The Andromeda Strain

The Andromeda Strain

Synopsis of Movie

“Let's stick to established procedures.”
“Establishment gonna fall down and go boom.”

Penned by science thriller guru Michael Crichton, a former doctor himself, there’s no glossing over technical detail in 1971's The Andromeda Strain. At times it actually seems as if the laboratory set and the gadgetry therein grab more spotlight than the actors themselves. Director Robert Wise had helped build mainstream sci-fi film with 1951's The Day the Earth Stood Still, but his 1960's resume had focused more on musicals like West Side Story and The Sound of Music. The Andromeda Strain let him put the emphasis back on things that don't sing and dance.

No one in Piedmont, Arizona, is singing or dancing, that's for sure. A government research satellite that was busily, and secretly, collecting deadly microorganisms from outer space has just crash-landed there. Buzzards circle overhead, and reconnaissance photos indicate everyone’s dead. A crack team of radiation-suit-wearing scientists headed by Dr. Jeremy Stone are collected from around the country and sent into the body-strewn ghost town. To the science team’s horror, all the dead bodies have powder in their veins, instead of blood. All, that is, except for the two lone survivors that are found—a crying baby and the town drunk.

The scientists and the two survivors steal away to an underground government research facility, where “Project Wildfire” is underway. With the threat of a worldwide epidemic looming, the science team performs tests, tests, and more tests…computer printouts are a-printing, vials of blood are a-taken. As the team works on a cure, the nasty extraterrestrial virus begins to mutate and is soon able to dissolve plastics. If this keeps up, the scientists fear, the killer bug might ultimately be able to escape the confines of the lab and enter the unsuspecting world.

Eschewing big-name Hollywood stars, The Andromeda Strain cast an ensemble of low-key, relatively little-known character actors in the major roles, and they made for authentic looking and sounding brainiacs. There were scenes that were nearly silent, scenes with very little action (but loaded with tech talk), and overall, cinematography that evoked documentary filmmaking. The movie certainly had some melodramatic, "the end is near" Hollywood moments, especially in its finale, but it explored the not-so-glamorous, real-life world of science, too.

It may not have been glamorous, but it made for a good, solid thriller. The Andromeda Strain was one of the biggest hits of 1971, leading to a long string of sci-fi thrillers from author Crichton (Westworld, Coma, Jurassic Park) that continues today.

Movie Release History

1971 - The Andromeda Strain

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Dr. Jeremy Stone  Arthur Hill
Dr. Charles Dutton   David Wayne
Dr. Mark Hall  James Olson
Dr. Ruth Leavitt  Kate Reid
Karen Anson (Nurse at Wildfire)  Paula Kelly
'Gramps' Jackson   George Mitchell
Major Arthur Manchek  Ramon Bieri
Dr. Robertson  Kermit Murdock
Grimes  Richard O'Brien
Senator Phillips (Vermont)  Eric Christmas
Major General Thomas C. Sparks  Peter Hobbs
Lieutenant Shawn, Piedmont Team  Mark Jenkins
Sergeant Crane, Piedmont Team  Peter Helm
Wildfire Computer Sergeant Burk  Joe Di Reda
Lieutenant Comroe  Carl Reindel
Toby, a technician  Ken Swofford
Clara Dutton  Frances Reid
Air Force Major  Richard Bull
Military Police Captain Morton  John Carter
Hospital Director  Paul Ballantyne
Military Policeman at Stone's  Michael Bow
Assistant to Cabinet  Secretary Walter Brooke
Allison Stone  Susan Brown
Technician  Dee Carroll
Technician  Sandy DeBruin
Vandenberg AFB Sargeant  Bill Dunbar
Copter Pilot Dempsey  James W. Gavin
Cabinet Secretary  Glenn Langan
Senator McKenzie (New Mexico)  David McLean
Midori   Bess, lab technician
Operator of "The Hands"  Michael Pataki
Bit Part  Ford Rainey
Captain Morris  Quinn K. Redeker
Dr. Rudolph Karp  Reuben Singer
Decontamination Receptionist  Jean Swift
Utah Crash Site Officer  Len Wayland

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