These thoughts on Robert Wise's The Andromeda Strain (1971) were written by Cinematheque Programmer and Accounts Manager Ben Reiser. A 35mm print of The Andromeda Strain will conclude our Sunday Cinematheque at the Chazen: Universal '71 series on Sunday, May 3 at 2 p.m. in the Chazen Museum of Art.
By Ben Reiser
Corpses litter the streets of a small New Mexico town. Among those dead are children, some of them cut down mid-schoolyard basketball game. Crows pick at the flesh on these corpses. We linger on the dead body of a topless young woman. We linger on the visage of an elderly woman, she has hanged herself from a staircase banister. We linger on grisly flesh wounds and plucked out eye sockets. We linger on a surgeon slicing open a corpse’s wrist and watch as powdered blood spills out of the wound. An abandoned baby howls in desperation down a desolate hallway. A meat cleaver-wielding ghoul appears like an apparition and makes us jump.
Welcome to the first 30 minutes of The Andromeda Strain, rated G.
This slew of images and sequences that today would warrant at the very least a PG-13 rating if not an R are not the only elements that tell us The Andromeda Strain comes to us from a much different era. Featuring a conspicuous absence of sex symbols in the cast, or even a single main character under the age of 40, Andromeda Strain now plays like a time capsule treasure from a civilization that has not yet become locked into the demands of pandering to youth culture and puritanical tenets.
It also features a score by Gil Melles that is as abstract as anything ever recorded for a major studio release.
44 years after it first hit the big screen The Andromeda Strain, directed by Robert Wise (who, a few years earlier, gave us The Sound of Music) is a sci-fi thriller that in many ways feels even more forward-thinking now than it did then.