Video Nasties #4 Contamination

By Scott Murphy

We may only be onto our 4th film but it is has probably already become entirely obvious that Italian films are healthily represented in the video nasty list with them featuring with the second most films on the list after the USA. Italian cinema of the time, unless you were working at the Fellini/Antonioni end of the market loved to emulate or well just plain rip off hits from the States. The next film on our look through the list is one such film…

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Contamination (1980)

Director: Luigi Cozzi

Starring: Ian McCulloch, Louise Marleau, Marino Masé, Siegfried Rauch, Gisela Hahn

Run Time: 82mins

Originally: Part of the Non-Prosecuted 33

Current staus: Released uncut in 2004 with a 15 rating!

Director Luigi Cozzi before making this film was not unfamiliar with making something that borrowed heavily from something else as his previous film “Starcrash” had merrily ripped-off “Star Wars” that said it did so in a bizarre and campy fashion which makes it oddly compelling viewing. Inspired by making that Cozzi wanted to direct another sci-fi film and after seeing “Alien” knew what type of film he wanted to do although all did not go quite to plan as this is no straight “Alien” rip-off as we will find out.

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The film opens in a very similar fashion to “Zombie Flesh Eaters” (you may be unsurprised to learn that this films production offices were in the same building as the ones for Fulci’s film) with an abandoned boat in a New York. This time of course the deserted vessel is not got Zombies on board but a multitude of alien eggs which have been hidden in boxes pertaining to contain Colombian coffee. These eggs it is quickly discovered when warm start to glow and pulsate and make humans in the near vicinity chests explode. The way this is done is quite hilarious as you can tell when this about to happen as characters are clearly wearing a bulky device under their clothes set to go off. However the impressive gore spray of these body explosions is what landed it in hot water with the British censors and admittedly while clunky these deaths are magnificently bloody plus the judicious use of slow-mo makes them both funnier and more epic.

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The last survivor of the police team who searched the boat Lieutenant Tony Aris (Marino Masé) is soon scooped by a secret military division who, if the sets are anything to go by, look like they work on a space station (they don’t). The chief investigator into these mysterious (American) football sized eggs is Colonel Stella Holmes (Louise Marleau) who is stereotypically for female authority figures in these films is feisty, intelligent and icily efficient (well she is until the third act). No worries, Lieutenant Aris is no less clichéd as he is a wise-cracking, heavy-smoking, silver tongued Noo Yoik detective. That said both actors seem to have fun with their roles and there is decent chemistry between the two. Also entertaining in his role is Ian McCulloch (who you may remember from Zombie Flesh Eaters) as Commander Ian Hubbard our nominal lead who had been discharged from the army after claiming to see the same eggs now appearing on a Mars mission then he was thought mad but obviously not now.

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In a weird piece of mash-up while Earthbound, due to budgetary constraints, it is clear the film is lifting from “Alien” up until Lieutenant Aris, Colonel Holmes and Commander Hubbard set off to find the source of the eggs when the film switches to being a Bond rip-off with Hubbard as Bond and his former Astronaut colleague Hamilton (Siegfried Rauch) as the Bond-style villain who has clearly taken style tips from Dr No and, of course, has an underground lair. This section actually has some of its high points plus it is most boring sequence in which one of Hamilton’s henchmen places one of the eggs in Colonel Holmes bathroom while she is having a shower. While the scene is clearly extended in order to try to create tension it does not. It just drags and drags and seems entirely reliant on the slow walking of both Hubbard and Aris. Despite this sequence the rest of the film is entertainingly fast paced.

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Also entertaining is the finale when we meet the monstrous Cyclops alien which has been manipulating events (this is no spoiler as if you buy the recent Arrow release it is on the box cover). This giant alien, which apparently a large chunk of the budget went on, would not have looked out of place on a Tom Baker-era episode of Doctor Who.

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Overall: There is plenty of wooden acting, healthy servings of hammy dialogue and it has more than its fair share of ropey effects but thanks to regular bloody chest explosions and enjoyable performances by the central trio of Ian McCulloch, Louise Marleau and Marino Masé it is entirely watchable.

Available HERE from ARROW FILMS on Blu-Ray and DVD!!

Nastiness rating: 2/10 (Even by the standards of the day it is silly it made the list)

Movie Rating: 5.5/10

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