The Andromeda Strain is a high-budget ‘science-fact’ melodrama, marked by superb production, an excellent score, an intriguing story premise and an exciting conclusion. But Nelson Gidding’s adaptation of the Michael Crichton novel is too literal and talky.
In four acts representing days, a team of civilian medics attempt to find and isolate an unknown phenomenon which has killed most of a desert town near the place where a space satellite has fallen to earth. Arthur Hill, David Wayne, James Olson and Kate Reid are the specialists racing against time to determine why the town’s only survivors are an old wino (George Mitchell) and an infant.
In the first half hour, the plot puzzle and eerie mood are well established, and in the final half hour there is a dramatically exciting climax with massive self-destruction machinery. The middle hour, however, drags proceedings numbingly. The four scientists repeatedly get into long-winded discussions. There are times when one wants to shout at the players to get on with it.
The glacial internal plot evolution is not at all relieved by the performances. Hill is dull; Wayne is dull; Olson caroms from another dull character to a petulant kid; and Reid’s unexplained-until-later epilepsy condition does not generate much interest. Mitchell and nurse Paula Kelly are most refreshing changes of pace.
1971: Nominations: Best Art Direction, Editing