The Andromeda Strain (1971)
On Wednesday, January 3rd, we continue our science fiction cinema series at Mother’s Velvet Lounge presenting Robert Wise’s brilliant 1971 film adaptation of Micheal Crichton’s The Andromeda Strain, staring Arthur Hill, James Olson, Kate Reid and David Wayne.
While recovering the space probe, “Scoop” in the tiny New Mexico burgh of Piedmont, two service men discover that the entire population of the town appears to have perished, and within minutes of exposure the two men themselves succumb. A crack team of scientists led by Bacteriologist, Dr. Jeremy Stone (Arthur Hill) is assembled to collect the probe and secret it away to a high tech underground lab facility called Wildfire to determine the nature of the alien organism and to find a means of preventing a possible viral outbreak. To complicate matters, medical expert and surgeon, Dr. Mark Hall (James Olsen) has to determine the common factor shared by the only two survivors of the initial exposure: a six month old infant and a elderly Sterno addict. Rounding out the team are Pathologist Dr Charles Dutton (David Wayne) and Microbiologist Dr. Ruth Levitt (Kate Reid).
The Andromeda Strain is likely the premier example of “hard” science fiction with a capitol “H”. That is, a narrative anchored in known science and depicting technology that’s within reach of current state of the art. Though by the age of 28, Michael Crichton had written about five novels under different pseudonyms, this was the first one which he published under his actual name. It proved an instant best seller, but even more striking it established a new genre of literature that combined meticulously researched science with rousing pulse pounding action and adventure.
For the second time in this year’s screenings of science fiction classics we turn to a film directed by the great Robert Wise (having screened The Day The Earth Stood Still in October), a chameleon like director whose approach was to always place the requirements of the narrative above any auteur-driven stylistic flourishes. In the case of this film he convincingly represents a scientific community and a technological environment free of most of the trappings of Hollywood tradition.
A huge debt is owed to the work of equally versatile production designer Boris Levin, with whom Wise worked on West Side Story, The Sound of Music and The Sand Pebbles. Levin’s design for the Wildfire complex with its color coded levels and laser protected central shaft is as vital a player in the film as any of the cast members. Visual effects pioneer, Douglas Trumbull, who three years earlier was instrumental in changing the future of cinema with his work on 2001: A Space Odyssey created a series of seamless visuals for this film including 3D computer graphics (all analogue, as the technology didn’t even exist at the time) and entirely convincing macro-photography.
Also of note is the unique electronic score by Gil Melle. Using a variety of analogue synthesizers and electronic instrumentation he created a soundscape for the film that blurs the boundaries between dramatic score and technological sound effects.
The excitement begins at 6:30
when you will enjoy one of the best dinners in town, followed by the screening at 7:00
. Hope to see you there!
Mother’s is located at 212 SW Stark