“The Andromeda Strain” is a 1971 American science fiction thriller film about a team of scientists who investigate an extraterrestrial organism that caused a mass death in New Mexico.
It was a film adaptation of Michael Crichton’s techno-thriller novel of the same name (1969).
Produced and directed by Robert Wise. 130 minutes.
After a U.S. government satellite crashes near the rural town of Piedmont, New Mexico, almost all of the town’s residents die.
Suspecting that the satellite has brought back an extraterrestrial organism, the military assembles a team of four scientists: Dr. Jeremy Stone (Arthur Hill), Dr. Mark Hall (James Olson), who is a surgeon, Dr. Charles Dutton (David Wayne), and Dr. Ruth Leavitt (Kate Reid).
Wearing protective suits, the team leader Dr. Stone and Dr. Hall investigate the town. They find that the victims’ blood has crystallized into a powder, and they find two survivors, a 69-year-old alcoholic man named Peter Jackson (George Mitchell) and a six-month-old infant.
The four scientists are summoned to a top-secret underground facility, code named Wildfire, located in the desert of Nevada, and start investigating the extraterrestrial microscopic organism, which is a pathogen that caused the mass death.
The Wildfire facility has an automatic nuclear self-destruct mechanism as emergency safety measures. Based on “odd man hypothesis” (a hypothesis that an unmarried male is the most dispassionate person to make critical decisions in a crisis situation), Dr. Hall is entrusted with the only key that can deactivate the device.
During the investigation process, the scientists find that a biological weapons-development program has been existed behind the case, and Dr. Stone has been involved in the program from the beginning.
The film is characterized by its realistic and detailed description of the technical process based on scientific knowledge, the story development like a science fiction mystery, the heavy use of split screen, and then-new special visual effects like computer graphics.
The special effects of the film were designed by Douglas Trumbull, who had worked on the special effects for “2001: A Space Odyssey” (1968) directed by Stanley Kubrick.