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Robert Wise
James Olson, Arthur Hill, David Wayne
Writing Credits:
Nelson Gidding

A group of scientists investigate a deadly new alien virus before it can spread.

Rated G

Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
English LPCM Monaural
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 131 min.
Price: $39.95
Release Date: 6/4/2019

• Audio Commentary with Film Historian Bryan Reesman
• “A New Strain of Science Fiction” Featurette
• “Making the Film” Featurette
• “A Portrait of Michael Crichton” Featurette
• Cinescript Gallery
• Image Gallery
• Trailer/TV Spots/Radio Spots


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The Andromeda Strain [Blu-Ray] (1971)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (June 23, 2019)

Well before major hits like Jurassic Park, moviegoers first heard of writer Michael Crichton via 1971’s The Andromeda Strain. An adaptation of Crichton’s 1969 novel, the film also involved another notable: Oscar-winning director Robert Wise.

A US satellite called the “Scoop VII” falls to Earth near Piedmont, New Mexico. Soon thereafter, most of the tiny town’s residents wind up dead.

To determine the cause, a group of scientists descends on the area. They investigate the nature of the alien menace that came to Earth along with the Scoop VII and attempt to halt a more widespread disaster.

Because he won Oscars for both 1961’s West Side Story and 1965’s Sound of Music, I always feel surprised to see Wise attached to sci-fi projects like Strain. However, that’s my own mistaken memory.

In fact, Wise’s first notable directorial effort came with 1951’s Day the Earth Stood Still, and he also made 1963’s notable horror tale The Haunting. Wise enjoyed a varied career, so a project like Strain isn’t out of character at all.

While Earth Stood Still deserves its reputation as a classic, Strain turns into a snoozer. It has much more in common with Wise’s final sci-fi effort, the deadly dull 1979 flick Star Trek: The Motion Picture.

Which seems like a shame, as Strain comes with both a promising premise as well as a good opening. Wise gives the first act a nice sense of documentary realism, and he creates an impression of intrigue as we see the mysterious fate of the residents of Piedmont.

After that fairly compelling opening, though, Strain lapses into a long sequence that brings together the scientists, and it kills any momentum. Not only do we find ourselves stuck with sluggish, dull introductions, but also we spend a ridiculous amount of time with their preliminary actions.

Good God, do these sequences drag! A little exposition goes a long way, and Strain extends these scenes beyond the breaking point, largely because they don’t add anything to the end result.

If these sequences gave us real insights into the characters or they created tension/drama, then I’d embrace them. Instead, they simply fill space and fail to deliver material that provides useful information.

Eventually Strain manages to regain some of that lost momentum, but by the time the action heats up to some degree, it feels too late. The endless exposition in the middle becomes such a bore that the viewer loses interest.

At 131 minutes, Strain simply runs far too long for a movie with a fairly slight plot, and it doesn’t use that real estate well. Though the film shows glimmers of intrigue at times, the end result fails to connect.

Footnote: I know the MPAA was looser with “G” ratings in the early 1970s, but I still feel surprised Strain got one. In addition to the shot of some scientists’ bare butts, we get a glimpse of a topless hottie and some fairly gruesome images of the victims.

The Disc Grades: Picture B/ Audio B/ Bonus B

The Andromeda Strain appears in an aspect ratio of 2.35:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. Overall, the image appeared positive.

Sharpness seemed solid. Only minor instances of softness materialized, so most of the film showed nice delineation and accuracy.

I saw no examples of moiré effects or jagged edges, and the presentation seemed to lack evidence of edge haloes. Source flaws also failed to create many distractions, as I noticed an occasional mark but nothing significant.

The movie went with a natural palette that looked well-rendered. Hues appeared accurate and showed nice impact.

Black levels stayed deep and dense, while shadow detail showed positive consistency. Ultimately, the image seemed like a fairly good representation of the source.

As for the PCM monaural soundtrack of Strain, it was more than adequate for its era. Speech sounded intelligible and clear, with no edginess or other concerns.

The effects represented the source elements in a competent manner. These elements offered reasonable accuracy and acceptable range, even if they never stood out as truly impactful.

Strain went with a spare score, so don’t expect much in that range. When music appeared, though, those components appeared well-rendered. All in all, this turned into a perfectly positive mix given the film’s age.

A mix of extras appear here, and we begin with an audio commentary from film historian Bryan Reesman. He provides a running, screen-specific look at the story/characters, cast and performances, sets and locations, photography, genre areas, music and related topics.

At one point, Reesman tells us he devoted an entire weekend toward preparation for this commentary. This comes as a surprise, as the end result feels awfully stream of consciousness.

Not that Reesman doesn’t provide occasional nuggets of value. He periodically manages to deliver useful insights.

However, Reesman also just describes the film a little too often, and he also gets into superfluous personal anecdotes. Though not without value, this becomes a disappointing discussion that lacks much substance.

With A New Strain of Science Fiction, we find a discussion from film historian Kim Newman. In this 28-minute, two-second piece, Newman discusses the “outbreak” genre of movies, with some emphasis on Strain. Newman offers a fairly informative discussion.

Next comes Making the Film, a 30-minute, eight-second program circa 2001 with director Robert Wise, screenwriter Nelson Gidding, special effects designer Douglas Trumbull, and author Michael Crichton.

They examine the source and its adaptation, story and characters, cast and performances, photography, sets and locations, effects, music and the film’s legacy. “Making” becomes a pretty effective overview.

Also from 2001, A Portrait of Michael Crichton lasts 12 minutes, 33 seconds and includes comments from Crichton. He covers aspects of his career, especially Strain. Some of this info repeats from elsewhere, but Crichton still brings a good chat.

The disc provides a Cinescript. For the most part, this simply shows the text of the screenplay, but it adds some art and other elements at times as well. It’s a cool way to examine the original script.

In addition to the film’s trailer, we get three TV spots and two radio spots. An Image Gallery also presents “Production Stills” (116 elements) and “Poster and Video Art” (55). Both add some useful material.

Given the talent involved, I hoped The Andromeda Strain would deliver a vivid sci-fi tale. After a promising opening, though, the film turns sluggish and it never manages to rebound from those flaws. The Blu-ray brings pretty good picture and audio as well as a mix of supplements. Chalk up Strain as a dull disappointment.

Viewer Film Ratings: 3.1666 Stars Number of Votes: 6
4 3:
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