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by Tony Lee editor of
The Andromeda Strain
130 minutes 1971
Director: Robert Wise
Cast: Arthur Hill, David Wayne, James Olsen, Kate Reid
review by Dawn Andrews
A capsule code-named "scoop" lands in the small community of Piedmont, New Mexico.
Two men are sent to retrieve it, and slowly realise that all is not well in the town.
When they approach for a closer look, communication with them is lost. A roundup of
doctors takes place, two, Dr Jermemy Stone (Arthur Hill) and Dr Mark Hall (James
Olson) are sent to investigate. They discover a lot of corpses and the capsule,
opened by a local M.D. - they also discover that the inquisitive MD's blood has
turned to powder, and that two persons have survived, an old man and a six month old
child, who are rushed to a top secret government facility in the desert called
Throughout this film the screen is often split to show more than one
aspect of the action, photographic still shots are used to great effect when
scanning the dead population of Piedmont, electronic surveillance devices judder
along to the edgy musical score, computer readouts, multi-coloured scans,
decontamination protocol and authentic scientific apparatus, all add to the notion
that this is not science fiction by science fact. There is great attention to detail
that some might find long-winded and pendantic, but then, so are the scientific
processes under scrutiny. Yet the underlying theme is of a group of people brought
together to solve a dangerous mystery, with all the conflicts that exist between
individuals under pressure.
The extraterrestrial life caught in the inner lining of the capsule is
codenamed 'Andromeda', and turns out to be microscopic and crystalline, capable of
expanding through feeding on energy of any kind, has no wastage, and is highly toxic
to all life. The paranoic secrecy, hints of hidden goverment agendas involving
biological warfare, the difference between people who follow the rules (Dr Stone)
and those who don't ( Dr Ruth Leavitt, Kate Reid in great maverick form) all add to
the tensions and alarms of a rather cold-blooded, intense and highly intelligent film.
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