Category Archives: Vic’s Classics

Vic’s Classics – The Incredible Shrinking Man (1957)

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When Scott Carey begins to shrink because of exposure to a combination of radiation and insecticide, medical science is powerless to help him.

“The Incredible Shrinking Man”

Directed by Jack Arnold

9 out of 10

Director Jack Arnold, who brought us some great sci fi movies from the 50′s like Creature from the Black Lagoon, it’s sequel, It Came from Outer Space and even Tarantula, also helmed “The Incredible Shrinking Man” in the late 1950′s as well. So, Arnold, being no stranger to sci fi films with cautionary elements running through it’s veins, turns in a smart, interesting and thoughtful movie that transcends the genre and themes of it’s time. Written by the iconic scribe Richard Matheson, based on his novel, the movie is a stunning achievement on a symbolic and technical level. Themes of differences, transcendence, mortality and the mystery of death and what lies beyond the sub-atomic levels of existence. It explores, if indirectly, some heady issues that Matheson and Arnold like to provoke us into actually thinking about. Matheson, as with all of his Twilight Zone contributions, loves to explore themes about things and ideas that exists outside of our reality. What would happen to a man that starts to shrink and continues to shrink until he is nothing more than a sub-atomic particle? Where does he go? What happens to his soul and his mind? All of these things we, the audience, actually ponder long after the movie ends. It takes itself very seriously because it isn’t tongue in cheek or campy. It’s a sci fi gem that is cerebral and entertaining.

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The movie, which actually won the first Hugo Award ever, stars Grant Williams ( PT-109) as Scott Carey. Carey is a businessman that while vacationing with his wife, Louise (Randy Stuart from All About Eve). While on their boat out in the ocean, Lousie decides to step below deck while Scott is left outside soaking in the sun. He then notices that a strange cloud overtakes the boat. Scott never goes inside and the cloud passes over him leaving a weird, almost snow-like material all over his skin. Louise re-appears and she and Scott are puzzled by the travelling fog that left as quickly as it came. Six months later, Scott, while dressing for work notices that his clothes seem to be a bit too large for him and he quesions Louise about the dry cleaning. She swears that his clothes are the same clothes she has always taken to be cleaned. Scott starts to get suspicious as with everyday that passes his clothes seems bigger on him and he appears to be losing height. When Scott tells Louise that she isn’t tip toeing anymore to kiss him she becomes concerned. His Doctor reassures him that “People do not get shorter.” Scott isn’t convinced and when it becomes clear that he is shrinking he is seen by other Doctors and Scientists at a California Medical Institute. They determine that at some point he must have exposed to radiation and he and Louise figure out that the mysterious cloud may be the culprit. Also, that along with being exposed to insecticide, they figure out that Scott is indeed continuing to shrink.

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Arnold and Matheson start to pull us along on a great ride of inventive film-making. Oversized objects like sofas, chairs, telephones, utensils and the such are all on display here. All of these effects are done believably without making it hokey and campy. It’s done with respect to the actors and the material that Matheson supplies. As Scott shrinks, his mind expands. He is frustrated and alone at first but seeks out others like him like a carnival sideshow girl named Clarice (April Kent) who is a “Small” person. They form a friendship and have interesting discussions about their size in relation to the rest of the world. Their exchanges are interesting and very appropriate. A great scene, (that sometimes used to get cut when aired on TV) between Clarice and Scott involves huge coffee cups. The scene is a bit amusing. Eventually Scott can no longer see Clarice because he finds out that the treatments aren’t working and he is starting to become even smaller than Clarice. Arnold continues Scott’s journey with having him suffer against obstacles bigger than him. Not metaphorically but physically. There’s a cat, a spider (A real nasty bastard!), a leaking water heater and even a dollhouse. Louise suspecting that Scott has been killed by the cat even prepares to leave their house and move. Not a happy ending for Scott. He continues to become ever smaller and when he does he resigns to his fate. By this time we know Scott inside and out. He’s brave, devout, smart and resourceful. Matheson wraps up the story in fine form. Scott understands that he will shrink until he becomes part of another realm. A realm where he can still make a difference.

