Blu-ray Review: THE ANDROMEDA STRAIN

THE ANDROMEDA STRAIN is based on the novel of the same name by Michael Crichton. The movie was directed by Robert Wise from a screenplay by Nelson Gidding and stars Arthur Hill, James Olson, Kate Reid and David Wayne. The movie features visual effects by Douglas Trumbull (2001: A Space Odyssey, Silent Running) and a haunting score by Gil Melle.

A government satellite crashes outside a small town in New Mexico – and within minutes, every inhabitant of the town is dead, except for a crying baby and an elderly derelict. The satellite and the two survivors are sent to Wildfire, a top-secret underground laboratory equipped with a nuclear self-destruct mechanism to prevent the spread of infection in case of an outbreak. Realizing that the satellite brought back a lethal organism from another world, a team of government scientists race against the clock to understand the extraterrestrial virus – codenamed “Andromeda” – before it can wipe out all life on the planet.

This 1971 biological outbreak thriller follows an elite team of scientists that are brought in by the government to investigate the mysterious deaths of an entire population in the small isolated town of Piedmont, New Mexico. A satellite has crashed back down to Earth but does it have anything to do with the deaths? The scientists consists of Dr. Jeremy Stone (Arthur Hill), Dr. Mark Hall (James Olson), Dr. Ruth Leavitt (Kate Reid) and Dr. Charles Dutton (David Wayne) who are assembled in a top-secret underground facility to figure out what actually happened to the people of Piedmont.

The scientists come up with a number of wrong theories to what happened and even have two survivors, an old man and an infant, that are really no help at all. The question is, why did these two live? The team finally discovers that a microscopic alien organism found on the crashed satellite in the small town is responsible for the deaths. The alien organism is given the nickname “Andromeda” and it’s a highly unstable lifeform that rapidly grows when put into certain situations. It’s a race against the clock for the scientists to try and come up with a way to stop “Andromeda” because it has the potential to wipe out all human life and the top-secret facility they’re in also becomes an unsettling doomsday device because of the dire situation.

The front of the packaging features newly commissioned artwork by Corey Brickley that you can see at the top of the page and the back includes movie details and list of special features. The reversible sleeve features some alternate artwork and movie credits so you have your pick of which side you’d like to use as the front cover. You can see the artwork down below. There’s also a fully illustrated collector’s booklet inside featuring new writing on the film by Peter Tonguette that will be available on the first pressing only. The Blu-ray disc also features its own individual artwork. Inserting the disc, the menu screen was simple and easy to navigate. The Andromeda Strain has been given a 4K scan of the original camera negative. The picture and sound quality for this high-definition release were crisp and clear. I didn’t have any issues with the video and audio.

Bottom line is, The Andromeda Strain is the one that started them all as far as the subgenre of “killer virus” biological thrillers go and there’s been plenty to follow since this sci-fi classic first released back in 1971. The story came from the mind of Michael Crichton and it was an interesting one because it deals with a deadly outbreak, biological warfare and even nuclear fallout that are all rolled into one movie. It’s science fiction mixed with science fact perfectly. I thought the cast did a great job with these characters that race against the clock to stop an even bigger disaster from happening. The set designs were really impressive, even though they do look dated now, but for a 1971 sci-fi thriller it all looks great. As far as the special effects go, these also look very dated and thankfully there’s not a lot of visuals used or needed. There’s just enough to help get through certain scenes. Robert Wise directed a lot of successful movies back in the day – classics like The Day the Earth Stood Still, The Sound of Music and even Star Trek: The Motion Picture – so you can see that the talented filmmaker was able to tackle any genre with an interesting story and make it a big hit and The Andromeda Strain is one of his best. There’s a creepy factor to this sci-fi classic because you have to remember that this one is rated G but the content is just terrifying enough that it’ll get under your skin. This one also paved the way for fan favorites like Outbreak, Contagion and many other contamination thrillers that would follow. The Andromeda Strain will be available on a Special Edition Blu-ray on June 11th.

Distributor: Arrow Video

Run Time: 131 Minutes

Rated: G

Blu-ray Video: 1080p High-Definition Widescreen (2.35:1)

Blu-ray Audio: English LPCM 1.0 Mono (newly remastered for this release)

Subtitles: English SDH

Special Features: The extras include some audio commentary, a new featurette focusing on the movie, interviews, a Michael Crichton spotlight, a script gallery, theatrical trailer, three TV spots, two radio spots and an image gallery.

  • Audio commentary by critic Bryan Reesman
  • A New Strain of Science Fiction, a newly-filmed appreciation by critic Kim Newman (28:02)
  • The Andromeda Strain: Making The Film, an archive featurette from 2001 directed by Laurent Bouzereau and featuring interviews with director Robert Wise and screenwriter Nelson Gidding (30:08)
  • A Portrait of Michael Crichton, an archive featurette from 2001 directed by Laurent Bouzereau and featuring an interview with author Michael Crichton (12:33)
  • Cinescript Gallery, highlights from the annotated and illustrated shooting script by Nelson Gidding
  • Theatrical Trailer (03:18)
  • TV Spots (01:50)
  • Radio Spots (01:49)
  • Image Gallery – Production Stills, Poster and Video Art
  • BD-ROM: PDF of the 192-page “cinescript” with diagrams and production designs
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