Contamination Blu-ray Review
Written by ZigZag
Blu-ray released by Arrow Video
Directed by Luigi Cozzi (as Lewis Coates)
Written by Luigi Cozzi and Erich Tomek
1980, 95 minutes, Not Rated
Blu-ray released on July 7th, 2015
Ian McCulloch as Cmdr. Ian Hubbard
Louise Marleau as Col. Stella Holmes
Marino Masé as NYPD Lt. Tony Aris
Siegfried Rauch as Hamilton
Gisela Hahn as Perla de la Cruz
Carlo Monni as Dr. Turner
Police make a quick sweep of an unmanned cargo ship that has arrived in the New York Harbor, only to find the mutilated corpses of the crew that appear to have exploded from the inside out. As the search continues, they discover the freight is a mass of boxes filled with weird green pulsating football- sized eggs. One such egg spurts fluid onto a few members of the team and they all suddenly explode in a bloody, pulpy mess. Police Lt. Tony Aris survives the ordeal and is taken into observation where he is introduced to Col. Stella Holmes. She informs him that this is now a military operation and uses his information to study one egg, while ordering the rest destroyed. Her research leads her back to the findings of a recent mission to Mars, in which an astronaut named Hubbard claimed to have seen countless giant deadly eggs. His fellow crew member, a man named Hamilton, denied all knowledge of any such eggs and Hubbard was dismissed as psychologically damaged. Holmes tracks down the disgraced astronaut and apologizes for doubting his testimony. She teams with Hubbard and Aris, and the trio are on the next flight to Colombia in search of the cargo ship’s origins. What they find is far more outrageous than they could either fear or imagine.
Contamination (1980) is a wild ride that starts off as an unassuming mystery before repeatedly switching gears as it approaches its far-out conclusion. A police investigation that leads to a government cover-up with ties to the space program is enough of a plot for your average run-of-the-mill thriller, but what follows here resembles an earthbound hybrid of Ridley Scott’s Alien (1979) mixed with a silly dose of the James Bond franchise. This strange Italian film used to frequent late-night cable television under various pseudonyms including Alien Contamination and Toxic Spawn. The director, Lewis Coates, is actually an alias for Luigi Cozzi (Starcrash) and he apparently has gone on the record confessing he is more interested in entertaining audiences than maintaining logic or coherence in his movies.
British genre fave Ian McCulloch (Zombie) stars as Cmdr. Ian Hubbard, a broken-down shadow of a once-great man beaten down by government conspiracies. He shines in the role of reluctant hero and receives a solid character arc as he is forced to step up to the plate one final time to save the world. The stakes are high, but McCulloch is a strong enough actor to make Hubbard believable. Louise Marleau (Satan’s Sabbath) is Col. Stella Holmes, a woman determined to right an injustice she helped set in motion years ago as she discovers the truth of the weird egg mystery. Marino Masé (The Godfather Part III) is NYPD Lt. Tony Aris, a man that starts off as our hero cop, but is quickly reduced to third-wheel comic relief status once the party lands in Colombia. The trio of talent share great chemistry, a real accomplishment given that due to the nature of low-budget Italian cinema of the 1980s, all of the performances in the film (with the exception of McCulloch) are dubbed by other actors.
Contamination is a really dumb movie that tries too hard to follow a linear plotline but is determined to include all of the really weird shit that gets thrown in along the way. Of all the strange things present in this picture, the threat of “contamination” is not one. I somehow found this bizarre mash-up of material particularly entertaining, as it has been many years since I last watched the movie. I’ve never really been a die-hard Cozzi fan, but maybe I was just in the right mood or something because I had a lot of fun this time. One thing fans of ‘80s Italian horror can count on is an incredible score by the legendary progressive rock group Goblin, and the band doesn’t disappoint. Their music carries viewers across the lesser moments of the film and really delivers when the red stuff flows across the screen. If you have never heard of this flick and are looking for a totally bonkers way to entertain your friends, I encourage you to check out this movie immediately.
Video and Audio:
Contamination is presented in the original 1.85:1 aspect ratio and looks awesome. Anyone that is used to seeing murky VHS transfers of this flick are going to be amazed by the picture upgrade. There is plenty of detail in both small objects and in people’s faces, hair and wardrobe. I have no complaints about this transfer worth mentioning.
A DTS-HD MA 2.0 mono track is provided for both the Italian and English language dubs. As the film was shot with the intention of receiving international dubbing, there is not really an original language default track, so it doesn’t really matter which option you choose. Both are pleasing, but I stuck with the English mix and found it satisfying. Music and effects are well balanced and dialogue remains free from distortion.
English subtitles are provided for anyone in need.
Chris Anderson (editor, Fangoria magazine) is a super fan of this movie and provides one of the most entertaining commentary tracks I have heard in a while. He did not work on the film, but has established ties with many of those who did and he shares one colorful anecdote after another with minimal downtime. He apologizes in advance for the inevitable lags as he gets sucked into quietly watching the movie, but luckily it doesn’t happen too often.
Director Luigi Cozzi speaks on how the film came about and how he was influenced by other cinematic hits including Alien and Invasion of the Body Snatchers in a vintage documentary (23 minutes) featuring the man at home and at work on set. The piece is in Italian with English subtitles.
Luigi Cozzi and Ian McCulloch sit down for a Q&A hosted by Arrow Video’s Ewan Cant (41 minutes), recorded in 2014 at the Abertoir Horror Festival (Aberystwyth Arts Centre, Wales). The two old friends discuss to a packed audience how this project was created and how it has endured for 35 years.
Sound of the Cyclops (12 minutes) is an interview with musician Maurizio Guarini. He talks about joining the now legendary group Goblin, the band’s work on various film scores and how the industry has changed over the years. This is a fantastic interview that is a welcome addition to this release.
Luigi Cozzi VS Lewis Coates (43 minutes) is a newly recorded interview with the legendary director, who discusses his love of science fiction stories and how he got into film. Cozzi enthusiastically displays assorted books and magazines that influenced him as an artist from childhood onward. He goes on to discuss his early experiments with cameras and working with different film stocks. There is a lot of emphasis on the importance of telling entertaining stories and enjoying your work, and fans of his movies will recognize this as a code he fully endorses. This segment is in Italian and features English subtitles.
In Imitation is the Sincerest Form of Flattery: A Critical Analysis of the Italian Cash-In (17 minutes), authors Maitland McDonagh and Chris Poggiali discuss the wonders of Italian knock-offs inspired by the films Alien, Star Wars, Conan the Barbarian, The Road Warrior, and Jaws among others. This is a highly entertaining and fast-moving piece that could easily sustain a running time three times the length.
The film has inspired a beautiful graphic novel by artist Sergio Muratori, and it appears here in the form of a photo gallery (55 images).
The original theatrical trailer offers an inviting look at this crazy movie.