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I know there are many fans of “Atomic Age” movies out there especially from the 1950′s and this movie has the honor of being on a very elite list. A list of films like “Gojira” and “Forbidden Planet” as an intelligent and symbolic piece of cinema. If you don’t dig your sci fi movies loaded with allegory and such there’s no worries to be had. “The Incredible Shrinking Man” has some very cool effects, great music and some awesome Big vs Small action enough to please the most jaded of sci fi film fans. Enjoy, gang! HIGHLY recommended!

Vic’s Note: This film was chosen to be preserved by the Library of Congress for  being “culturally, historically or aesthetically” significant.

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Vic’s Classics – “A Shot in the Dark” (1964)

Clouseau: Well… that just goes to prove what I have said all along.
Dreyfus: What you’ve said, Clouseau, qualifies you as the greatest prophet since Custer said he was going to surround all those Indians!

Victor –

8 out of 10

Blake Edwards and Peter Sellers. Those two names alone conjure up images and thoughts of hilarity, slapstick, comedic timing and incredible sight gags. ASITD is the second entry in the “Pink Panther” films about the ever bungling and confused Inspector Jacques Clouseau, played with impeccable wit, timing and grand physicality by the late Peter Sellers. I choose to do this review for 2 reasons. 1 – I just came across it on netflix and watched it. 2 – I feel that those who have never seen a Pink Panther movie should at least read about one and see if they could muster a larf or two. Sellers and Edwards are worth the time and you won’t be disappointed.

There are a few welcome changes here in this entry. one being that Herbert Lom is introduced in this film as Peter Seller’s foil, Commissioner Dreyfus. Lom is just hilarious in the role as he gets further and further bothered and agitated by Clouseau’s ineptness. We are treated to Kato as well! Also, Sellers really lays the french accent on very thick here and as a result he cements, forever, his Inspector in comedic history.

The outrageously sexy female co-star, Elke Sommer plays Maria Gambrelli. Maria, a parlor maid is wrongly accused of offing her lover. Or did she really do it? Enter Clouseau to try and go to any length to prove her innocence. Even when most of the time it always points to Mara. The real antagonists are usually one step ahead of Clouseau who even manages to stake out bedrooms and even a nudist colony to get to the bottom of the case. The bad guys commit more murders to keep the blame on Maria as well. One victim being named “Dudu” haha I find that hilarious. Ahem. Anyway it’s a huge plot device, I know, for a simple slapstick comedy. But we get to see Sellers give it his all in a fantastic performance that is not yet dated, thank God.

I for one am glad that William Peter Blatty and Edwards decided to have Clouseau in this. It’s way too funny to have NOT had him in it. We once again get the famous music by Mancini even though there is no Pink Panther opening. Sellers and Edwards continued the gravy train of Clouseau’s adventures for 4 more movies with varying degrees of success. In this film Sellers is the main focus and it is not a film filled with subtle gags and references. It is an all out sight gag of a film that shines and heralds nicely from the 1960’s. Highly recommended! Enjoy. Oh and watching Sellers play pool is amazingly funny.

Vic’s Classics – “Kronos” 1957

Before ID4′s huge and menacing spaceships gleefully devastated our world, there was a weird, boxey, volvo-like cube machine from outer space that did the same thing back in 1957′s under rated B sci fi bizarre-fest “Kronos.”

This neat and tidy little sci fi gem, directed by Kurt Neumann has gained an exceptional cult status over the years and is a very interesting, cautionary tale covered in an above average plot and it teaches us about the over-use and consumption of earth’s natural resources.

A heady and smart subject to discuss in film without getting preachy. It IS an alien invasion film and it does take place in the 50′s. But there are no huge explosions or people being turned to ash and bones. It is a dry extinction of the people of earth. And that is very scary. Well, for the 1950′s anyway.

“Kronos” itself is a large, alien “cube-like” machine called an accumulator. What does this mean?. It means we are screwed. No wait. It means we have to fight it tooth and nail. Even after it emerges from a large meteorite that crashes in the waters near Mexico. A malevolent alien race has sent Kronos to earth to deplete our energy and have it returned to save their own world. The film stars Jeff Morrow and Barbara Lawrence. In the film a scientist, a Dr Eliot, under the control of an unseen alien force, suggests to the military using an atomic bomb to take out Kronos. Earlier, Eliot sabotages lab equipment and the lab’s computer (named Susie) under the influence of the aliens. Still with me? OK. Let’s move on.

