The Andromeda Strain

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domino harvey
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The Andromeda Strain

#1 Post by domino harvey » Fri Mar 29, 2019 2:07 pm

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Before he created Westworld and Jurassic Park, Michael Crichton first blurred the line between science fiction and science fact with his breakout success The Andromeda Strain. Two years after the novel’s publication, Robert Wise (The Haunting) directed the film adaptation, a nail-biting blend of clinically-realised docudrama and astonishing sci-fi visuals that ushered in a new subgenre: the “killer virus” biological thriller.

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.

Aided by innovative visual effects by Douglas Trumbull (2001: A Space Odyssey, Silent Running) and an unforgettable avant-garde electronic music score by Gil Melle (The Sentinel), Wise’s suspense classic still haunts to this day, and is presented here in a stunning, exclusive new restoration from the original negative.

SPECIAL EDITION CONTENTS
• New restoration by Arrow Films from a 4K scan of the original camera negative
• High Definition (1080p) Blu-Ray presentation
• Original uncompressed mono audio, newly remastered for this release
• Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing
• Audio commentary by critic Bryan Reesman
• A New Strain of Science Fiction, a newly-filmed appreciation by critic Kim Newman
• 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
• A Portrait of Michael Crichton, an archive featurette from 2001 directed by Laurent Bouzereau and featuring an interview with author Michael Crichton
• Cinescript Gallery, highlights from the annotated and illustrated shooting script by Nelson Gidding
• Theatrical trailer, TV spots and radio spots
• Image gallery
• BD-ROM: PDF of the 192-page “cinescript” with diagrams and production designs
• Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Corey Brickley

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colinr0380
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Re: The Andromeda Strain

#2 Post by colinr0380 » Fri Mar 29, 2019 4:37 pm

I love this film, and it is a great rescue as I do not think it has been shown on UK television in a decent version since the 1994 Moviedrome screening on the BBC. There have been screenings on Film4 since then but they have always been morning or early afternoon ones which despite being in the proper aspect ratio have always had edits made to play in that timeslot (particularly damaging in the sequence in the town where a scientist cuts a dead person's wrist to find that the blood has become powdered and the montage scene ending with the topless woman wearing the peace symbol which damages the transition into Dr Stone's wife in a similar position as it comes out of the multi-screen sequence)

In some ways it is a similar situation to Eye of the Needle which is 15 rated but only ever plays in a mid-afternoon Film4 slot with edits, so the recent BFI release is worthwhile in putting a more complete version back into circulation. It does make me wonder just how many films are 'too old' to play later on the evening but contain 'adult moments' that make them unsuitable for daytime broadcast unedited? I wonder if anything from the 60s to the mid 80s (even late 90s if schedulers consider even that ancient!) is now difficult to broadcast outside of the biggest titles and on any channel other than the Talking Pictures one, which really has the space for, and requires, such Indicator-style films to fill its evening schedules.
Last edited by colinr0380 on Thu Jul 18, 2019 4:54 pm, edited 2 times in total.

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swo17
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Re: The Andromeda Strain

#3 Post by swo17 » Fri Mar 29, 2019 4:52 pm

And yet this is rated G in the U.S.--you Europeans can be so prudish!

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colinr0380
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Re: The Andromeda Strain

#4 Post by colinr0380 » Fri Mar 29, 2019 5:42 pm

I seem to remember that the cutting of the wrist of the body is done in a particularly detailed way, which would appear to be frowned upon even more in recent times by the BBFC because it could potentially illustrate to a 'susceptible member of the audience' certain techniques that might be deadlier than your standard ones.

