Michael Crichton was invited to take a tour of Universal Studios during the production of this film. His guide was none other than Steven Spielberg, who went on to adapt Crichton's most successful novel, Jurassic Park (1993).
When Dr. Stone's wife tells him someone is at the door to see him, he says, "The SDS has arrived, no doubt." "SDS" is an acronym for "Students for a Democratic Society", a protest group active in colleges in the late 1960s.
A few additional details about the controversial death scene of the monkey in the laboratory: 1) It was approved by the ASPCA who was present during the filming of the scene. 2) While the monkey was filmed suffocating on CO2, assistant director James Fargo was standing just off camera wearing scuba gear and holding a second oxygen source. 3) The monkey was revived just seconds after going unconscious - a little too fast as it turns out. Watching the scene closely, the viewer can clearly see a shadow moving towards the monkey just as it goes limp. And since there was only one take it couldn't be edited out.
Screenwriter Nelson Gidding broached the idea to director Robert Wise that one of the four scientists should be a woman. Wise initially envisioned female character being something like Raquel Welch in Fantastic Voyage (1966) and objected strenuously to the change. However, after Gidding described in detail the character eventually played by Kate Reid, he convinced Wise that it was a positive addition to the story.
Patient Jackson states that he drinks "squeeze", otherwise known as Sterno, or "canned heat"; a gelled fuel made of ethanol and methanol that is sold in short, wide cans with resealable lids. When lit, it produces a low, even flame and is used primarily for heating food, as in chafing dishes. Although poisonous to drink, it became popular during prohibition, particularly in homeless camps. The product would be placed in cheesecloth or a sock and squeezed to produce the liquid alcohol, which would be mixed with fruit juice to make so-called "jungle juice." The nickname, "squeeze" is taken from this squeezing process.
Michael Crichton wrote the rough draft for the novel from which this film is adapted while he was still a medical student. He was inspired after a conversation with one of his teachers about the concept of crystal-based life-forms.
Leavitt, in a protest against inserting something to clean out the GI tract, makes the statement about "risked drowning in that foul bath". The book, but not the movie, had the Wildfire Team submerge completely in an antibiotic solution. The scene may have been cut, but Leavitt still makes reference to it in the movie.
The computer error "601" occurs because of a system overload while trying to simulate Andromeda's growth and mutation. The error number is a reference to the computer overload error of "1202" (exactly double) which occurred on the LEM during the first lunar descent.
At the plane crash site, the actor who was supposed to call out, "Major Mancheck," fell out of his trailer and broke his leg. He was replaced on the spot with Robert 'Bob' Olen, who did the lines but was never credited for it.
The Andromeda Strain was a moderate box office success. Produced on a relatively high budget of $6.5 million, the film grossed $12,376,563 in North America, earning $8.2 million in US theatrical rentals. It was the 16th highest-grossing film of 1971.
Mapping data shown for location of WildFire was from a Aeronautical Sectional Chart. The location of WildFire, as depicted, is just North of Searchlight NV and East of US-95 at approximately N35:31.94 W114:52.80. The statement regarding the reason for selection of the site was that there was no inhabitable area for a radius of 112 miles was erroneous since Las Vegas is only 27nm miles north.
During the closed hearing the General states that the scientist in question had not been made aware of the Wildfire facility for purposes of national security. The Senator responds approvingly, stating they'd had experience with scientists before. During the time of the Manhattan Project, which developed the first nuclear weapons, a group of scientists that was aware of the potential for developing such a weapon and tried to persuade the government not to attempt to build such weapons. The scientists included Albert Einstein. After the Manhattan Project had been completed, it was learned that the technology had been leaked to the Soviets by someone on the Manhattan team.
Though the movie is rated G, there is a scene featuring the nude upper body of a woman for several seconds, as the 2 doctors are touring Piedmont and viewing the victims in split screen. Presumably the guidelines were more lenient in the early 70s.
