I was quite young when I saw the 1971 film Andromeda Strain in the theatre, and the image of the monkey dying when exposed to the organism still bothers me.

It certainly looked traumatic and the monkey appeared to die, but I have no idea how real that was.

These days films with animals usually contain a "No animals were harmed..." at the end, but this was way before that.

Question: Did they torture and kill a monkey during the filming of Andromeda Strain? If not, was it file footage of something like that, or was it some type of convincing special effect?

Here is a clip with the scene in question, it looks real to me, watch it at your own discretion

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    I am unhappy with this question’s phrasing, which seems to contain an accusation of wrongdoing by the studio. Surely it can be phrased as “How did they do this special effect without hurting the monkey?” And reach the same effect. Commented Aug 6, 2020 at 15:12
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    @Harper-ReinstateMonica the answer states clearly that this is real. They literally hurt the monkey! The footage is real, the monkey suffered intensely. I don't know if its heart stopped or not but it was only moments away from death. It only survived because someone came by and removed the lethal CO2 from its lungs and replaced it with oxygen. This happened. It's real.
    – uhoh
    Commented Aug 6, 2020 at 16:13
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    According to the answer, ASPCA was on set and approved it. Do you have a source for “hurt the monkey” and “suffered intensely”? Your comment here sounds more like an answer, and as you know self-answers are perfectly appropriate on SE. But they would need to be sourced, of course. Commented Aug 6, 2020 at 16:22
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    @Harper-ReinstateMonica no it sounds precisely like an explanation for why your proposed change of the title to "How did they do this special effect without hurting the monkey?" does not match anything else on this page. A comment below the answer notes the well-established effects of CO2, and the answer is itself sourced from reliable sources and has received 75 up votes and zero down votes.
    – uhoh
    Commented Aug 6, 2020 at 16:30
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    Like I say, I’m concerned with the entirety of the question, not just the title. I think that the way it’s stated makes assumptions it should not; for instance paragraph 3 could just go, and just generally converting “did they torture” to “how did they (create the appearance)” would greatly improve the question and not affect the answer’s scope at all. That’s all I’m saying. Commented Aug 6, 2020 at 17:44

1 Answer 1


Torture is a strong word but it could easily be described as mistreating the creature but it does seem to have been done under the supervision of the ASPCA.

In fact...from IMDB apparently from the Robert Wise documentary on the making of the movie

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.


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 quickly, 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.
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    Diving into the details of suffocation, living organisms detect build-up of CO2; they cannot detect "lack" of oxygen so death by carbon monoxide (CO), nitrogen, and other heavy gasses that displaces oxygen is VERY dangerious. You experience hypoxia within 20-30 seconds, which reduces your mental functions and you lose the ability to think rationally. Destin from Smarter Every Day demonstrates this and he literally loses the rational ability to put on an oxygen mask.
    – Nelson
    Commented Aug 4, 2020 at 3:39
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    In this scene, the monkey looks like he suffocated because he DID, but permanent damage takes a bit longer. I don't know how long it is for a small primate, but an average adult will have permanent brain damage after around 5 minutes of oxygen deprivation (drowning, CO2, nitrogen, choking, plastic bag over the head, etc.)
    – Nelson
    Commented Aug 4, 2020 at 3:41
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    Worth noting that CO2 excess causes extreme distress in animals. Mammals become confused, irritable, panicky and totally stressed out. If it was done as described, it was very cruel and would lead to charges of animal welfare violation. Commented Aug 4, 2020 at 7:10
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    Because I'm still not sure if torture is a "strong" or perhaps an inaccurate description, I've just asked Word for subjecting an animal actor to extreme distress in order to film its "performance" for a film?
    – uhoh
    Commented Aug 5, 2020 at 5:32
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    pardon my unknowledgeable and orthogonal question but... wouldn't it have been possible to use an anaesthetic? Commented Aug 5, 2020 at 19:58

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