Released in 1980 to cash in on the success of Ridley Scotts Alien a couple of years prior, Contamination isn’t as blatant a rip off as the likes of Great White but it does heavily borrow from Alien, but still manages to be an absolute blast of a movie. Now re-released by Arrow Video in a lavish Blu-ray set, Thom has a look at the film and the new package.
After the rather obvious Alien homage from the off the film Contamination will remind most people of is Zombie Flesh Eaters. The presence of Ian McCulloch, the scenes shot at New Yorks Hudson River and even the score by Goblin (although Goblin also scored Dawn of the Dead rather than Zombie Flesh Eaters, but the latter is cash in on the former!) but Contamination is no zombie film but does give off that vibe. The plot is straightforward. A cargo ship drifts into New York Harbour and the entire crew are all dead. A team go onboard to investigate and that goes badly for them too as they discover the horrifically mutilated remains of the original crew and glowing, pulsating green eggs the size of melons that will spew forth acid on to an unsuspecting victim at a moments notice. But why are these eggs here?
So, with the eggs you instantly see where the Alien comparisons are drawn but to be honest there’s not much else in Contamination to compare to the 1978 classic. Sure there’s the eggs and the acid, much like the acid bled in that film but as noted in one of the extras on this disc (will get to that later)…this film isn’t set in space! Directed by Luigi Cozzi, this film is pretty silly. Not as silly as one of Cozzi’s prior movies Starcrash though of course. When I met David Hasslehoff a few years ago, he proclaimed Starcrash to be “the worst movie ever made”, which is a bit unfair. Sure it’s bad, but not that bad!
Contamination is fortunately nothing like Starcrash. Taking the alien egg idea and adding an absolute ton of gore, this movie was actually part of the infamous Video Nasties list that plagued the UK in the 1980’s. It’s crazy to think that this film would even make the list, especially now as it’s been released in the UK as a 15. The gore effects are a blast. Dave and I had a recent discussion on effects such as the ones used in Contamination on the podcast and I still believe they hold up. Maybe younger people brought up on CG effects would turn their noses up at a loads of red coloured “guts” spilling about the place and exploding everywhere but I think they look great.
Contamination is a lot of fun but in a lot of cases a film that brings in later plot points involving Columbian coffee or giant wibbly Cyclops creature would just completelty fall apart and lose the audience, but for me it didn’t. Sure it was still as stupid as anything but it wasn’t too much and if you had told me about these points beforehand I would definitely thought it would have been.
The film is a blast from start to finish, and thanks to the 2K restoration from Arrow Video it has never looked better. There’s also the option of Mono audio (uncompressed PCM on the Blu-ray disc) in both English and Italian languages. I always have a interior debate about what language to listen to films like this in. Sure, the film IS Italian but the intention was to make it seem like an American movie, but in this case both languages were both dubbed in later so it’s not a big an issue. As this is an Arrow release the extras are bountiful and also include their regular reversable cover to banish away all those pesky BBFC logos, a collectors booklet (which contains brand new writing on the film by Fangoria editor Chris Alexander) and this time a beautiful and very shiny slipcase sleeve which photos cannot do justice. I had a review copy of this disc and has yet to watch it when I walked into my local HMV and saw the slipcase…I was at the till before I knew what had happened!
Let’s have a look at those extras…
Luigi Cozzi on Contamination (22:55) This is an archive interview with Cozzi where he talks about the making of the film. It comes across as almost a “How To” piece at times though, with Cozzi detailing what each member of the crew does and how certain effects came to be. More a tutorial piece than anything, but still worth a watch for the behind the scenes archive material.
Contamination Q&A with Luigi Cozzi and Ian McCulloch (41:05) This is worth the price of the Blu-ray alone. Filmed last year and hosted by Arrow’s own Ewan Cant, this is a fascinating and at times hilarious look back on the making of Contamination. I won’t say too much about the content but highlights include tales of drug dealers on the set, and what happened when Ian McCulloch showed his golf club friends Zombie Flesh Eaters!
Sound of the Cyclops (11:31) An interview with Goblin keyboardist Maurizio Guarini on making the music of Contamination. His memories are a little hazy (they did make a lot of soundtracks and it was 35 years ago!) but it’s a nice bit of background about the band and what they do when they score a movie.
Luigi Cozzi vs. Lewis Coates (42: 53) A brand new interview with Cozzi about his career and Contamination. More fascinating stuff from the director here, but again don’t want to get into the meat of it too much, any fans of his need to see it.
Imitatation is the Sincerest Form of Flattery (17:26) A short documentary looking at the Italian genre movie cash ins on Hollywood Blockbusters. This is a fascinating piece that talks about the movies that cashed in on the likes of Jaws, Mad Max and Alien but also touches on the ones that beat films like The Running Man to the punch. Great stuff.
The Blu-ray also contains a graphic novel based on the original screenplay (on the disc), an audio commentary from the aforementioned Fangoria editor and longtime Contamination fan Chris Alexander making this a release an absolute must. Now just to bug Arrow about releasing Starcrash…it’s not that bad!