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They track an asteroid that contains Kronos but after it eventually crash lands, Kronos is set free to suck the energy juice out of the earth. Our intrepid leads, in b movie fashion, head to Mexico to investigate the downed asteroid. There they discover that Kronos is bad business and poor Doc Eliot is having a rough time keeping those pesky aliens out of his head. One cool scene involves the party landing on Kronos and checking out what makes it tick. It’s a cool sci fi moment that is cheesy and heady at the same time. The conventions of the genre are spun in full force in this movie. Including bombs that go off above Kronos that looks like the 4th of July gone batty.

As the film unravels we are told more about Dr Eliot and the intentions of Kronos and the aliens who have sent it. The machine is headed towards an H bomb stockpile facility in LA. Why did they drop it in the waters off Mexico? Hmmm. Oh well. If Kronos makes it to LA and the bombs then it’s adios human race. I won’t spoil the ending but it is a neatly tied up “in the nick of time” ploy. but it works in it’s funky b movie charm. The dialog is wonky but engaging and even endearing. We listen to the leads say things like “Hey, let’s try and make the feature!” or “That’s the starter button there on the dash” You know, real smart sci fi stuff…So, enjoy “Kronos” (it’s a very cool looking boxey destructo thing) and have fun with the banter and the way out science that is both confusing and not so scientific. At least until the end. Plus I loved the sound Kronos makes as it obliterates the landscape. Recommended!

Vic’s Classic’s – Robert Wise’s “The Haunting” (1963)

Three people are recruited by a paranormal investigator to help uncover the secrets of Hill House, a mansion overwhelmed by spirits of its former residents in this classic horror flick based on The Haunting of Hill House, a novel by Shirley Jackson. As the guests delve deeper into the home’s past, they are seduced further into its sinister web. Julie Harris, Ronald Adam, Claire Bloom, Lois Maxwell and Russ Tamblyn star.

Victor – 9 out of 10

The dark and cavernous Hill House, in Robert Wise’s brilliant film, The Haunting, is a brooding, beastly menace. It is a character all on it’s own. It is a living, breathing horror that completely devours the protagonists in this nerve tingling classic horror film.

Based on the novel The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson, Robert Wise’s film actually improves on the actual source material. Wise made a very smart decision to have the large Hill mansion come alive in an evil and bleak way.

The film stars Julie Harris as a repressed and suffering woman named Eleanor, who is called to Hill House to participate in an experiment by Richard Johnson who plays Dr Markway. She accepts and is immediately pulled in by the history and dark nature of the House. There she meets others who were invited. One being Claire Bloom who plays the worldly and free spirited psychic, Theodora. The woman bond but not so much at first. There is a repressed sexual tension between them that Wise hints at. Meanwhile when they have all gathered and get settled in by the lanky and spooky Mrs Dudley its from that point onwards that we become involved and immersed in the wicked spell of the house.

Dr Markway proceeds to tell them the history of the house and all of the deaths and suicides that have occurred. He hopes to provoke responses from those gathered. One being a nephew of the current owner of Hill House played by Russ Tamblyn (West Side Story). In the prologue of the film there is a brilliant introduction to the many bizarre happenings that involved the Crane family.

It is in this history that we become witnesses to terror. As the film moves along and unfolds, our protagonists are subjected to the whims of Hill House. Here is where Robert Wise and Cinematographer Davis Boulton really shine. There are deep shadows, unsettling angles and stark and soft focus within shots of the hallways, stairs and rooms of the house. The interior of the house is forbidding and alive. Wise, using his actors remarkably, uses sounds, light and shadow to provoke fear from them. Particularly in the bedroom sequence where Eleanor and Theo are trying to console each other as a loud, evil presence proceeds to scare them and approaches their door. It is what we do not see that scares and unnerves us. Wise makes sure of this.

Make no mistakes, this is a horror film and it does frighten and holds up very well to this day. There is the dread that permeates the very walls of the house and Bloom and Harris excel at showing us their very frightful and vulnerable sides. They cower, yell, scream and unravel during the Haunting. We indeed find out what the real mystery is but not before being subjected to a fearful experience in fantastic black and white photography that completely chills us to the bone.

