The Film (3.5/5)
If you read my recent Howling II review, I recently called out my younger self for having no sense of humor/fun. Thus, when I began exploring Italian horror, and grabbing on to everything I could find Contamination became a film I disliked from the first time I saw it. First off it was derivative of a film I DID love (Zombie), and outside of that it just seemed overly silly, and a bit inept.
A few years ago another Cozzi film ended up on my doorstep, his Star Wars riff Star Crash. I expected to hate it like I did Contamination, but I did not, I loved it. The Killer Must Kill Again followed suit, followed by the Black Cat, and all of a sudden I found myself a fan of Luigi Cozzi. But I had not gone back to Contamination, not for at least 15 years now. It is now July 2015, and those lovely folks at Arrow Video have seen fit to scoop up the rights to Cozzi's Italian blend of Alien and Zombie, remaster the film, and put it out on Blu-ray, and I decided the time was right for a revisit, and while even now the film could not be considered a cinematic masterpiece it was a fun time, and a great example of popcorn Italian horror done very well.
The film begins, almost notoriously, in a sequence that is a direct copy cat of the opening to Lucio Fulci's Zombie. A police crew find a ship drifting into New York Harbor, they hop on board to investigate to discover the ship littered with large ugly green eggs. One of them was near a warm pipe, and had managed to gestate, a moment later the egg explodes unleashing an acidic goo all over the crew. Within a few minutes all but one of the crew members have exploded from exposure to the substance.
The police begin to investigate, and in the process bring on board the only person they find that has experience with these eggs a Space Commander Ian Hubbard played by Zombie's Ian McCulloch. He warns the police of the eggs, and their abilities, and how they must be stopped. He is then put in charge of a small crew, and tasked with going to South America where the boat at the beginning came from in order to find the origin of the eggs, and hopefully stop the spread.
Contamination is ridiculous fun. It's a bit slow going after the opening of the film, but picks up toward the middle, and especially the end. The film is basically the Italian Street Trash of exploding eggs and people, and that works just fine for me. The menace throughout most of the film is the eggs, and later the people possessed by the task of protecting them, toward the film's conclusion we are treated to an amazingly cheesy looking Cyclops creature that must be seen to be believed, and ramps up the wow factor far past 11.
The main cast is good for the most part with McCulloch offering a solid turn. There is an amazing moment at the end where he goes totally 80's action hero, that I loved and kept me smiling for days after. The script from Cozzi and Erich Tomek meshes Alien with Zombie conceptually, and then attempts humor by trying the action film one-liner thing that was popular at the time, but because English isn't the first language of the writers it comes off a bit stilted, unnatural, and quite a bit bizarre, and thus COMPLETELY AWESOME.
I watched Contamination twice decades ago, and failed to connect. Now I've connected, and connected HARD. It will certainly not be that long again.
Arrow Video releases Contamination with a fantastic 1:85:1 1080p AVC encoded transfer. The transfer present here is quite excellent with solid black levels, excellent fine detail, a nice grain structure, and fine clarity. There are some bits of damage throughout, nothing too distracting though, and some softness that is more a product of the film's production than anything else.
The audio is presented in LPCM 1.0 tracks in English and Italian. The film is Italian, but as such has no native language to speak of as sound is not recorded on Italian film sets (maybe that's changed for recent films). I stuck to the English track for this one, and it sounded fine with dialogue, score, and effects being completely audible, and no issues like pops, cracks, or hissing being present.
Arrow Video have loaded Contamination up with extras features including a commentary track with Fangoria editor Chris Alexander. We also have multiple interviews and featurettes with director with director Luigi Cozzi, Cozzi is like the unofficial historian for Italian horror and genre cinema and his insights here, and throughout the edition are a delight. We also get multiple documentaries, interviews, Q&A, trailers, a reversible cover, liner notes from Fangoria editor Chris Alexander (a must read), and more.
When I first saw Contamination close to 20 years ago, I hated it. Granted, I attribute that to not having a sense of humor. Now, I find that I really enjoyed the film, and would easily consider myself a fan. The film is certainly derivative of it's source material, but it is a gooey, silly, good time, with a nice even pacing, and an excellent Goblin Score. The Blu-ray from Arrow Video is the best the film has ever looked on home video, and the extras really offer a lot of value to fans of the film. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.