Sunday, 5 July 2015

Contamination (1980)

"Green Eggs and Ham Acting"

Part of the Italian boom of ‘let’s rip off everything in sight’ of the late seventies and early eighties, Luigi Cozzi’s science fiction-adventure-horror movie is now available on Blu-ray courtesy of Arrow Films.
When a seemingly unmanned ship drifts into a New York harbour the authorities are alerted, with NYPD cop Tony Aris (Marino Mase) heading up the team. So far, so very ZOMBIE FLESH EATERS but when they get on board in their lovely white decontamination suits that would show up even the slightest speck of red (let’s hope they don’t get any on them, shall we?), they discover several dead bodies and loads of cartons of coffee. 

Something worrying in the toilet

“Whatever killed these men it wasn’t coffee,” someone helpfully observes, before spotting one of the boxes has broken open. It’s full of balloons painted green and one of them has rolled over to settle beneath some hot pipes. It’s glowing and emitting a mournful sound. Whether it’s in pain, sad, or just embarrassed to be in this film it’s not possible to say, but the sound is curiously disturbing and could have been used to much better effect elsewhere, by which I mean an entirely different film.

The one-eyed monster responsible for the deadly seeds = ?symbolism

Someone picks the egg up. It explodes. The person who picked it up explodes. The people next to the person who picked it up explode. Only Tony is left and he quickly scarpers to alert the even-more-authorities which turn out to be Colonel Stella Holmes (Louise Marleau), who hates being called ‘baby’ but is okay with being slapped later on (as if we didn’t know this was an Italian film already). 

Tiny plasticine balls

There’s some daft nonsense about the eggs actually being collections of bacteria and Colonel Stella makes a rat explode. Could it all be something to do with that manned mission to Mars? What manned mission to Mars? Why, the manned mission to Mars that should probably have been at the start of the film, except that then CONTAMINATION wouldn’t have started like ZOMBIE FLESH EATERS before trying to be ALIEN and audiences might have got confused.

Go Ian!

Stella tracks down alcoholic astronaut Ian Hubbard (Ian McCulloch - hooray!) who tells her a story about seeing little green plasticine balls (or possible olives) inside a quite nicely lit model cave. She makes various and excessive references to his  presumed impotence. He slaps her. Italian soap opera theatrics out of the way, the two of them travel with Tony to South America where the nuts and the eggs come from. There the film suddenly switches into James Bond territory, complete with safari-suited villain and his ice-maiden sidekick. There’s a huge one-eyed monster that McCulloch kills (perhaps the impotence bit wasn’t so irrelevant after all). All the baddies get shot. The end.

Not coffee

CONTAMINATION is a load of rubbish, and is only intermittently entertaining. Despite a lot of gore at the start, and a fine wobbly slimy monster at the end, there are long bits where nothing happens. The scene where an egg is left in Stella’s bathroom should evoke suspense but instead one finds oneself marvelling at how long this particular bit is going on for. The plot makes no sense and everything seems to be a rip-off of something better. In that respect if no other, CONTAMINATION might be considered the apotheosis of 1980s Italian exploitation cinema, but that’s probably not enough of a reason for many people to need to watch it.

Go again, Ian!

Arrow’s Blu-ray beats the old Region 0 Blue Underground disc in every way. The transfer is better and there are more extras, including a brand new commentary track by Fangoria editor Chris Alexander, who obviously loves the film and applause to him for doing so. The ‘Luigi Cozzi on the Creation of CONTAMINATION’ has been ported over, as has the graphic novel, which is easier to access on Arrow’s disc. New extras include an interview with Goblin keyboardist Maurizio Guarini who talks about the ups and downs of working in a tempestuous 1970s rock band, the lineup seemingly changing more often than Spinal Tap. He also plays a few snippets on his piano and more of this would have been most welcome.
The best extra - which for me makes this disc worth a look - is a Q&A from last year’s Abertoir film festival featuring Luigi Cozzi and Ian McCulloch. Both talk fondly and amicably about the making of the movie, and some of the stories are jaw-dropping. There’s also a featurette about Italian ‘Mockbusters’ which is great but is far too short. In fact the credits start rolling before Maitland McDonagh has finished speaking.
         As usual you get a trailer, reversible sleeve (lovely) and a collector’s booklet. Arrow have almost treated CONTAMINATION too well. Oh, and if the terrible dubbing puts you off, watch it with the Italian dialogue track, which makes everything far more bearable. 

Arrow Films are releasing Luigi Cozzi's CONTAMINATION on dual format Region A&B Blu-ray and Region 2 DVD on 6th July 2015


  1. The more I read, the more I remembered just how bad this movie is. Next time I see the disc on my shelf and consider watching it, this review will pour back into my head. Thanks for that (and the very entertaining review).

    Have you reviewed "Zombie Lake"? Still the worst Horror movie I've ever seen. Not even in a funny way... Just awful. ha


  2. Thanks for the kind words! ZOMBIE LAKE crossed my radar many years ago, late night on the Horror Channel! I stayed with it for a bit but gave up in the end. If there's ever a Blu-ray release and I feel brave enough I may give it another go!