Contamination (1980)

Author: Brett Gallman
Submitted by: Brett Gallman   Date : 2012-06-06 06:10

Written by: Luigi Cozzi and Erich Tomek
Directed by: Luigi Cozzi
Starring: Ian McCulloch, Louise Marleau and Marino Masť

Reviewed by: Brett Gallman

ďWhat else do you want to know about me? How many times a week I screw?"
"If you're always in that condition, it's obvious you couldn't get it up, even if you used a crane."

The chest-bursting scene from Alien is a perfect sequence, one thatís remembered for its horrific goriness. Itís the grossest, most visceral moment in an otherwise understated movie that relies on suspense. However, the visceral stuff is what many Alien imitators took and ran with; in fact, Contamination seems to have been hatched at a meeting where everyone involved dreamt of a way to outdo the Ridley Scott's famous scene. The problem is that they didnít do much else--hell, they even seem to care how they could squeeze an actual alien into most of the film. Instead, all they needed were the eggs, some goo, some exploding bodies, and maybe half a plot to bring it all together.

Contamination actually recalls another movie at first: Lucio Fulciís Zombie, as a derelict ship drifts into a New York harbor. A crew is dispatched to check it out, and all they find are eviscerated bodies, shipments of coffee, and some mysterious green eggs that explode into a green slime that spatters all over some of the members, reducing them to a pile of bloody viscera. Only tough New York City cop Tony Aris (Marino Mase) survives and lives to tell the tale to Colonel Stella Holmes (Louise Marleau), a Department of Defense liaison who surmises that the eggs might be connected to a mission to Mars from a few years earlier.

Luigi Cozzi (fresh off of delivering Star Wars cash-in Starcrash) reveals the point of Contamination pretty early, and, if you judge it on the sheer amount of viscera it splatters around, sure, they successfully one-upped the chest-bursting scene from Alien. The prosthetic bodies here literally explode like human piŮatas into a puddle of blood and guts, and itís a spectacularly trashy take on Alienís more clinically precise approach. The opening scene is actually quite great, anchored by both the great effects and a moody Goblin score that sets an eerie tone. It might even be on par with the opening sequence in Zombie--itís that good, which is why the remaining 75 minutes of Contamination are quite a disappointment. Frankly, it mostly sucks after this point, especially as a horror movie. Instead, the film attempts to ape Zombie again by having its characters jet off to an exotic locale, only itís played like some kind of spy movie.

In this case, itís South America, where thereís supposed to be some insidious and mysterious plot being cooked up. However, the script gives up the ghost completely by revealing exactly whatís going on--a character that was thought to be dead isnít, or at least doesnít appear to be, and the eggs are basically like WMDs that will be used to wipe out humanity so Martians can invade. Because the invaders operate on telepathy, thereís at least one guy who is inexplicably immune--Ian McCulloch, who plays one of the astronauts on the ill-fated Mars mission. Because all of this is revealed about midway through, Contamination is deathly paced, with the only suspense coming during a scene where McCulloch and Mase debate whether or not they should barge in on Marleauís room because it has a ďdo not disturbĒ sign placed on it. They donít know that this is part of an assassination attempt and that someoneís stuck one of the eggs in her bathroom and locked her in, so thereís an interminable sequence where she stares and screams in horror. All the while, you just want to see the bad boy explode because thatís all Contamination has to offer.

If it had any sort of an interesting story, it might work; sure, itís fraught with the same inane, tone-deaf dialogue and character interactions (check out the scene where Marleau goads McCulloch into slapping her around), but Cozzi can create cool scenes that exist in a vacuum. The flashback to the Mars mission is this low budget, white-noise nightmare with McCulloch and a fellow astronaut examining a cave, and itís kind of eerie. Likewise, the final scene finally has some other neat animatronic effects work since an actual alien shows up and compels a character to walk right into its maw (sadly, itís not as gory as it should be). Plus, there are some more exploding bodies along the way, and the Goblin score is okay, albeit not among their most memorable. Marleauís performance is also rather fun, as sheís a sufficiently icy bitch that frequently clashes with Maseís laid back, dumb Brooklyn cop.

Itís a shame Cozzi couldnít stick them into a better movie. Contamination isnít exactly as hazardous as its title might suggest, but itís certainly a dreadful bore for much of its runtime. The life just gets sucked right out of it when it switches over to being more of a conspiratorial thriller instead of a straight-up horror flick like Alien 2: On Earth. Iíd like to think that combining both Italian Alien rip-offs might have resulted in a truly great movie. But alas, weíre left with what we have, but Blue Underground at least treated Contamination pretty well on DVD. Released nearly a decade ago, itís still a pretty decent release; the transfer is a little soft and flat, but this could very well be due to Cozziís photography; on the other hand, thereís three soundtracks, including a 6.1 DTS track that renders everything loud and clear, plus it adds a little oomph the Goblin score. Extra features include a couple of features with Cozzi, a trailer, a poster and stills gallery, and a graphic novel that can be accessed via DVD-ROM. There have been a few unauthorized releases under the title Alien Contamination, but avoid those; instead, track this one down via your favorite rental service. Rent it!

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