For the next six weeks, my goal is to watch at least 20 movies that I own on DVD or Blu-ray that I have either never watched or never watched in those formats. I’m not going to tell you how many DVDs and Blu-rays I own that I’ve never watched, but rest assured: 20 barely scratches the surface. But hey, it’s a start. So I hope you’ll join me (and help keep me honest) for what I hope will be a fun series for the next six weeks. I’ll always conclude my brief review with a determination to purge the disc or keep it. Here we go!
First up is a movie I first saw in theaters in 1971, The Andromeda Strain, directed by Robert Wise. I revisited the movie about 25 years ago on VHS, but the DVD I bought at a thrift store years ago has been sitting on my shelf waiting to be seen. I watched it last night and here’s what happened:
The film is based on the Michael Crichton novel of the same name from 1969 and chronicles the discovery of an extraterrestrial organism that’s landed in a small New Mexico town, wiping out the entire population except for two people: a six-month-old baby and a 62-year-old man (George Mitchell). Dr. Jeremy Stone (Arthur Hill, right), the project manager of a top-secret installation/lab code named Wildfire, brings together a group of scientists and medical experts to try to determine how the organism works and how to stop it before it can overtake the entire planet.
Say what you will about Michael Crichton, but the guy could write compelling stories. Even though the computers and special effects from 1971 look woefully dated now, they were quite impressive for the time. (Douglas Trumbull, who had worked on 2001: A Space Odyssey just a few years previously, worked on the film.) If you can overlook the dated elements, the story is still quite gripping and well-acted, providing James Olson (second from the right in the first screenshot below the poster) a rare opportunity to play someone other than a villain, a jerk, or both. The film runs a few minutes over two hours and the only parts that drag involve getting the team inside Wildfire, a laborious process of decontamination that seems to last for at least a half hour. I also continue to be amazed that a movie with so many dead bodies (one of them topless) – to say nothing of watching several dying animals – could earn a G rating. Overall I like the story, the actors, Wise’s direction, and the suspense enough to hang onto the DVD. I’ll definitely watch it again. Keeper.