This film is a marvel to behold. It is creepy. It is classy and elegant. It is well acted and very terrifying. I hold it in very high regard. The score by Humphrey Searle is chilling and effective. The screenplay by Nelson Gidding is pitch perfect capturing and excelling upon the source material wonderfully. I cannot recommend this film any higher. It has a simple and horrific set up and menacing execution. Not since “The Innocents” before it has a film about a very haunted House been this beautifully done. One of Robert Wise’s best films and he has done films in just about every genre. Enjoy!

The Odd Couple

Tossed out of the house by his wife and close to packing it in, Felix Unger (Jack Lemmon) decides the best thing to do is move in with his best pal: barely housebroken, deliberately devolved caveman Oscar Madison (Walter Matthau). Within a few days, slovenly sportswriter Oscar and compulsive neatnik Felix are driving one another bonkers. The question is, can these two men live together without killing each other?

Rating: 9 out of 10

I love films that explore  polar opposite characters. Often they are engaging, insightful and revelant. Other times, for lack of all seriousness, they can be very funny. That is the case with Neil Simon’s “The Odd Couple,” directed by Gene Saks based on Simon’s play, released in theaters in 1968. Simon creates a vivid, funny and nostalgic comedic universe. The two actors are the funny bone of this timeless screwball comedy. Jack Lemmon plays Felix Ungar, an obsessive-compulsive neat freak who tries desperately to kill himself as a result of the impending end of his marriage.
Suffice it to say that he doesn’t successfully committ suicide, but ends up hurting his back in the process. Here in lies the root of the comedy. Felix is a typical overbearing hypochondriac. When his friend Oscar Madison, played with perfection by Walter Matthau, asks him to stay with him, the hilarity ensues. Oscar, a sports writer, is a lazy, slovenly, messy, cigar smoker. Put these two together and we get Neil Simon at his comedic best. Felix and Oscar clash. Big time.
What ensues is amazing to watch. Perfect pitch timing from both Matthau and Lemmon. Felix overly polishes and cleans and Oscar relishes being the slob. Oscar as well is put off by Felix’s constant depression and health troubles. For example-when Felix tries to unclog his ears he makes a loud, deep and startling noise that sends Oscar through the roof. This is team comedy at it’s best and the rest of the ensemble that consists of divorced, slovenly gamblers are great to watch as they interact with Matthau and Lemmon. Neal Hefti provides a great score which won an oscar. 

The Hospital

George C. Scott stars in this black comedy as Herbert Bock, a suicidal doctor who struggles to find meaning in his life while a murderer stalks the halls of his hospital. Herbert’s life is on a downward spiral, but just as he contemplates killing himself, patients at the hospital begin dying — apparently from erroneous treatments they’re being mysteriously ministered. Diana Rigg co-stars in this Academy Award winner for Best Screenplay.

Rating: 8 out of 10

Arthur Hiller directs a finely tuned George C. Scott in The Hospital. Released in 1971, “The Hospital” is a black comedy in every sense of the word. Many a film and TV show has had a hospital as it’s setting, and though Hiller makes the hospital a character on it’s own, it’s the human element that is prevalent in this movie. Black comedies can only work if the subject matter is indeed something that we all take very seriously. Screenwriter Paddy Chayefsky flexes his muscles here with an Oscar winning screenplay about a suicidal doctor who, during a midlife crisis, loses control of his hospital and his sanity.

Scott turns in an Oscar-nominated performance as Dr. Herbert Bock, who is the chief of medicine at a Manhattan hospital where there are some strange goings on. Dr Bock is indeed a troubled man. His children shun him and his wife leaves him as things at the hospital fall into despair. He even contemplates suicide at one point as he deals with a self image and impotence problem. So with all these things going wrong for him, there is the small matter of the murders of two physicians and a nurse. As the film unfolds he falls for the daughter of an interesting patient of his played by the energetic Diana Rigg, who is spot on playing against the gruff and surly Scott. They in turn have to get to the bottom of the murders as Dr Bock also deals with protests from displaced drug addicts and hospital administrators.

