Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Day 105: Andromeda Strain (1971) - Rank 4/5

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When this film was first released, the posters claimed that "the suspense will kill you." I find that a little bit questionable. After all, H. R. Pufnstuf was borne of the same era, and that series certainly requires far more patience than any show on television today (though I've never watched an episode of "American Idol," so my opinion might be misinformed). Still, even if your threshold for suspense is low, I still wouldn't define the film as "suspenseful." Enthralling, however, would be far more apt.

The film is the first adaptation of Michael Crichton's work, and while I've not read the novel by the same name, my research has yielded numerous reviews that laud the script for being highly loyal to the source material. I think most are familiar enough with the basic premise of the storyline to know that it involves an outbreak of a foreign microbe and the subsequent containment of the organism (it's one of those cool science fiction diseases - the likes of which have been seen in everything from "Last Man on Earth" to "28 Days Later" - only this one turns your blood to powder. Cue your inner eight year-old: "COOOOL!").

There were two major components to this film that both impressed and hooked me. The first was the tone of the film. It was extremely cut-and-dry, to the point that I felt like I was watching a recreation of something that truly happened. I suppose the focus on scientific protocol was what appealed to me, though I could see where the average viewer might be a tad bored by it all. Still, it serves as a testament to the versatility of director Robert Wise ("West Side Story," "The Haunting," etc.) The second was the facility that the crew worked in. I had honestly assumed that they were shooting in a real facility somewhere in the world, but it was simply an elaborate set. I bet they spent more on the set than they did the salaries of the crew. It was this sprawling series of electronic corridors which certainly served as Wise's inspiration for V-GER when creating "Star Trek: The Motion Picture" years later. Every thing would be done by computer now, and while CGI has certainly made the impossible possible on the silver screen, the awe of an impressive set or creature that is obviously real is absent, and that's a loss that pains me too often. What a relief it was then to see practical effects taking center stage and being used in a situation that seemed less fantastic and more in the realm of the eerily plausible.

Watch the Trailer

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