Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Contamination (1980)

Title: Contamination (1980)

Director: Luigi Cozzi

Writer: Luigi Cozzi, Erick Tomek

Cast: Ian McCulloch, Louise Marleau, Marino Mase


Fellow movie reviewer/blogger James, from the blog known as 42nd Street Cinema reviewed Luigi Cozzi’s Contamination a while back on his blog and it caught my attention for various reasons. First it’s an Italian sci-fi which means, low budget, corny dialog, bad dubbing, and the ripping off of some successful American film. That’s a formula for fun times if there ever was any. I enjoy that kind of film, there’s a charm to watching a cheesy b-movie. There is. I try to convince my girlfriend about the glories of watching a cheesy splatter fest, but alas, I've been very unsuccessful. Second, this film was made by Luigi Cozzi, the guy who directed those two Italian Hercules movies: Hercules (1983) and The Adventures of Hercules (1985) with Lou Ferigno. You want to know what a cheesy sword and sandal movie is like? Watch those two films! You could also watch Lucio Fulci’s Conquest (1983)! Wow there’s a cheese ball if there ever was one. Conquest is like a cheap version of Conan the Barbarian mixed with a little bit of Clash of the Titans! But I’m getting side tracked here. Back to Cozzi and Contamination! Cozzi also directed a film called Star Crash (1979) a film that I have been dying to see for the longest time. Unfortunately, it’s a hard movie to get a hold of! Meaning that its not on dvd yet. But Contamination is, and it’s the film Ill be reviewing today.

One of the alien eggs

The film starts off similarly to Lucio Fulci’s Zombie (1979) with an abandoned ship racing towards the shores of New York City. Umberto Lenzi’s Nightmare City (1980) starts the same way, but with a mysterious plane landing on an aiport. It’s the same type of premise. A seemingly empty boat/ship/plane is headed towards the city. What horrors will it hold inside? On Contamination, a crew of scientists/policemen go into the ship to investigate. As they descend deeper into the bowls of the ship, they discover bodies that have apparently been ripped to shreds. One of the scientist’s points out that they also look as if they had exploded from the inside. Point is, they are walking amongst grizzly dismembered human remains. So what do they do? They walk deeper into the boat! Sure, that’s the smartest thing to do! As they continue descending they come upon a slimy group of alien eggs which begin to pulsate and glow! Do the scientists and policemen leave? Do they consider this a dangerous situation? Nope. They decide to stick around and see what happens to these strange pulsating egg things. The eggs explode and spray them with its deadly contents. The alien slime that jettisons from the eggs has an interesting effect on humans. It makes them explode! And so they do. Most of the scientists and cops end up with their stomachs exploding violently! It’s up to the sole survivor of this grizzly event, a retired astronaut, and a female military Colonel to find the rest of the eggs that might be spread about the country. Will they find more eggs? Can they prevent the end of humanity? And just what kind of creature is laying these eggs?

I had lots of fun with this movie. To comply with Italian horror movie rule #557, this film is a rip off of a highly successful American film. That film is Ridley Scott’s Alien (1979). This, as is the case in many Italian horror films like Conquest (1983) Beyond the Door (1974) and 1999: The Bronx Warriors (1982) was entirely done on purpose to cash in on the success of the American film they are inspired by. I guess these Italian produces were simply trying to make their cash. Can’t say I blame them. They were trying to keep up with what was popular at the time. But I have to hand it to Cozzi who made a film that both satisfied the producers (giving them elements from Alien) and making a science fiction film that would satisfy him. Cozzi is a self professed lover of science fiction films. He’s whole life he had been trying to make one, and he did. Star Crash (1979) was a “big-budget” and ambitious science fiction film. A homage to 50’s sci-fi. By the way, Contamination is also a homage to 50’s science fiction film The Quatermass Experiment (1955) with all those scientists walking about with their special masks and suits.

But apparently, science fiction was seen at that time as a kiss of death by Italian film producers. They had no faith in sci-fi back in those days. So Cozzi had to rely on making science fiction films that were disguised as horror films. Again, in this way, he satisfies producers by giving them their horror film (that’s sure to make money) and making what he loves, a science fiction film. He did this with Contamination. It is equal times horror and science fiction. It takes place on earth, in this way reducing the costs of having to build any expensive sets, but eventually ends up being about aliens wanting to take over the earth. I think Conzzi needs to be congratulated for making this film in spite of budgetary constraints. Something is really strange about this movie. It was influenced by Alien, but when you look at it, it feels more like James Cameron’s Aliens (1986). I believe that Cameron maybe saw both Alien and Contamination as a kid, and was influenced by it when he was writing Aliens. Contamination even has a “alien queen” laying the eggs in the ending of the film! They burn the eggs with a flame thrower! The queen is a giant monster they face off in the end. Of course, Contatmination didn’t have the production values that Cameron’s Aliens had, but hey, I’m just sayin the similarities are there.