The film is full of quick wit and humor but it also delves deeply into helplessness and disparities. “The Hospital” get a bit bogged down with too much exposition. The direction often times starts to meander, leaving the viewer wanting some type of resolution since we are in this for the long haul. In it’s defense, the film is biting and critical of the entire health care system and our place in it. The great cinematographer Victor J. Kemper shoots the movie with gritty realism and texture. But this film belongs to Scott and Chayevsky. So admit yourself into “The Hospital” for two hours and enjoy.


A brash Manhattan industrialist, his coke-bingeing wife and a slum wino have something grisly in common: They’re the latest victims in a series of seemingly motiveless murders, and all of them appear to have been killed by animals. Albert Finney stars in this shivery tale about brutal murders pointing to a previously unknown breed of canine creatures. Michael Wadleigh directs an innovative take on the werewolf legend full of mood and menace.

Rating: 7 out of 10

A high end, state of the art, protection agency along with the NYPD blames the horrific deaths of an uber- rich land developer and his wife on urban terrorists. Little do they know the actual criminals behind it all are a pack of mythic, bad ass, super wolves that live in the South Bronx. Bullshit, you say? Nah, it’s not. It’s the plot to Micheal Wadleigh’s 1981 horror thriller Wolfen based on the novel by Whitley Strieber. It stars Albert Finney as the hardened, semi retired police captain who is displeased about being on the case but is attracted to the police psychologist played by a very capable and likeable Diane Venora. Gregory Hines steals just about every scene he is in portraying a hip but smart medical examiner. And he sports an afro that has it’s own zip code.

I find that this film does work on many levels but it’s hard to peg where the story wants to solidify. It has all the cliche horror manipulations but it provokes thought from the viewer. There is native american indian folklore to consider since a suspect played by Edward James Olmos considers himself to be a shapeshifter. There is a subplot involving Wall Street terrorists and there is animal rights guy that claims “people kill people, not wolves.” Wrong. This film was probably a steadicam operator’s nightmare since it is used every time we go into wolfvision. It become dizzying at times but is still effective. There is some gore but not anything your average 12 year old can’t handle. I liked the film’s mood though when it evolves toward the discovery of the wolves hunting but yet protecting their turf in the Bronx. Hence the murder of the land developer. Wadleigh exudes carefully placed character interaction and mystery to propel the story to it’s rather timid ending.

The effects are a bit dated and Finney and Venora have zero chemistry. This though doesn’t really bog down Wolfen. It’s still pretty cool watching the wolves hunt their prey and when we eventually see them we are not disappointed. The wolves are beautiful yet very fierce and they do not want humans enchroaching on their territory. So there you have it. Wolfen is a smart, horror pop film from the early 80’s and it still has legs. It just won’t make you howl at the moon.

The Bride of Frankenstein

After vowing to step away from his dark experiments, Dr. Henry Frankenstein (Colin Clive) is blackmailed into creating another fiend (Elsa Lanchester) — this time, in female form — who will serve as a ghoulish bride for his infamous monster (Boris Karloff). Ernest Thesiger co-stars as Frankenstein’s deranged mentor, Dr. Septimus Pretorius, who forces the doctor’s hand by kidnapping his wife (Valerie Hobson).

Rating: 10 out of 10

I believe I actually saw this film, the 1935 sequel, before the first. As a kid I thought it just another Frankenstein movie. Upon more viewings, the film makes an impression that lasts very long after the film ends. It continues with the Gothic feeling of the original but this film includes so much more. First and foremost is the emotion and believability that the first film somewhat lacked. In this film the Frankenstein creature learns to speak and is able to voice his pain and want for a mate like him to share eternity with. The film continues right after the first ends and Boris Karloff and Colin Clive return. James Whale (who was the subject of the film Gods and Monsters) directed this film with incredible vision. The lighting is dim and shadows pronounced. Whale is a set director and he relishes on playing the camera to those sets to make dramatic impressions.

The Bride of Frankenstein is a touching film with well placed humor, intensity and precise dialog delivery. The portrayal of Dr. Frankenstein, played by Clive, is a bit enigmatic but surreal. He is in turmoil after having created what most of the villagers see as a complete, murderous creature. It takes a blind man who cannot see what the creature looks like to accept him as a friend. This is one of the most heart wrenching moments of the film. Whale does not do sentimentality at all and provides very visceral images of the creature and of his bride to be.

