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Wednesday, October 22, 2014

THE ANDROMEDA STRAIN (1971)

Michael Crichton’s scary Ebola From Outer Space tale plays out like a shaggy dog story in Robert Wise’s methodical, uninvolving film adaptation. Producer/director Wise made his sci-fi rep with THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL/’51, but this film’s attempt at sober-sided minimalism misses the earlier film’s News Reely feel. Instead, we might be passengers in some Corporate Sponsored World’s Fair exhibit, riding a track-bound vehicle into our very own microscopic adventure. Streamlined, color-coded sets, and an isolated Top-Secret lab facility set the scene for four scientists to investigate the mystery disease, but the story construction is as flat as the acting, neither exciting nor technically convincing. And then, when the action climax shows up, the film jettisons its raison d’etre for an old-fashioned (foot) race to the finish, and a moral on wisdom of inaction. You have to wonder who, other than Crichton, was in on the joke from the beginning.

DOUBLE-BILL: More Scientists vs. Modern Plagues in OUTBREAK/’95 and CONTAGION/’11 . . . and with equally uninvolving results.

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