I would argue a little at the Arrow write up in that this did not quite usher in the "killer virus" biological thriller as such (Panic In The Streets comes to mind, as does The Satan Bug, both of which suggest that the only threat from viruses come about from criminal types meddling with things they cannot handle!), but certainly added an extra post-2001 cold technological sheen of distance to it, which is something that ironically makes the human beings within those sterile rooms or walking the blank corridors of the facility stand out and seem like the most irrational organisms of all (even set against the virus with its single goal of propagation). They are either argumentative or grumpy, brusque and short with colleagues and patients, jealous and paranoid, bickering over their respective positions or ironically susceptible to medical conditions (in the moment of one character having an epileptic fit induced by the technology! As if they are the malfunctioning ones, not the functional equipment). And all trapped in their organisational worldviews with the ever present danger that the channels of communication between different isolated 'cells' are easy to block and can lead to potentially the worst possible consequences.

Yet from those awkward, irritable, constantly screaming, totally un-professional moments come the solutions to the situation. It is only the people existing at extremes of experience who survive the virus. And whilst logically and dispassionately choosing the correct course of action almost leads to even greater disaster, having epiphanies based on human (or animal) behaviour is often what provides the breakthrough. Even the only potential route to stop the facility from self-destructing is only known to exist because of measures put into place to try and control animal escapees from the experimental labs!

Whilst it is great to see The Andromeda Strain get a release like this (and it would be nice to see Westworld, and perhaps even Futureworld, get the same treatment at some point), the Michael Crichton-based film that really needs to get saved from obscurity is 1974's The Terminal Man. It does have a UK angle as it was Mike Hodges first American film, which comes after his much better known Michael Caine films Get Carter and Pulp and before he made Flash Gordon. And The Terminal Man's medical drama aspect kind of bridges the 'cutting edge technology gone awry' work and his other claim to fame as one of the people behind the ER TV series!
Last edited by colinr0380 on Sat Mar 30, 2019 11:23 am, edited 1 time in total.

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L.A.
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Re: The Andromeda Strain

#5 Post by L.A. » Fri Mar 29, 2019 5:53 pm

Any chance of Crichton’s Coma?

KJones77
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Re: The Andromeda Strain

#6 Post by KJones77 » Sat Mar 30, 2019 1:06 am

L.A. wrote:
Fri Mar 29, 2019 5:53 pm
Any chance of Crichton’s Coma?
Believe it's Warner Bros so no. Shout could though and it would probably be a good fit for them, though it'd be Region A obviously.

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L.A.
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Re: The Andromeda Strain

#7 Post by L.A. » Mon Apr 01, 2019 6:56 am

KJones77 wrote:
Sat Mar 30, 2019 1:06 am
L.A. wrote:
Fri Mar 29, 2019 5:53 pm
Any chance of Crichton’s Coma?
Believe it's Warner Bros so no. Shout could though and it would probably be a good fit for them, though it'd be Region A obviously.
Cheers. I agree, definitely a passable title for Shout.

What about Looker, anyone seen it?

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colinr0380
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Re: The Andromeda Strain

#8 Post by colinr0380 » Sun Aug 11, 2019 6:29 am

I briefly managed to sit down with this edition of The Andromeda Strain last night and two things that struck me about the early section were that the gathering of all of the team of 'specialist' civilians brought in under a national security veil of mystery to explore this sci-fi situation is very like the gathering together that occurs at the beginning of Sphere (which gets even more into that slightly excitingly insular notion of a group of diversely intellectual experts in specific fields bonding together to pore over a mystery to the exclusion of the outside world more than even The Andromeda Strain does! Though of course that goes wackier too!); and also that the great opening title sequence that pans over all of the various documents in the film (which are pretty much all faithfully reproduced from the diagrams interspersed throughout Crichton's original book) on repeat viewing becomes the ultimate form of pre-film spoiler, as suddenly we are able to put all of the dry facts and lists of numbers into their chilling contexts!

I also wondered this time whether Gus Van Sant was influenced by it in the similar 'everything in the film to come is covered in the opening title sequence and is just waiting to be uncompressed in the film which follows' title sequence of To Die For! Probably not, but they feel as if they may be attempting to do the same kind of thing!