The Bride of Frankenstein at times provokes fear, disgust and heart breaking emotion. It has the feel of a poetic theater play with great sets and make up. Karloff acts through it and raises the bar for actors who portray beasts. Whale’s direction of the camera and his actors are a revelation.

The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1919)

In this silent 1920s masterpiece, an insane asylum inmate explains to his psychiatrist how he came to the institution, telling the shrink the story of the evil hypnotist Caligari (Werner Krauss) and his unwitting pawn, the sleepwalker Cesare (Conrad Veidt). This stark expressionist film from German director Robert Wiene astonishes with the power of its sets and visuals, and the creepy plot easily raises hackles on the back of one’s neck.

Rating: 10 out of 10

So you want a classic? Well, I have one for you. An oldie but very goody indeed. It is the 1919 German psychological horror film “The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari,” a very influential silent film full of dynamic terror and suspense. I say influential because upon watching it again I was reminded of how many current directors were and are still following the dramatic and visual uniqueness of this film. Terry Gilliam, Tim Burton, Martin Scorcese and even John Carpenter (In The Mouth of Madness, anyone?) to name a few. They owe a great deal to this movie.

It involves a mental facility patient named Francis who tells his Doctor about his chilling run in with a Carnival sideshow menace, Dr Caligari, and his attraction, the Somnabulist, Cesare. What makes this story fascinating is the use of the flashback to tell the story. It is one the earliest uses of this technique and it is very effective. This practice of the flashback reveals layer upon layer of German expressionist drama. Say what you will about this film being identified as everything from propaganda, wartime angst to social commentary, but it is still bold with it’s bluish and sepia toned nightmare. The more we witness the horror of Francis’ tale unfold the more we begin to sympathize with him — but in turn question his sanity. The ending will no doubt be seen as a classic and much used plot device, but this is the 1920’s so it was very fresh then.

Before I conclude I must talk about the visual impact of the film. It is nightmarish, bizarre and disorienting. There are stark angles. There are slanted streets and windows. Characters sit on very high stools and patterns and shadows are deep and trance-inducing. The camera work is of course a bit crude but it is intense and very sublime as we delve deeper and deeper into the madness that Francis reveals to his Doctor. I recall my film professor giving us this film to watch and absorb for homework. Let’s just say that it did not feel like homework. It felt more like a revelation. Highly recommended.

The Andromeda Strain

A satellite crashes in New Mexico, prompting scientists to race against the clock to stop a deadly virus from spreading in this Oscar-nominated sci-fi classic based on Michael Crichton’s novel of the same name. The alien illness that sprang from the probe has already killed most of those living near the crash site, and now it’s up to a team of scientists to stop it. Note: Contains graphic scenes that may be unsuitable for young children.

Rating: 8 out of 10

When I reviewed “Somebody Up There Likes Me,” I lauded director Robert Wise for his phenomenal diversity in tackling the many genres that make up the pantheon of Hollywood films. I applaud Robert Wise once more for taking on what Stanley Kubrick had only done until “The Andromeda Strain.” The cerebral sci-fi film was released in 1971 and is based on the gripping novel of the same name by the late Micheal Crichton.

In fact it seems as if 2001 and Strain are almost polar opposites in design. 2001 is about mankind’s expansion and Strain is about the demise of man from a strong, super-bad virus from outer space. It comes piggy backed via a satellite that crashes and wipes out an entire town, save but only an infant and an old man.

The film follows the book closely and Robert Wise allows no pretention. There is a race on to catch a super germ from outer space and the feds need the scientists to catch it. We get very straight talking scientists and straight talking G-men in this cold and calculating geek-fest. There are many great elements, such as the art direction, which was nominated for an Oscar. Like MGM’s “Forbidden Planet” (soon to be reviewed), it has a complete electronic score by Gil Melle that is very cold and eerie. Composition and color stand out amazingly much like his work on Star Trek The Motion Picture.

Andromeda Strain is a great sci fi medical thriller but it’s possible scenario is what makes it hit home with many fans of the virus outbreak thrillers. Full of suspense and surprise I highly recommend “The Andromeda Strain.”