1980 - 95m.
From the get go Contamination is gooey. There's guts exploding everywhere and it's pretty rad but then it becomes a dull murder mystery until it circles back around to the wet stuff (and some alien insanity) which almost, but not quite, redeems it. I remember seeing this once as a youngster but recalled absolutely nothing when I popped it into my player. It's a flick I'd always assumed, judging from the poster artwork and basic plot summary, was just a low-budget Italian riff on Alien from director Luigi Cozzi (using his Lewis Coates pseudonym) who previously did the hilariously inept sci-fi Star Wars rip-off Starcrash. Boy, was I wrong. In fact, I think I might've preferred if it was because then I might not have been sitting there twiddling my thumbs waiting the entire mid-section of the movie for something remotely horror to happen.
In a case of the Italians cannibalizing each other, this opens pretty much the same as Lucio Fulci's Zombie as the New York port authority is investigating a seemingly unmanned boat drifting into harbour. After they've climbed aboard they soon find the ship's crew dead and mutilated (hello, lingering gore shots!) before they stumble across some strange green eggs in the cargo hold, one of which is wedged between some heating coils and menacingly glowing. As we all know, strange glowing eggs are not a good thing and it soon bursts - as do the people around its intestines. So far, so awesome.
The government recruits Colonel Holmes (Louise Marleau) who soon figures out the eggs came back with astronaut Hubbard (Ian McCulloch) during a failed Mars mission. Holmes, the now alcoholic train wreck Hubbard and wise-cracking cop Tony (Marino Mase) have to team-up to try and figure out a deeper conspiracy involving our deadly eggs that leads to a whole bunch of spy-like sequences, boring intrigue, and a trip to Columbia where they're constantly on the run from some baddies who want them dead. In between all the bland mystery elements there are a few scattered exploding chests to keep your attention, some silly dubbing to chuckle at, and our eggs giving off a creepy moaning noise before we head to a finale that FINALLY trots out more 80's slimy alien creature goodness as well as some Lovecraft inspired cult craziness.
As our heroic trio the leads actually have pretty good chemistry together. French-Canadian actress Marleau makes one of her few English language movie appearances and gives her character just enough authority to lord over her male counterparts. McCulloch, who a year prior starred in Zombie as well as the nutty as hell Zombie Holocaust (aka: Doctor Butcher, M.D. - an amazing title if there ever was one!), plays his drunkard spaceman to the hilt and I really had fun watching him overact and riff on Mase. Speaking of Mase, his sarcastic New York cop is better than this movie deserves and he cracks a whole lot of jokes between a few macho action moments. His casting here makes sense since he appeared in a bunch of Italian "Poliziotteschi" (crime) films that we popular in the 70's.
Contamination, like a lot of Italian lensed genre flicks of its time, suffers from its goofy script. Nothing is ever really explained and it feels tossed together which isn't helped by Cozzi not delivering what I signed up for in the first place: gore and aliens. Instead we plod through a weak thriller while Goblin's musical score tries to keep things exciting. Sure, it delivers the goods in the finale but even the cool "book ends" of gooey, gut-bursting mayhem can't make up for the fact I looked at the running time way too many times for comfort. Cozzi's aforementioned Starcrash and his two Lou Ferrigno staring Hercules movies are more slipshod but infinitely more entertaining also. If you're a fan of 80's Italian cinema then maybe check this out. There are some things to like but it's mostly a pretty weak amalgamation of two different sub-genres that just didn't work too well for me personally.
The recently released blu-ray from Arrow Video presents the movie the best it's probably looked and loads in some extras that are more fun than the flick itself. There's a commentary track, a weird Italian 'making of' documentary hosted by Cozzi, Q&A footage with Cozzi and McCulloch, a trailer, and two featurettes: one on Goblin's music and the other a greatly entertaining look at Italy's 'mockbusters'. (Chris Hartley, 9/21/15)
Directed By: Lewis Coates (Luigi Cozzi).
Written By: Lewis Coates (Luigi Cozzi), Erich Tomek.
Starring: Ian McCulloch, Louise Marleau, Marino Mase, Siegfried Rauch.