The Kim Newman interview was great and I liked the tracing of these biological thrillers up through the 1990s TV movies, which was a brilliant observation! That era is really the intersection between the 'disease of the week' dramas (individuals fighting against their conditions such as the AIDs drama noted by Newman, And The Band Played On) and the Robin Cook-style medical thriller. And we should note that a lot of Robin Cook books got turned into these kinds of feature TV movies around the mid 90s: Formula For Death and such, probably coming about because of E.R. on television and Outbreak in the cinema around the same time. It makes it seem rather inevitable after Outbreak that Dustin Hoffman should end up in an actual Michael Critchon adaptation, Sphere, a couple of years afterwards.

Although I did wish that when Newman was rightly noting the importance of Steven Soderbergh's Contagion as one of the newer entrants into this trend that is less seen through a Michael Critchon techno-clinical lens than a Robert Altman ensemble drama one that emphasises the new 2010 fear of globalisation and air travel being able to spread diseases much wider than previously, that he had noted the 'virus escaping from labs' trends in recent horror from 28 Days Later (ironically caused by do gooding animal rights activists!) to that first Resident Evil film (whose main image constantly being returned to is a DNA-style vial being thrown in slow motion to crack open and unleash a deadly plague) to especially World War Z. The double bill of Contagion and World War Z together perhaps would tell anyone what they needed to learn about mid 2010s virus paranoia in the culture, as both fuse the clinical tracking of a virus through a population with the troubling sense that everyone is expendable on an individual level! However those films get noted in the commentary. In terms of literature Greg Bear's Blood Music is probably the ultimate paranoid work about the potential world-ending danger of viruses escaping from secret labs!

By the way video game-wise, World War Z got a very belated game adaptation just this year. I have not played it but it seems in the same vein of the two Left 4 Dead games of co-operative run and gunning through a scenario to reach an end goal, which is both very videogame-y but also entirely fitting with the multi-scenario structure of World War Z itself! Though probably the best, and most distressingly clinical, game on viral infection is probably Plague Inc. in which you have to manufacture scenarios to allow the virus to propagate (that game itself got a DLC tie in pack to the Rise of the Planet of the Apes film back in the day). Its a bit like Defcon, only with nuclear war replaced with spreading disease.

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Re: The Andromeda Strain

#9 Post by colinr0380 » Tue Aug 20, 2019 3:16 am

Going through the "Cinescript" of the film has highlighted lots of things that just blew right by me in the film itself even after multiple viewings over the last 25 years! It was interesting on reading through the script gallery to find that there were a couple of multi-screen sequences in the script that appear to have been shot more 'normally' in the final film. For instance the first multi-screen sequence comes in the initial flight over the town to take footage. And in the decontamination scenes there is a moment of highlighting a document about 'rubberised polycron gaskets' that otherwise is not mentioned until they suddenly play a crucial role in the final sequence of the film. There would also have been another big multi-screen moment near the end of the film when Stone is manoeuvring the extra-terrestrial rock from the capsule into the petri dish to move it into another laboratory. And apparently the final sequence, instead of just showing the organism growing from one magnification to the other in a single shot would have started off with all the various magnifications on the capsule in different parts of the screen before moving in on the final hexagonal crystal structure that expands exponentially until the sheer amount of data coming in crashes the computer!

So there potentially would have been as many multi-screen moments as in The Boston Strangler (which arguably did the multi-screen thing too much, outside of its magnificent scene of women in the city panicing about strange men on the street!), but they seem to have been cut back to one or two specifically impactful moments rather than peppered throughout the film. It did make me think that the multi-screen thing was the 'some big moments shot in IMAX for emphasis' of its day though!

Also whilst the same material occurs in the film itself it struck me much more forcefully on reading the script that the missing fifth member of the team (who was having surgery at the time that the team was being gathered together) was meant to be Dr Leavitt's work companion. The other three scientists all have companions to share the workload with or delegate tasks to, whilst there is only a brief mention of Dr Leavitt being good enough to be able to do the tasks that the missing scientist would have done in addition to her own work. That not only means that she is exhausted but that in simply making do, and Dr Stone blithely assuming that it will be fine to make do without that fifth member, it is one of the first moments of taking every possible precaution but then having the planned failsafe measure fail anyway to match the sliver of paper against the bell in the teletype machine or even the big nuclear bomb automated threat (to 'sterilise' an area, but more likely to cover up any evidence of the germ warfare lab's existence) looming over everyone and ironically only causing a bigger disaster if it goes off. If that fifth scientist had been there then maybe Dr Leavitt would not have had to check the culture samples all by herself, or at the very least would not have had a phasing out incident go unnoticed for so long until she got to the stage of having a grand mal seizure.

