70s Rewind: Michael Crichton, From THE ANDROMEDA STRAIN to WESTWORLD

Managing Editor; Dallas, Texas (@peteramartin)

Medical doctor turned author turned filmmaker, Michael Crichton followed a creative path that spanned decades.

Born in 1942, Crichton gravitated toward writing from an early age. He enrolled at Harvard College in 1960 with the intention of studying literature, but experienced conflicts with the faculty and switched his studies to biological anthropology, earning a bachelor's degree in 1964 and later enrolled at Harvard Medical School.

Crichton began writing spy novels during that period, using the pen name John Lange, and they were published in short order. His fourth novel, A Case of Need, published in 1968 under the pen name Jeffrey Hudson, received positive critical notices, but it was his next published novel that introduced his name to movie-going audiences.

Continue reading about his early-70s career in the gallery below.

THE ANDROMEDA STRAIN (1971; d. Robert Wise)

Crichton's novel is a true page-turner, imagining what might happen if a U.S. satellite crash-landed in a tiny town in the middle of nowhere, bearing a virus that causes near-instant death. Briskly-told in an authoritative yet inviting manner, filled with medical and scientific language, sparsely populated with a team of four scientists who are entirely focused on trying to prevent the end of the world, Crichton writes clean prose that continually drives the story forward.

Directed by Robert Wise from a screenplay by longtime collaborator Nelson Gidding, the suspenseful film version adapts a similar style to Crichton's book. It harkens back to Wise's earlier efforts, such as The Curse of the Cat People, The Body Snatcher, The Day the Earth Stood Still, Run Silent Run Deep, and even Executive Suite, mining terror from the trajectory of his camera and the expressions on the faces of people who know, deep down, that they are not masters of their own fate.

Released in U.S. theaters March 12, 1971. Most recently viewed December 24, 2019, via Starz; viewed multiple times since I first saw it on television in the mid-1970s.

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John LangeMichael CrichtonMichael Douglas

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