Blu-ray Review: The Andromeda Strain (1971)

June 9, 2019

Written by DanXIII

Daniel XIII; the result of an arcane ritual involving a King Diamond album, a box of Count Chocula, and a copy of Swank magazine, is a screenwriter, actor, artist, and reviewer of fright flicks…Who hates ya baby?

The US Air Force’s Project Scoop deploys a small unit to retrieve a satellite that has crashed back to Earth near Piedmont, New Mexico. Sounds easy enough; except the entire town is now dead A.F. and the folks sent to investigate end up the same thanks to something that hitched a ride on said satellite.

Enter: Dr. Jeremy Stone (Arthur Hill) who warned this type of shit would go down years previous and was ostracized for his trouble. Now Uncle Sam comes practically begging for his assistance; and that of his team; Drs. Dutton, the brassy Leavitt and Hall (David Wayne, Kate Reid, and James Olson, respectively) and ships them off to the high tech underground facility known as Wildfire. Once there the work begins (after a series of wacky…and hilarious tests and decontamination protocols) to isolate the lethal life form (which of course is mutating) while determining why two people from Piedmont (an old drunk and a six-month-old baby) survived…and if they can’t solve this whole hot mess the nuke that’s primed and ready will make it all disappear…in theory.

Based on the prose of ol’ Mr. Jurassic Park himself, Michael Crichton, The Andromeda Strain is a slice of slow burn sci-fi perfection. While some of the tech and science seem dated, the over-all procedures seem authentic and the mounting tension is kept razor sharp as our team of experts desperately try and deduce the mystery of just what they are dealing with. Kudos must also be given for keeping the alien life form realistic (read: a blob-y collection of microscopic replicating cells) rather than presenting a rampaging monster (though Satan knows your’s cruelly digs on that the most).

Where this film truly shines is in it’s visuals; with Director Robert Wise (along with Cinematographer Richard H. Kline) utilizing a plethora of slick visual tricks, along with sets that combine artfulness and retro-cool tech (and yeah, I know that shit seemed fresh as a fuckin’ daisy back in ol’ ’71) in equal measure (hats off to Production Designer Boris Leven and Set Decorator Ruby R. Levitt)…it’s a feast for the eerie eyeballs to say the least. And speaking of atmosphere, the electronic score courtesy of Gil Mellé is absolutely cool as fuck (an industry term, I assure you), and provides the perfect soundtrack to this sci-fi nightmare!

The Andromeda Strain is worth the price of admission alone, but our fine fiends at Arrow Video have included some great bonus features on this Blu-ray release as well. First up we get an audio commentary by author Bryan Reesman. This is a fascinating listen and runs through the film’s themes and production in a scholarly yet engaging fashion. Up next we get an appreciation of the film by critic Kim Newman that covers not only the legacy of the film, but it’s place in the sci-fi bio-thriller genre, followed by an archival “making of” featurette from 2001 and an archival featurette on Crichton from the same year. Also included are the film’s screenplay, trailer, TV and radio spots, and an image gallery.

If you are in the mood for some first rate ’70’s sci-fi mixed with a great biological horror story; The Andromeda Strain has you covered; and while some of the tech might be dated, the story seems like something we might see in the news today!

 

 

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