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The Andromeda Strain

The Andromeda Strain(1971)

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NOTES

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Although copyright records list the film's running time as 121 minutes, reviews variously list it as 127, 130 or 131 minutes. The following written prologue appears in the onscreen credits: "Acknowledgements: This film concerns the four-day history of a major American scientific crisis. We received the generous help of many people attached to Project Scoop at Vandenburg Air Force Base and the Wildfire Laboratory in Flatrock, Nevada. They encouraged us to tell the story accurately and in detail. The documents presented here are soon to be made public. They do not in any way jeopardize the national security." Other than Vandenburg Air Force Base, the prologue references are entirely fictitious and part of the story. Although Peter Hobbs is listed under Roman Bieri in the open credits, he is listed above Richard O'Brien in the closing credits. The graphics presented under the opening credits mimic computer screens and "top secret" technological and scientific documents detailing "Project SCOOP." At the end of the film, before the closing credits, onscreen graphics simulate "Wildfire's" computer overload.
       As indicated in the prologue, the story unfolds over four days, with each day noted by an onscreen title. Locations and times are frequently displayed in the form of a "teletype" banner running along the bottom of the screen. Scenes of the Senate hearings into the Wildfire incident are shown as if simultaneous to the four-day emergency, although the hearings are dated two months after the near disaster. Frequent voiceovers from the hearings fill in information on the procedures at Wildfire as they occur. A multi-screen effect is used at different points in the film: for example, to display the members of the science team in different locations in the Wildfire laboratory; the state of the two survivors; technical equipment used to evaluate their condition; and the corpses in Piedmont. As indicated in the credits, computers and medical and technical equipment that gave the film its authentic look were provided by several technical companies that also provided advisors on their use.
       The Andromeda Strain was based on the first novel that author, anthropologist and medical doctor Michael Crichton published under his own name. According to a Hollywood Reporter article, Universal bought the novel right for $350,000 in 1969 and budgeted the film at $6.5 million. Crichton, who had a cameo appearance in the film as a surgeon, has since continued his career as a best-selling novelist; his stories frequently include great scientific and technical detail. Many of Crichton's novels have been made into financially successful motion pictures, including the 1992 Universal blockbuster Jurassic Park. Crichton also directed several films, as well as executive producing the popular television series ER.
       A January 1970 Variety news item indicates location shooting for The Andromeda Strain in Schafter, TX. Another Variety item in April 1970 indicated a scene was to be shot in a large corn field in Ocotillo Wells, CA. A modern source adds John Whitney Sr. to the crew as a visual effects man.
       According to a modern interview with producer-director Robert Wise, in his adaptation of the novel, Nelson Gidding suggested that he change one of the novel's all-male scientists to a female. Wise initially refused, wary of critical comparisons to Twentieth Century-Fox's 1966 science fiction production, Fantastic Voyage (see below), in which "bombshell" Raquel Welch appeared as a surgical assistant. Gidding prevailed after he described the middle-aged, caustic character "Dr. Ruth Leavitt" played by Kate Reid. In the same interview, Wise described filming the "death" of the lab monkey, a sequence one review called "Shakespearean" in its melodramatic rendering. Under the guidance of a university veterinary, an airtight set was filled with carbon dioxide and when the cage was opened, the monkey had no oxygen to breathe, prompting its dramatic collapse. A veterinarian was waiting just outside the closed set with an oxygen cylinder that was used immediately to revive the monkey.
       The Andromeda Strain was nominated for two Academy Awards, for Best Art Direction and Best Film Editing. In 2004 it was announced that Ridley Scott would produce a mini-series of The Andromeda Strain for NBC television. As of June 2006, the project remained in development.