Blu-ray Commentary: “The Andromeda Strain”

One of my newest gigs is doing Blu-ray commentaries for a variety of films. I was privileged to record one for the classic 1971 sci-fi film The Andromeda Strain, which was the big screen adaptation of Michael Crichton’s first official novel. He had a done a few prior under a pseudonym.

Directed by Oscar winner Robert Wise (The Haunting, Star Trek: The Motion Picture), this is an intense look into a group of scientists trying to unlock the secrets of a plague brought to earth from a satellite that has returned from space. It was cutting edge for the time, and despite looking dated (it is 48 years old), remains compelling today because the concept of controlling a contagion before it spreads out of control is a major public fear. It follows the methodical process of its protagonists rather than speeding us through a fast-paced and unrealistic series of montages, and I appreciate that.

I garnered some good reviews for my contribution to this Arrow Video reissue, and I thought I would share them here. Click on the logos for links to the review sources. Commentary tracks are a lot of work — I usually have 30 or more pages of notes in front of me to make sure I touch upon everything I need to — so it’s to get accolades for your hard work.

“The audio commentary is non-stop with Bryan Reesman jamming in as much stuff about the film as he can – and he even finishes the track by saying that he could have gone more into the science. Maybe he should write a book about it. Cast and crew biographies [one of my commentary bugbears] are concise and to the point, and discussion is well balanced between the film making aspects and the story ones. Crichton’s sole screen cameo is pointed out. Perhaps there’s slightly less production info than I expected, but on the other hand there’s even the odd personal element. A strong track, and one which may leave you appreciating the film more if you didn’t initially very much.”

“Entertainment journalist Bryan Reesman may laugh a little too often at his own comments and occasionally fall victim to the current trend for replacing the word ‘very’ with ‘super’ (sorry, that’s everywhere on YouTube and drives me nuts), but he’s really done his homework and clearly admires the hell out of the film, about which he has a lot to say and it’s all worth hearing. He has information on several of the actors, director Robert Wise, author Michael Crichton, screenwriter Nelson Gidding, score composer Gil Mellé and special effects maestro Douglas Trumbull, tells a personal story that enabled him to relate to the experience of the elderly survivor (whose character name is Peter Jackson, I should note) and provides specifics about how the animal deaths were faked. It’s also here that I learned there were a staggering 206 split-dioptre shots in the film, which surely has to be some sort of record. A useful and enjoyable extra.”

“Impressively Reesman never lets up and he keeps the track entertaining and lively, even when he goes off on a few side tangents… I found the track quite entertaining and it did get me looking at the film from another perspective.”

“The New York entertainment journalist gabs along enthusiastically here… As well as going through the usual resumes for cast and crew, Reesman provides us with plentiful background details about the production.”

“Film critic Bryan Reesman provides a thoughtful audio commentary filled with facts and trivia that seldom let up. He shares a lot of personal asides that make the track more engaging and has a lot to say about this production.”

“This is a fascinating listen and runs through the film’s themes and production in a scholarly yet engaging fashion.”

“Interesting with plenty of tidbits about the film and its production from someone who has obviously done their research.”

“In typical Arrow Video fashion, The Andromeda Strain is jammed with engaging extras. Pop culture journalist Bryan Reesman provides feature commentary discusses Robert Wise’s use of unusual film making techniques including split screen, still images, and split diopter filter on the film. He also goes into how they made a white rat and Rhesus monkey pass out on camera.”

“His commentary does what a commentary is expected to do, shares info and helps a deeper appreciation of what you’re watching.”

“On-disc extras include an Audio Commentary by Bryan Reesman, a film historian who provides a satisfying analysis of the movie.”

“Extras for this release include a lively audio commentary by author Bryan Reesman about the film…”

“Pop culture writer Bryan Reesman heads into the booth for a pleasing commentary track.”

“Extras include Bryan Reesman’s engaging commentary…”

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