Directed by Luigi Cozzi.
Starring Ian McCulloch, Louise Marleau, Marino Masé and Siegfried Rauch.
Pod-like alien spores filled with an explosive acid are brought to Earth after a mission to Mars and distributed through a South American coffee company by alien clones.
Contamination is what you get when you mash together Invasion of the Body Snatchers and Ridley Scott’s Alien, which could be a dream recipe for some but when you consider that it was directed by Italian filmmaker Luigi Cozzi (Starcrash/Hercules) and was part of a succession of Italian knock-offs of Hollywood blockbusters then the shine is considerably duller than what you may have first thought.
Beginning very much like Zombie Flesh Eaters by having a deserted boat afloat in a New York harbour, Contamination stars that film’s lead Ian McCulloch as Ian Hubbard, an astronaut who lead a mission to Mars where his colleague Hamilton (Siegfried Rauch – Patton) seemingly disappears and is presumed dead. Colonel Stella Holmes (Louise Marleau – Black Mirror) begins investigating the abandoned boat and finds some pod-like eggs that are filled with strange goo that sprays out when the pods are disturbed and causes whoever gets covered to explode. Holmes links the pods to Hamilton’s mission and, with the broken down Hamilton and cop Tony Aris (Marino Masé – The Godfather Part III) in tow, sets about finding out what the pods are and why they are being gathered up by the New York underworld.
And what she discovers is something quite unusual, as the pods are being shipped to Columbia and put into the coffee supply from a plantation so a cyclopic alien being can take over the world. Why? Doesn’t really matter as once the film gets to the point where we see the alien it has descended into 1950s B-movie territory. Not a bad thing but the journey getting to that point is something of a slog as Contamination is one of the most expositional sci-fi/horror movies, and considering this was once on the list of banned video nasties then you may wonder what all the fuss was about.
In fact, this stunningly clean Blu-ray transfer highlights exactly what got the censors so bothered back in the early ‘80s as the exploding bodies are shown very graphically and with lots of detail, despite the fact that you can clearly see the bulky squib mechanisms under the actor’s costumes. If you’ve only ever seen this film on a grubby VHS or the rather flat-looking Anchor Bay DVD release from a few years back then this HD release is definitely an improvement visually, but the scenes of exploding entrails are few and far between, only vaguely breaking up the monotony of the dialogue-heavy plot.
The main problem is that the film spends far too long trying to establish a romance between Colonel Holmes and the very irritating Tony Aris, which feels very shoehorned in and not very convincing, and not on the more interesting character of Ian Hubbard, who isn’t introduced into the film until 35 minutes in. Along with the dull romance there is also a lot of clumsy science thrown in to try and baffle us when really all the film needed to do was to keep it simple. A bit of editing and Contamination could have been a lot more enjoyable as the lack of pacing really drags it down. When it works – i.e. when people’s stomachs are exploding and when Ian McCulloch is on-screen – Contamination is as good as any other Alien knock-off you can mention; even when the hilarious Monster Munch-style Cyclops appears 15 minutes before the end the film displays a bit of energy and mischief, but with about an hour’s worth of bad dubbing, cheesy dialogue and a daft plot about contaminated coffee to get through it doesn’t really build up any suspense and it won’t be too far into it before your mind will start to wander. Overall, it’s a lovely looking transfer and Arrow Films have packed the disc with lots of additional content to make the experience more complete, making it a valuable addition to any Arrow aficionado’s collections, but as a film Contamination has some fun moments but those moments are few and far between.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★/ Movie: ★ ★