But I was most interested in some of the moments with Hall that still occur in the film but have their subtexts made more obvious by the script. That moment of Hall looking at the results on the monkey and seeing the way that the infection powders the blood in the entire body at the same time and responds disappointedly by saying something to the effect of "I hoped that the clotting started in the brain before moving elsewhere and that's what drove the townspeople crazy. It would at least have given an area to focus on", calls back to the earlier scene in the town where we see two people who obviously survived instantly dying and had the time to commit suicide, one by hanging themselves (and their pet cat!), and one by drowning. Hall says that whatever happened to those people "took time" when in the town, but in that later scene in the lab appears to have forgotten that briefly and is hoping that everyone is 'driven crazy' before they die. But it is more likely that both of those people who committed suicide (both elderly, as presumably was the cat!) had deranged blood levels too, like the old man and the baby.

Instead of being 'driven crazy' they probably responded to everyone suddenly dying around them with despair and in that hanged lady's case with writing a screed about how the town was 'evil' and deserved its fate! (Similar to the way that the old man is wandering around in his nightshirt wielding a cleaver when the scientists find him, looking for some aggressor to lash out at. And whilst that aspect is dropped for bigger issues it seems likely that he probably attacked those army guys in the van at the beginning of the film, given the way that one of the soldiers has a big knife gash across his forehead. Though there is no blood so perhaps they died from Andromeda simultaneously at the moment that they were attacked) It might not have been the correct response, but perhaps those extreme reactions were understandable ones in the circumstances, but Hall in his rather clinical detachment from the irrationalities of human behaviour just reduces that and the religious ramblings in the hanged lady's letter, to having 'gone crazy'. It is perhaps telling that he only manages to manipulate the old man once he stops speaking to him clinically and starts using 'human' threats such as people saying that the town deserved its fate, which plays into that human sense of irrationality and gets the old man to start trying to defend the actions of the people who committed such an 'irrational' action as suicide. And that in turn provides the answer that the people who committed suicide themselves were on medication that deranged their blood levels to place them outside of the range of the deadly virus. Its another example of people at their most human and 'flawed' (to match the baby constantly crying or the old man on booze for his bleeding ulcer. Even Leavitt's epilepsy factors in) ironically containing the secrets to scientific breakthroughs! And that is probably the very best message of the film, as much as I as much as anyone else get seduced by all of the techno-sheen of minimalist designed rooms, flashing readouts on computer screens and beautifully sleek futuristic curved corridors!

Talking of seduction, the other moment with Hall that struck me on reading the script is that moment of getting enamoured with the female voice over the P.A. system, and then his disappointment in being told that it belongs to a 63 year old lady who pre-records all of the responses! That's a great example of humanity getting involved in 'humanising' their technology and trying to bond using it, only to sometimes come up against the disappointing reality of a situation! Yet that scene, which might be seen as irrelevant narratively, comes back in the climax as suddenly the "Seductive Voice of Gladys Stevens" (as the script notes directly!) instead of gently asking for Hall to wake up from his slumber is now dispassionately counting down the time until the nuclear bomb goes off and destroys them all! If this were more Westworld-y maybe there would be an irony there in an electronic being taking relentless revenge for having been hit upon earlier!

And that in turn made me think of Mother in Alien and the way that the voice of the computer there goes from seeming in control to dispassionately running down the time until the ship self destructs without any particular change in nuance. It is more about the way that the human beings relate to the recorded voice and the information it is passing along! In some ways I like that in that small element we could think of The Andromeda Strain and Alien as bookending the 70s in sci-fi!

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