Tony Mastroianni Review Collection

"The Andromeda Strain" is superior science-fiction

Cleveland Press May 15, 1971

Creatures from outer space are still the basic stuff of science-fiction thrillers. "Andromeda Strain" puts the emphasis on science in this tale of micro-organism picked up by a satellite which wipes out an entire town after the satellite's return to earth. The result has less hoked up horror than most offerings and more realism. The story sounds as if it could happen.

Basically "Andromeda Strain" is good melodrama -- a mysterious crisis followed by several minor problems topped by an exciting if contrived climax. There's nothing wrong with formula when it works and it works with no strain in this movie.

THE FILM is based on Michael Crichton's recent best-seller. Producer-director Robert Wise has wisely not tampered overmuch with the book. There's no phony love interest dragged in, for example.He has changed one of the scientists to a woman but hardly for glamour reasons, Kate Reid not being the glamorous type. It may be humor but Miss Reid is more vinegary than funny.

The picture gets off to a gripping start showing a small, Arizona town wiped out and bodies everywhere looking as if the inhabitants were suddenly and mysteriously stricken.

One of our satellites has landed there and the crew sent in to retrieve it instantly drops over.

Scientists in specially constructed suits go in, retrieve the satellite and find two survivors -- a baby and an old man.

The survivors and the satellite with its mysterious microscopic killer are taken to a laboratory five-stories underground. Construction is such that each layer is a step in a decontamination process with the action occurring on the lowest level.

The laboratory is protected by a nuclear device that will blow it up if contamination gets out of hand. This is a melodramatic device that is used in both book and movie for an exciting climax that takes the place of any real conclusion of the story.

A CAST of capable actors performs well in rather colorless roles. The real attraction is the mass of scientific hardware, the computers and the mysterious substance itself that is magnified and projected for the scientists to examine.

Much of what transpires is told in the form of computer read outs that keep flashing across the screen. The ads say the movie might be too intense for kids. Not likely. The only problem might be younger children who will have trouble reading what the computer is saying.

"Andromeda Strain" is superior science-fiction, with just enough tension to make it reasonable gripping entertainment.