“It’s the damnedest thing, there’s no sign of life.”

February 5, 1971 Piedmont, New Mexico population 68. A retrieval team is sent in from Vandenberg Air Force Base to pick up a satellite that landed inside the town limits. The team finds dead bodies scattered throughout the town. The team is in constant contact with Scoop Mission Control, until communication stops mid-sentence. The base sends a jet over the town to take pictures and scan the area. The pilot sees dead people everywhere.

A top level team is assembled. They are; Dr. Jeremy Stone (Arthur Hill), Dr. Mark Hall (James Olson), Dr. Charles Dutton (David Wayne) and Dr. Ruth Leavitt (Kate Reid). They are part of the Wildfire team. They suspect that an organism was brought back from space with the satellite. Two members of the team are dressed in hazmat suits and dropped into Piedmont. Most of the population died instantly. A few lived long enough to commit suicide. Those with wounds showed no bleeding. Their blood had turned to powder. They find the satellite in the doctor’s office. He had opened it. They find a baby still alive. Then an old man comes stumbling toward them. They take the baby, the old man, and the satellite to a secret facility. They need to destroy the town before whatever killed everyone escapes. They request that a bomb be dropped on Piedmont.

At the Wildfire facility, the team goes through decontamination procedures. They descend through four disinfection levels to a fifth level, where laboratories are located. If the organism escapes, the facility has an automatic nuclear self-destruct mechanism to incinerate all infectious agents. Because he is the only single man, Dr. Hall has the only key that can deactivate the device.

They examine Scoop with powerful cameras and discover a microscopic greenish alien organism responsible for the deaths. They name the life form Andromeda. It’s highly virulent and kills almost instantly. Dr. Hall is trying to figure out why the old man and the baby survived. Drs. Stone and Leavitt are inspecting the scoop for contamination. Dr. Dutton is assisting. They discover that Andromeda lives on energy. They need to deactivate the self-destruct mechanism housed at Wildfire plus stop the destruction of Piedmont otherwise Andromeda will use the energy to expand itself to the point where it is out of control. They continue their research not knowing that the organism has already mutated.

Released in 1971 the movie was directed and produced by Robert Wise. The screenplay was written by Nelson Gidding. The characters, although scientists, are real people with faults like anyone else. The character played by Kate Reid is actually a man in the book. “The Andromeda Strain” is a science fiction/thriller. Intense to the last frame. Robert Wise brings a different kind of alien to life. Considering the movie is almost 50 years old the science and hi-tech equipment is not as dated as you would think. It still has the capacity to make us think, could this happen? The book “The Andromeda Strain” was written by the Michael Crichton. At one time it was required reading in high schools.

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