The Andromeda Strain [DVD] 
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Robert Wise directs this sci-fi adaptation of Michael Crichton's novel. After a satellite crashes near a New Mexico village, the local residents begin dying out as a killer disease mysteriously sweeps through the area. By the time a team of scientists have arrived to investigate, the only survivors are an old tramp and an infant child. The team transfer them to an underground lab and work around the clock to identify the virus - which, it transpires, is somehow connected to an Earth bacteria-warfare project. The cast includes Arthur Hill, David Wayne and James Olson.
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Unfortunately bringing the The film to DVD has changed the characteristic urgency of the start of the film.
The missing ticker tape print out that should run along the bottom of the screen is missing but the black band that the type set ran in is still there. The ticker tape (for those of you who only know injet printers and computers) is the equivalent of an old fashioned typewriter printing out words with the accompanying clacking sound, but at high speed. In my view the noise added an urgency to the scenes.
Instead there are now poorly formed subtitles which incidentally fall outside the black band that remains. I suppose it is easier to produce the film in different languages by going down the subtitle route.
It just goes to show that the producers of the DVD really have no idea, they are just bean counters and have spoiled the film.
The story is about a small group of top level scientists called in extreme urgency to study, well... SOMETHING in a secret underground laboratory code-named "Wildfire". They work under complete lockdown and the whole place is ready to self-destruct should there be a risk of breach of security. This is the first time "Wildfire" is being used in real operation - in fact, people who build it hoped that it would never be used at all... Although they cannot leave the place until the end of their work, all the resources of the country are at their disposition, they just have to ask. A fictitious small town (Piedmont, New Mexico, population 68), also plays an important part in the film. I will say no more about the story.
This is the 34th film by the veteran director, Robert Wise, who earlier made such classics as "The day the Earth stood still", "The desert rats", "Run silent, run deep", "West side story", "The sound of music" and "Sand pebbles". The skill and experience are clearly visible in the result. In order to make his heroes credible, Robert Wise decided to cast less known and not very glamorous looking people as the scientist team and that was a good idea. The four scientists look and act really real. Their helpers also are well pictured, especially extremely competent nurse Anson, the only really drop-dead gorgeous person on the screen (played by Paula Kelly, a totally hot black babe).
The story is not linear - some scenes describe the POST crisis hearings and some go in the past - therefore it requires careful viewing. I personally liked this way to show the things. Another trick Robert Wise used is the use of split screens; they actually contribute a lot to the atmosphere.
This is the adaptation of the first real bestseller by Michael Crichton (the book is very good too by the way) and the choice was made to follow the novel very closely. It was the right decision, as the dialogs and the whole story are at the top level of quality. The scenario is strong, clever, full of twists and yet to a large extent credible and plausible. This is SF, but such a thing COULD really happen! In fact, the book "Andromeda Strain" is frequently considered more as a techno-thriller, than SF.
The film is tough. Lab work contains scenes of animal experimentation and even if no animals were really hurt during the filming, the result on screen holds no punches. Younger viewers, not used to such straight approach, can be shocked by some scenes involving rats and monkeys. It must be also said, that although there are some lighter moments, the whole atmosphere of the film is dark, menacing and actually even scary...
The strong thing in the story is that the military and the government in general are NOT showed as villains, even if there is one anti-militarist accent. As in real life and unlike in most Hollywood movies, here the whole enormous state machine is devoted to remedy to the crisis and save the population.
Bottom line, this is one of the best SF movies ever made. Tense, dark, dramatic, credible and with a great finale, this is a thing to see ABSOLUTELY! The Blu-ray edition, which contains subtitles (useful for non-native speakers like me) is the recommended one. I will definitely keep mu Blu-ray for another viewing. ENJOY!
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