The cave in which the alien eggs are hidden in

It similarities with Ridley Scott’s Alien are extremely evident. It has that whole backstory about being finding alien eggs on a distant unexplored planet. On Contamination, the eggs are found during an expedition to Mars. Somehow the eggs end up going back to earth and for some reason, they are spreading around the city of New York. Cool thing about these alien eggs is that when they explode, whoever’s around them gets sprayed by this green alien juice and then they explode to smithereens! This movie was banned in a couple of countries because of the stomach exploding sequences. Gotta hand it to these guys, the stomach exploding scenes are a highlight of this flick, they give the film its uniqueness. The production crew decided to use real animal innards in some scenes, so expect an additional gram of gruesomeness on this one. By the way Romero did the same thing on Day of the Dead (1985). He used real animal intestines during those scenes in which Captain Rhodes is ripped to shreds by the hoards of zombies.

There might be some spoilers ahead. If you are feeling adventurous go on and read them. Contamination is the kind of film that ends with a giant creature that the protagonists have to confront and obviously destroy by the films climax. It joins the ranks amongst other films that also end with slimy, tentacled creatures like Slither (2006), Jack Brooks Monster Slayer (2007) and Society (1989). Movies with one big static creature that is deadly, even though it really doesn’t move that much because the budget didn’t allow for more. Cozzi wanted to use stop motion animation for the Alien Cyclops that appears at the end of this movie, but he was prohibited to do so by his producers. So he had to make do with an animatronic beast that doesn’t really move much. Still, with the help of some crafty editing, and cleverly shot sequences, the alien creature ended up being a pretty cool creature. It made me remember films like John Carpenter’s The Thing (1982) or the Freddy Worm that tries to swallow Patricia Arquette whole in Nightmare on Elm Street III: The Dream Warriors (1987).

The Alien Cyclops! Stare at its hypnotic eye!

There are other pluses in the film. The music was made by legendary Italian band Goblin, who as some of you may know scored a great number of Italian Horror films. Most of Dario Argento’s films had a score by Goblin. So did Lucio Fulci movies. So that’s definitely a plus for this one, giving the film that distinctive Italian horror movie feel. It also stars Ian McCulloch, whom some of you might remember from Lucio Fulci’s City of the Living Dead (1980) and Zombie (1979). He plays a drunken, pissed off retired astronaut who says lines like: “What else do you want to know about me?! How many times I screw!?” So that’s my take on Luigi Cozzi’s Contamination. Make no mistakes about it, this is an Italian splatter fest, with both is pro’s and con’s. It’s a B-Movie every step of the way and yes, it’s a rip of a bigger budgeted American production. But hey, it’s still a supremely fun watch. If you’re in the mood for cheap Italian rip off’s that still manages to retain its entertainment value then look no further then this. And if you have a copy of Star Crash that you can swing my way, contact me please! I’m dying to see that movie!

Rating: 3 out of 5

 Beyond The DoorContaminationConquest


Shaun Anderson [The Celluloid Highway] said...

How similar was the opening of this movie to Lucio Fulci's Zombi 2? I quite liked this. The most important test this film had to pass was whether the alien stomach explosions were as good as in Ridley Scott's film. The answer is they are as good, and in slow motion too. I wonder if you knew Franco that this film was banned for a while in the UK as a video nasty. It is only in the last 5-10 years that the film became available uncut over here.

Franco Macabro said...

Yeah, I read something about that. There is a heavily edited version out there known as "Alien Contamination", but wheres the fun in watching this movie without the gory mayhem!

It had one really good scene that got me kind of impatient, its that scene where the lady Colonel is locked inside a bathroom with one of the eggs which is obviously about to burst! Loved that scene.

This was a fun movie. I want to see more of these cheesy Italian movies, I cant get enough of them.

Snipes said...

I yes, I've watched and reviewed this one. This is part of the Mills Creek 250 Horror Collection. Not the worst I've seen in that set, which isn't much to say, but it's about all I can say about the film.

Snipes said...

Oh, and Star Crash is awesome, I love that film. Best B-movie I have ever seen. Your best bet in getting a hold of that is through a torrent site, because you'll never be able to rent it, and good luck finding a copy to buy cheap. I really wish it would get cleaned up and released on Blu-ray but that will probably never happen.

Snipes said...

Okay I take that back looks like Starcrash will be released on Blu-ray in September!

Franco Macabro said...

Thanks for the info Answer, if its gonna appear on Blu Ray, chances are it will be on DVD as well, which is great news, cause I still haven't upgraded to Blue Ray.

I Like Horror Movies said...

I gotta disagree here, I thought this was a steaming pile and I had trouble not turning it off. The gore was fun, but the ridiculous amount of filler just killed it for me. That bathroom scene went on foreeeeeeeever =D

Franco Macabro said...

Really? Man I loved that bathroom sequence! It was pretty intense in my book, that egg was about to burst and make the lady scientist explode! Plus that sound the eggs make before the explode...so unnerving!

But hey, I get what you mean, this movie is in no way a masterpiece.


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