Contamination (1980)
By: M. Walsh on October 10, 2005  |  Comments  |  Bookmark and Share
All Regions, NTSC. 1.85:1 (16:9 enhanced). English DD 5.1, English DTS 6.1, English 2.0, English Mono. Stomp Visual (Australia). 95 minutes
The Movie
Director: Luigi Cozzi
Starring: Ian McCulloch, Louise Monroe, Martin Mase
Screenplay: Luigi Cozzi
Country: Italy
Year: 1980
AKA: Alien Contamination; Toxic Spawn; Contamination - Alien arriva sulla terra
In 1995, at the young and somewhat idealistic age of 14, I was offered a job at the local video store. I accepted without hesitation, never once stopping to consider that I would be earning far below minimum wage or that I would be employed there for over four years before being unceremoniously fired when the store changed hands. You see, being a local video store, we appreciated the shelf life of our tapes. Sure, half of them were chewed beyond repair and the ones that did play made a mockery of a customer's reckless attempts at "tracking", but they were made available nonetheless. The Video Classics release of Nightmare, complete and uncut, was one such gem. Island of Perversion, also uncut, with a dusty, sun-bleached and double-sided cover. A copy of Dawn of the Dead with the words 'This movie is real and it's gonna happen tonight' scrawled on the backside of the sleeve. A cornucopia of films that were Banned in Queensland, most of them an utter disappointment. The proprietors of the store, a lovely old German-Jewish couple who must have been in their seventies when they employed me, retired about a month before I did. Not that I retired, mind you, but it sounds a lot better than 'Was told by the new owners that they would call me, which they never did'.

Soon after this miscarriage of justice occurred, I was strolling past the store on my way home when I noticed, with revulsion and disbelief, a collection of eight plastic baskets filled with almost every cult, horror and exploitation film that we used to carry. There was a revolting sign above the baskets that read: All Tapes $2 $1. I was broke, completely destitute, so there was no way that I could rescue the tapes from what was sure to be a swift introduction to the large, smelly skip in the alley behind the shop.
I woke early the next day and took a trip to the video store. The tapes were gone. Lipstick, Rosemary's Killer, Santa Sangre, The Sword and the Sorcerer; all gone. Have you ever tried to find Humanoids from the Deep or Street Trash at a certain, unnamed multi-national video rental chain? Forget about it.

My old video store closed down about a month later. While I felt somewhat vindicated for being so rudely dismissed, nothing could help to ease the pain caused by those great old films being treated so carelessly. Which is why I, like so many other genre fans, have really struck gold with the advent of revival companies like Anchor Bay, Blue Underground, Barrel Entertainment and many others. So it was with great anticipation that I popped in the "totally uncut and uncensored" release of Luigi Cozzi's "gut-blasting" classic Contamination, and I'm very glad that I did.

Set sometime in the early 80's, Contamination is basically a flagrant rip-off of Alien. Strange, pulsating eggs are discovered on an, apparently, abandoned freight ship. The eggs explode once their temperature has increased to a certain point, spewing pea-green bile all over everything in the vicinity. If "everything" includes "someone", then a hilarious "gut-busting" ensues. I have no idea why. Apparently the eggs release a form of "pure acid". Make of that what you will. Ian McCulloch, playing a surly, drunken ex-astronaut, eventually saves the day through a combination of mental prowess and some nifty flare gun work.

The film itself can be quite easily divided into three acts. Act 1: People find eggs. It is during this act that the majority of the gut-busts occur. Now, before you start getting too excited, the busting effects themselves are unbelievably bad. It is painfully clear that the actors are positioned behind large, obtrusive "gut suits". It is also pretty obvious that a high-pressure device is being used to propel the guts and, in one delirious instance, the device itself is concealed behind nothing more than a sheet of white paper. Okay, now you can get excited.

Act 2: People find people. This act is really nothing more than an excuse for Luigi Cozzi to amaze us with his mastery of the written word. You can't enough clunky, expositional dialogue? Believe me, after this act you'll be begging for a single word that isn't used to explain, re-explain, question or answer one of the film's many abstract and scientifically accurate plot points. You don't think that the eggs are actually eggs? Neither does one of the film's scientists...for about three seconds, after which she not only refers to them as eggs again, but even makes mention of their "yolk". Can you see colours in black and white photographs, yet are afraid to admit this to anyone in case they lock you up? Don't worry, so can Ian McCulloch, and look where he is today! You have the awful feeling that the film actually makes no sense, that the eggs do very little other than explode and cause people's guts to bust and that releasing them into the sewers of New York would do, you know, what exactly? Sorry, but I can't help you there.

Act 3: People find eggs again. This act takes place in South America and contains one of the greatest suspense set-pieces in cinematic history. I won't spoil the surprise, but it involves a bathroom, an egg and the worst assassination plot ever devised. Act 3 also offers a wonderful scene of dialogue between the film's human antagonist and some broad who works for him. Now, it isn't the dialogue itself that makes the scene so memorable, it's rather an astonishing, fleeting instance of a small white "something" exiting the antagonist's mouth and landing on his bottom lip before being quickly sucked back into his mouth again. I watched the scene twice in an effort to determine just what that "something" was. My heart tells me that it was a tooth, which would make this scene the best ever filmed.

Contamination ends with Mr Tooth doing his best impersonation of a Bond villain and explaining his dastardly plot to his captors and then...then you're in for a real treat. I will say the words "The Cyclops" and then I will say no more.
To say that I was surprised by this transfer would be somewhat of an understatement. Colours are vibrant, black levels are rock solid and there is almost no print damage to speak of. The film stock itself was, obviously, not exactly top shelf. With that in mind, the image quality of this disc was far superior to what I was expecting.
All the audio options here, and there are a lot of them, are excellent. The 5.1 mix is immersive and clear, while the 2.0 and mono options are both solid mixes with no discernible anomalies at all. Common sense would therefore suggest that the 6.1 DTS mix would be just about perfect.
Extra Features
A treasure trove of special features, starting with an 18 minute interview with Luigi Cozzi that was conducted especially for this DVD. The interview, which runs under the heading Alien Arrives on Earth (Cozzi's original title for the film) is full of great insights into the production of Contamination. Cozzi comes across as an honest, if slightly idealistic, director with an overt fondness for American B-Movies. This observation is made even clearer when watching Luigi Cozzi and the making of Contamination, a vintage documentary filmed at the time of Contamination's release. Next up is a poster and stills gallery, some pretty nifty conceptual drawings and the film's theatrical trailer. Last, but certainly not least, is the Contamination graphic novel in .pdf format. A great selection of extras.
The Verdict
This is one of the best DVD releases of the year, regardless of how you feel about the film. The audio/video aspects are top notch, the score was performed by Goblin and there's a bit where a guy "possibly" loses a tooth on camera. I doubt it, but a man can dream. In addition to all that, this is hands down the funniest film I have seen all year, intentional or not. An essential purchase all round.
Movie Score
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