Rating: ** Threat: Killer virus
Mirisch Corporation. Written by Edward Anhaut & James Clavell based on the novel The Satan Bug by Alistair MacLean; Photographed by Robert Surtees; Special effects by A. Paul Pollard; Edited by Ferris Webster; Music by Jerry Goldsmith; Produced & directed by John Sturges. 114 minutes.
George Maharis (Lee Barren, intelligence officer and security expert); Richard Basehart (Charles Reynolds Ainsley, wealthy madman who poses as Dr. Gregor Hoffman); Dana Andrews (Gen. Williams, head of military intelligence); Anne Francis (Ann Williams, the general's daughter and Barrett's girlfriend); Henry Beckman (Dr. Baxter, director of Station Three); John Larkin (Dr. Leonard Michelson, scientist who replaces Baxter); Richard Bull (Eric Cavanaugh, Head of intelligence squad); Frank Sutton (Donald, Ainsley's top henchman); Ed Asner (Veretti, henchman); Simon Oakland (Tasserly, deputy administrator of Station Three); John Anderson (Regan, slain head of Station Three security); John Clarke (Raskin, Station Three security officer); Hari Rhodes (Johnson, Station Three security officer); Martin Blaine (federal agent posing as Henry Martin); Harry Lauter (phony intelligence agent); James Hong (Dr. Yang, research scientist at Station Three); Harold Gould (Dr. Oster, research scientist at Station Three); James Doohan (security agent who dies of botulism).
This is a curious, edgy film that does not fit comfortably into any traditional category. It has a mercurial nature that frequently shifts gears so that the viewer is never sure exactly where the plot is going. This uncertainty actually works in the film's favor while the story unfolds, but it makes it seem weaker in retrospect. There is a feeling of disappointment when the film concludes, a sense that the picture just did not live up to its potential. The opening two-thirds are indeed excellent, but the last third is confusing, with an abrupt finish. The overall atmosphere is good and sense of tension is well maintained. The threat of global extinction is credible, but the thrust of the story gets bogged down as the picture nears its denouement.
The story begins as a truck makes a delivery of two large crates to Station Three, a remote chemical weapons research facility in the desert Southwest. Moments later, a helicopter with Security Chief Regan arrives at the same facility. He checks over the elaborate security of the underground lab. Since it is late Friday afternoon, most of the scientists are leaving, except for Dr. Baxter, the director of the project, who is deeply involved in his work at E Lab. Regan urges