cast of characters in the novel was modified for the film, most notably by replacing the male Dr. Peter Leavitt in the novel with the female Dr. Ruth Leavitt. Screenwriter Nelson Gidding suggested the change to Wise, who at first was not enthusiastic, as he initially pictured the sex-changed Dr. Leavitt as a largely decorative character reminiscent of Raquel Welch's character in the 1966 film Fantastic Voyage. When Gidding explained his take on Leavitt, Wise resolved the question by asking the opinion of a number of scientists, who were unanimously enthusiastic about the idea. Eventually Wise came to be very happy with the decision to make Leavitt female, as Kate Reid's Dr. Leavitt turned out to be, in his words, "the most interesting character" in the film. Another minor change was the character of Burton in the novel, who became Charles Dutton in the film; no reason was given for this name change.
The Andromeda Strain was one of the first films to use advanced computerized (or optical) photographic visual effects, with work by Douglas Trumbull, who had pioneered effects for 2001: A Space Odyssey, along with James Shourt and Albert Whitlock who worked on The Birds. Reportedly $250,000 of the film's budget of $6.5 million was used to create the special effects.
The film contained computer rendering, a mapped 3-D view of the rotating structure of the 5-story cylindrical underground laboratory in the Nevada desert named Project Wildfire. Biologist Dr. Jeremy Stone (Arthur Hill) turned on the animated computer simulation of the "electronic diagram which rotates to afford an overall view, or it can be stopped at any section. Detailed plans of the various levels and labs are also stored in the system..."
The Andromeda Strain was a moderate box office success. Produced on a relatively high budget of $6.5 million, the film grossed $12,376,563 in North America, earning $8.2 million in US theatrical rentals. It was the 16th highest-grossing film of 1971.
The opinion of critics is generally mixed, with some critics enjoying the film for its dedication to the original novel and with others disliking it for its drawn-out plot. Overall, the film has earned a 67% "Fresh" rating from the film review site Rotten Tomatoes, based on 24 reviews.
Awards and honors
- Best Art Direction (Boris Leven, William H. Tuntke, Ruby R. Levitt); lost to Nicholas and Alexandra
- Best Film Editing (Stuart Gilmore, John W. Holmes); lost to The French Connection
- List of American films of 1971
- Shafter, Texas where the movie was filmed.
- The Andromeda Strain (2008 miniseries)
- "THE ANDROMEDA STRAIN (AA)". British Board of Film Classification. March 12, 1971. Retrieved February 27, 2015.
- Greatest Visual and Special Effects - Milestones in Film. AMC's FilmSite. Retrieved May 17, 2014.
- Hollywood Today: Mike Crichton, a Skyscraper in Any Form; Norma Lee Browning. Chicago Tribune (1963-Current file) [Chicago, Ill] 30 Aug 1970: s2 says $6 million
- Box Office Information for The Andromeda Strain. The Numbers. Retrieved May 21, 2012.
- Michael Crichton (rhymes with frighten): Michael Crichton By ISRAEL SHENKER. New York Times (1923-Current file) [New York, N.Y] 08 June 1969: BR5
- The Making of The Andromeda Strain, DVD documentary.
- The Andromeda Strain, Overview. Archived September 23, 2015, at the Wayback Machine. Retrieved May 17, 2014.
- Box Office Information for The Andromeda Strain. IMDb. Retrieved May 17, 2014.
- Top Grossing Films of 1971. Listal.com
- Movie Reviews for The Andromeda Strain. Rotten Tomatoes. Accessed May 17, 2014.
- "NY Times: The Andromeda Strain". NY Times. Retrieved 2008-12-28.
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