Director: Luigi Cozzi
Starring: Ian McCulloch, Louise Marleau, Marino Masé, Siegfried Rauch, Gisela Hahn, Carlo De Mejo, Carlo Monni
1/2 (out of 4)
Do you like green eggs and ham? I do not like them, Sam-I-am.
A true example of Italian exploitation trash, Luigi Cozzi’s Contamination (known on VHS as Alien Contamination) follows in the footsteps of other Italian directors (like Fulci) by placing a good portion of the action in New York City without knowing a damn thing about how things work there. It features Italian actors being dubbed over, having conversations meant to sound realistic but coming across as hilarious instead, leading to the scene where a local police lieutenant suddenly becomes all submissive towards a woman just because she informs him that she’s a “Colonel” working with “Internal Security, Special Division 5.” A real cop would have laughed and demanded to see the real person in charge, but I digress. What we have here is a gory piece of sci-fi/horror about alien eggs that, when bursting, cause people to explode. Think of it as a ripoff of Alien with a touch of Invasion of the Body Snatchers.
Bad egg gives tummyache.
So with echoes of Fulci’s Zombie, an abandoned ship floats into New York Harbor with these weird pulsating green eggs. One of them explodes, causing the unfortunate people around it to explode, and so the government takes over the case (which part of the government? Why… division 5, of course). When Col. Stella Holmes (Louise Marleau) is told that the eggs are alien in origin, she suddenly remembers the “Mars mission” where Cmdr. Ian Hubbard (Ian McCulloch, also seen in Zombie) returned warning about green eggs. Why she only now makes the connection between the two, and why the Mars mission is treated like a half-forgotten event is anybody’s guess. Anyway, she follows the trail to South America (the eggs were on a cargo ship containing coffee shipments) and she brings along your “average Brooklyn cop” Lt. Tony Aris (Marino Masé) along with Hubbard, who, being down on his luck, must regain his confidence by having Stella insult his manhood (“If you’re always in that condition, it’s obvious you couldn’t get it up, even if you used a crane.”)
The early scenes of people exploding are quite impressive for the budget; it makes me realize how much I prefer the icky mechanical effects to the sterile, fake-looking CGI of today. The scenes with a depressed, Bud/Heineken-drinking Ian McCulloch are gold (you can’t have a “video nasty” without him, can you?) and there’s the always reliable Goblin score. But Contamination drags once the trio hit South America, where Stella gets trapped in the bathroom with a pulsing, moaning egg in a sequence that needed better pacing. It leads to a confrontation with Hubbard’s possessed astronaut companion Hamilton (Siegfried Rauch) as well as the main monster called Cyclops. I love this monster – it’s an icky throwback to monsters of the ’50s but with an extra bit of nasty. It made me think of the brain bug from Starship Troopers, actually, especially the way it kills its victims.
They really are best when microwaved.
The biggest problem is that Contamination doesn’t know what the little green footballs are supposed to be. The science team in the beginning finds nothing but bacteria inside them but later we’re given the impression that they really are eggs, ready to hatch little green cyclops things. But we never see that happen. What was the plan again? As far as I can tell, it just involved random people having their guts explode outward. Still, Contamination manages to be an enjoyable sickie on the level of films like Xtro or Zombie, and despite all the nonsensical stuff (comes with the territory) the film is just logical enough, a surprise coming from the guy who gave us StarCrash. As Pauline Kael once said, “Movies are so rarely great art that if we cannot appreciate great trash we have very little reason to be interested in them.”
― Bill Gordon
The extras on the Blue Underground DVD are pretty good.
- Alien Arrives On earth (18 mins). An interview with Cozzi about the the origins and influences on the film, where he admits that Contamination is like the illegitimate son of Alien (the original title was actually Alien Arrives On Earth). He says that Ian McCulloch was chosen because Zombi 2 made so much money and they wanted to reuse the cast from that film. Louise Marceau was chosen because the producer wanted a female lead to be “older” and “ugly.” (his words). He says the beginning scene with the derelict ship is inspired by a scene in Them! (and not Zombi 2 – uh-huh…) Other inspirations for him include The Quartermass Xperiment and other B-movies from the 1950s.
- The Creation of Contamination (23 mins). An early feature where Cozzi walks us through the process of making the movie, including convincing the producers to give him money to make it. He again makes references to Alien, Them, Quatermass, Invasion of the Body Snatchers. (And then he says he doesn’t like to copy movies, LOL). There is some behind-the-scenes footage, a peek into makeup effects, a look at sets and shooting schedules. Some of it is so basic you’d think he was showing this to little kids who have never seen movies before. (“The actors don’t really explode.. it’s all fake!”) Despite that, the whole thing is quite fascinating and probably the best extra here.
- Trailer, poster and still gallery, conceptual drawings
- A cool graphic novel version of the film (accessed on the DVD-ROM portion of disc as a PDF)
Buy Contamination on DVD
Get The Contamination Soundtrack by Goblin
Become a scientist – blow up rats for fun!
Bonus Trivia: McCulloch’s character Hubbard is named after L. Ron Hubbard – Cozzi translated some of his books. Cozzi sometimes goes by the name Lewis Coates. He also directed the giallo The Killer Must Kill Again (1975), Starcrash (1979) with Caroline Munro and David Hasselhoff, and Hercules (1983) wuth Lou Ferrigno and Sybil Danning. Cozzi made two documentaries on Dario Argento, and managed Argento’s Profondo Rosso store in Rome.