CONTAMINATION (1980) BY LUIGI COZZI

Reviews

Alternative Titles: Alien Contamination; Alien on Earth; Toxic Spawn
Director: Luigi Cozzi
Writer: Luigi Cozzi, Erich Tomek
Year: 1980
Starring: Ian McCulloch, Louise Marleau, Marino Mase, Sigfried Rauch

Synopsis:
A cargo ship drifts into New York harbour. Its crew: all dead, their bodies horribly mutilated, turned inside –out by an unknown force. Its freight: boxes upon boxes of growing, pulsating green eggs. It soon becomes clear that these eggs are not of this planet, and someone intends to cultivate them here on Earth. But who? And to what end? [Taken from the Arrow blu-ray release]

Review:
Released only a year after Ridley Scott’s seminal ALIEN, Luigi Cozzi has openly stated that he never set out to copy this film but nonetheless due to just a couple of story choices many people have, incorrectly, dismissed CONTAMINATION as just an another Italian rip off. 

Opening with a helicopter over New York city we quickly discover a seemingly abandoned cargo ship that on further investigation turns out to not be as abandoned as first thought. With the crew all brutally killed all that is left are strange green eggs. Strange indeed.

With this initial set up now established writer/director Luigi Cozzi wastes no time getting to the action and within the first ten minutes we have our first (slo-mo) chest bursting sequence and we can tell that this sci-fi adventure is going to pack a punch.

After this incident NYPD Lt. Tony Aris (Marino Masé) is taken in for questioning by Col. Stella Holmes (Louise Marleau) and they discover that what they are dealing with is not of this world. This first act of the film is well paced and helps to set up the remainder of the story, aided by the strong chemistry between the two leads which allows Cozzi’s under-appreciated humour to shine through. 

Already, as previously mentioned, the viewer is able to determine that this film – at least plot wise – is not an ALIEN imitator despite liberally borrowing specific elements of that film.

By this point of the story our leads have discovered that although these eggs are from space, that someone must have brought them back. With that revelation former astronaut, Commander Hubbard (Ian McCulloch) is brought into the mix. The introduction of McCulloch is well timed and helps maintain the films momentum while driving the story into the second act and, as ever, McCulloch is on top form as the pitiful, disgraced alcoholic Hubbard. From here on out it the film becomes more of an action-romp as the trio set out to uncover the mystery and save the world culminating in a gripping finale with the unveiling of the gelatinous tentacle waving Cyclops overlord and Hubbard’s transformation back to the hero he once was.

For me, whether he is firing his rifle madly or cracking a joke, McCulloch steals the show adding an extra level of entertainment thanks to his strong performance and interaction with the other two key characters. The casting of McCulloch was particularly inspired thanks to his popularity not just in the TV show SURVIVORS but off the back of his tremendous performance in ZOMBIE FLESH EATERS, the success of which is believed to have helped his land this role.

Cozzi shows his ability to carve a decent story and then back it up with a competent level of directorial skill but more importantly considering the budget, he shows his creativity to defy budget limitations as he utilises the darkness and shadows to great effect in the underground scenes while making use of multiple cuts in the finale to overcome obvious defects with the monster. But I would once again like to bring up the script and the humour contained within. Cozzi sometimes states that people did not get the humour but it is in there and works really well providing a tonal balance to the film and giving it that extra layer of enjoyment.

This is a fun and entertaining film that is much more than of its parts and this release in particular should be a definite purchase for all genre and cult film fans. Sure there are some flaws and a couple of the sets look cheap (not to mention an ineffective final monster) but what do you expect from a film now thirty-five years old.

On a side note, oddly enough despite being a Sci-Fi fantasy film, CONTAMINATION still managed to end up on the UK’s Video Nasty list, but was not prosecuted, meaning that star Ian McCulloch featured in three investigated films (ZOMBIE FLESH EATERS and ZOMBIE HOLOCAUST). The film would then be passed not only uncut but with a 15 rating 24 years later.

Version Reviewed:
I watched the 2015 Arrow blu-ray release and once again Arrow hit it out of the park with the additional features. The dual disc (blu ray/dvd) release also features the older documentary ‘Luigi Cozzi on Contamination’ which provides an interesting insight to the films genesis alongside behind the scenes footage detailing how things were actually shot and the challenges the cast and crew faced.

Alongside this is a fantastic Q&A with Ian McCulloch and Luigi Cozzi. Filmed at one of the Abattoir film festivals this Q&A just goes to reinforce both the genuine nature of both of its contributors as they run through 40 minutes of delightful anecdotes and background information from their own perspective of the films history. Sadly, the ‘Sound of the Cyclops’ feature with Goblin keyboardist Maurizio Guarini, in which he discuses the score and a lifetime of making music for Italian horror is a little dry and adds (relatively) little compared to the other features despite its diverse angle of approach.

Back on track is the more recent ‘Luigi Cozzi Vs Lewis Coates’ interview in which Cozzi looks back on his entire career which is fascinating viewing and provides a bit more detail to some answers he gives in the earlier Q&A particularly in how disappointed he was with the final Cyclops that he was forced to use in the films finale.

The extra features do not stop there however as we get a critical analysis of the Italian genre movies which sought to cash-in on popular Hollywood blockbusters and the wider breath of this review is refreshing and sure to be of interest of anyone interested in Italian and cult cinema. Also featured is a theatrical trailer, a graphic novel based on the original screen play and an audio commentary with Chris Alexander who is also the primary contributor to the collectors booklet also included.

The film itself has been restored in 2K  and is presented in its original 1.85:1 aspect ratio and looks fantastic. Overall this is a phenomenal package giving new life to a little known sci-fi entry from thirty five years ago that still holds up today.

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