The section of the film where the two scientists are in the town of Piedmont in their suits, is very similar to the opening of the Man from UNCLE episode The Man from U.N.C.L.E.: The Finny Foot Affair (1964). They were even searching for some kind of biohazard material, too, which had been taken to a local doctor, but in a small town in Scotland, where they also found everyone dead. In the UNCLE episode, the biohazard caused rapid aging, which resulted in death.
Crichton was inspired to write the novel after reading The Ipcress File by Len Deighton while studying in England. Crichton says he was "terrifically impressed" by the book - "a lot of Andromeda is traceable to Ipcress in terms of trying to create an imaginary world using recogniseable techniques and real people."He wrote the novel over three years.
Screen writer Nelson Gedding read numerous science fiction books while researching for his work on this film. To further his self education, he attempted to look up all of the items listed in the Bibliography section in Crichton's original book. To his surprise, he discovered they were all made up as the book is a work of fiction. In fact, as you peruse the list you will notice that several items are accredited to characters in the novel. Gedding took this lesson to heart and imaginatively created most of the techo-jargon used in the film, especially for the highly detailed printed props and the station wide announcements heard throughout the lab.
The lab set design called for five circular levels, each painted a different color. In reality, only one small section of circular hallway was created, but was painted and repainted as production progressed.
In the film, the computer code 601 indicates a crash due to an overload of data. In the real world this code number indicates a variety of failures. With Windows computers, 601 indicates the failure of the internal CMOS battery (the battery that maintains the clock and other basic functions). In the computers of some automobiles it indicates corrupted flash memory. In remote accessed (VPN) computer systems, 601 means that a connection cannot be established.
Four actors would later go on to star in the hit tv series Little House On The Prairie. Arthur Hill would guest star as Lansford Ingalls (Charles Ingalls father). James Olson would guest star as a charismatic faith healer and Ramon Bieri (Major Manchek) appeared in the first ever episode as a ruthless local businessman. Richard Bull who had a smaller role as "Air Force Major" would take on the regular role of Nels Olsen, the owner of the Mercantile and star in the show for its entire nine-year run.
When the producers invited Michael Crichton to the set to get his opinion if their set designs matched his original vision, the author had to admit that there was a lot of the book that he had never fully considered visually.
This movie was made before the era of CGI forcing the film makers to rely on solely practical effects. For example, the rotating holographic display of the facility layout was created using a projector and a simple of piece of cardboard that was raised as each level was added.
In 2008, The Andromeda Strain was remade as an eponymous miniseries executive-produced by Ridley and Tony Scott and Frank Darabont, and featuring Benjamin Bratt as Stone. Other characters' names and personalities were radically changed from the novel, including making one scientist, played by Ricky Schroder, gay.
Director Robert Wise directed some of the most famous movies ever made, including "West Side Story", "The Sound of Music" and "The Day the Earth Stood Still". He also edited what to many is considered the best movie ever made: "Citizen Kane".
The trivia items below may give away important plot points.
The monkey was "killed" by being placed in a large set filled with carbon dioxide. When the monkey's cage, which contained oxygen, was opened the animal was rendered unconscious by the CO2. An assistant director was off camera and brought a breathing apparatus to the monkey, who recovered immediately.
The "Odd-Man Hypothesis" is a fictional hypothesis which states that unmarried men are better able to execute the best, most dispassionate decisions in crises--in this case, to disarm the nuclear weapon intended to prevent the escape of organisms from the laboratory in the event the auto-destruct sequence is initiated. In the novel, the Odd-Man explanation is a page in a RAND Corporation report of the results of test series wherein different people were to make command decisions in nuclear and biological wars and chemical crises.
This film and Sphere (1998), also based on a novel by Michael Chrichton, have a similar concept. Both involve teams of civilian scientists who had never met each other called in to evaluate potential alien threats. In this film, it's a virus brought to Earth by a fallen satellite. In Sphere, it's a large glowing extraterrestrial orb found in a spaceship discovered on the ocean floor.
The acknowledgments just prior to the opening credits give the impression that the story is based on true events and goes so far as to thank many people as well as certain government organizations for their "generous help" and encouragement. However, the book the movie is based upon is a work of fiction.