The Andromeda Strain (1971)

I recently saw The Andromida Strain movie that was made for TV, and it was a horrible disappointment. It was so bad that it made me question if I really did like the book when I read it. I remembered liking the book, but here I was watching something based on that book, and the movie was complete crap. So, I did the next best thing to re-reading the book, I watched this, the earlier adaptation of the book.

One thing about this movie is that it was made three years after 2001: A Space Odyssey was made. It becomes apparent pretty quickly that the director, Robert Wise, was following the style of Stanley Kubrick from that movie. The pace of this movie is more artistic than can be justified by the story or the stilted cinematography. It is in no way a pretty film, but it does follow what I can remember of the original storyline pretty well.

The effects are hopelessly early 1970s. The thrust of the story is that a virus of alien origin lands on earth, and a team of scientists are brought into a special facility. The scientists are chosen because the military is following the guidelines that were written as part thought experiment and part filler paper by one of the scientists who is brought in. As a result of the sudden heaping on of responsibility, and the extreme pressure of the military, the situation is filled with subtle personality quirks that lead some astray and a confused methodology that results in unnecessary issues.

The acting is pretty good for the day, I mean, these aren't a bunch of headliners that they got for this movie, but the dialogue is simple and straight-forward with little comic relief. Tense scenes are tense because the situation is written well, and the actors go through the motions well enough to sell it.

The special effects might have been good at the time, but they have not aged particularly well. The issue with what may very well have been ground-breaking effects is that same as when you go back and watch The Matrix and find that the Bullet Time effect does not have the impact that it once had. Go back and watch Henry - Portrait of a Serial Killer to see if the terrible and disturbing things that Henry does have the same effect on you now that Hannibal Lecter and Freddy Kruger have entered the fray.

Likewise, impressive sets and locations are all but wasted with long, motionless shots and poor blocking. It's not unusual for these kinds of things at the time - it took several years and Star Wars to make the science fiction genre cross over with action and merge something that had been esoteric until then with something known and dynamic. The intermediate stage is this - a great story done reasonably well with less imagination than it needed. It's still better than that made for TV movie.

Direction was okay
Story was fantastic
Dialogue was good
Cinematography was not great
Effects were okay

Bottom Line: It is a good movie that did not break much ground in movie making, but the story aches to be remade by a good producer/director and modern techniques.



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