johnlink ranks THE ANDROMEDA STRAIN (1971)

For the most part, everything I watch and rank here is viewed in one sitting. But in the interest of full disclosure, I did watch THE ANDROMEDA STRAIN over the course of a couple of pieces through the past week. It’s important that I get that off my chest for the two or three people who  read this…

I watched THE ANDROMEDA STRAIN (1971) on 3.30.12. It was my first viewing of the film.

I’m a huge fan of the Michael Critchton novel this is based on, though the only version I’d seen filmed was a substandard TV movie. I know this feature was supposed to be better, even if the excitement level was not sky high. To wit, this is much more the speed of Kubrick’s 2001. Exciting at moments, carefully paced at others, ultimately very worthwhile. This is definitely ’70s slow’. The obvious discovery, the first act twist, takes nearly a full hour to happen. But the movie is not worse off for it. Instead, I found the pace proper for its subject matter.

None of the actors in this are people I am familiar with. I’m sure a student of 60s and 70s cinema might know these folks, but they were all strangers to me. My experience with THE ANDROMEDA STRAIN was heightened for that reason, because it felt like real doctors and scientists trying to save the world from an alien organism in a remote facility, not like some actors pretending like sciency things were happening.

Director Robert Wise (THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL, THE SOUND OF MUSIC) creates a unique and powerful visual style which the unique editing capitalizes on. The color schemes in this are, perhaps, a bit obvious; yet they are also doubtlessly effective in eliciting emotions. The film gets less visually creative as time goes on, at least until a self-destruct sequence, but that is understandable considering the raised stakes.

Yes, the computer stuff is grossly outdated. Much time is taken showing ‘fascinating’ computer technology which is rudimentary today. But, surprisingly, much of the technology still feels pretty damn cool. The scientists spend a lot of time using remote arms to do their handy work. Even four decades later, this is still impressive to see in action. The biggest issue with this thing is that the climax is better suited for a thoughtful novel than a visual film. The ending just doesn’t live up the set up.

This is not on the level of 2001. It is very good, but also a product of its time, rather than feeling timeless. But for someone looking for a solid translation of the Crichton novel, this certainly qualifies.





~ by johnlink00 on March 30, 2012.

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