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Blu-ray Review: Contamination

Contamination cover art

@HellingsOnFilm reviews...

Synopsis:

Starring Italian horror veteran Ian McCulloch (Zombie Flesh Eaters), Contamination, from director Luigi Cozzi (Starcrash, Hercules) is one of the brightest stars in the firmament of early ’80s Italian splatter.

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 glowing, 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?

Contamination takes the premise of Ridley Scott’s classic Alien and peppers it with exploding guts galore and a dangerously infectious soundtrack from celebrated Italian prog-rockers Goblin (Deep Red, Suspiria).

Review:

Long time Dario Argento collaborator Luigi Cozzi (here credited under his international alias of Lewis Coates) recognised that he was never the auteur his mentor was, opting instead for the world of exploitation. Having seen Alien, he knew that a gore horror version would have financial possibilities. The market had just seen the success of Dawn of the Dead and Zombie Flesh Eaters, so exploitation films were entering a new age of low budget, fast shooting, fill them with gore possibilities.

Cozzi’s 1980 horror/Sci fi Contamination is pure exploitation, riffing Alien and Zombie Flesh Eaters (even using ‘ZFE’ lead Ian McCulloch), except in Contamination, when stomachs explode it’s full on slow motion gore and the film is all the better for it. The SFX were the work of Giovanni Corridori (Zombie Flesh Eaters, Tenebrae) and are bloody and highly effective. Interestingly, Cozzi wanted to cast British scream queen beauty Caroline Munro (Captain Kronos Vampire Hunter, Dracula AD 1972) but the producers wanted a ‘stronger actress’, and cast Louise Marleau. Cozzi admits that it would have been a very different film if Munro had been cast. As stunning as Munro was, it’s unlikely she would have pulled off the role in the way Marleau does. Ian McCulloch was hired by the producers based on the financial success of Zombie Flesh Eaters and is as watchable as ever, putting in the effort to create another enjoyable character.

poster for contamination

Cozzi knew that the idea was to “improve on what made money” (classic exploitation thinking). The budget may have been low, but the results were highly effective (sure, the Cyclops monster may look cheap, but it does nasty things, and that’s the point of it). There’s a feel, at times, of the world of Fulci (it would have been interesting to see what Lucio would have done with the material) in that the plot is pretty lightweight) and the actors work hard in a script that knows what it is. The soundtrack by Goblin provides a great atmosphere (was there ever a group that screamed ‘Italian Horror’ as well as they did?).

Contamination is a must for fans of late 70’s/early 80s Italian horror, the emphasis on shock and gore rather than plot and performance. It’s a fun ride and a throwback to a time in which horror used actors rather than models; before the torture porn dominated and we were plagued by a multitude of found footage rip offs and possession stories.

The restoration is excellent. There’s the right amount of grain and the picture is looking as good, if not better, than it did when the film originally came out. This is a first rate release.

The special features are extensive. Among the many highlights: Fangoria’s Chris Alexander provides an excellent commentary; there’s a new interview with Luigo Cozzi looking at his career; and a fascinating doc on how Italian cinema looked to cash in on Hollywood hits.

Highly recommended gory fun.

Special Features
  • Brand new 2K restoration of the film from the original camera negative 
  • High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) and Standard Definition DVD presentations 
  • Original Italian and English soundtracks in mono audio (uncompressed PCM on the Blu-ray) 
  • Newly translated subtitles for the Italian soundtrack 
  • Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing for the English soundtrack 
  • Brand new audio commentary by filmmaker, Fangoria editor and Contamination super-fan Chris Alexander 
  • Notes on Science-Fiction Cinema – an archive documentary featuring behind-the-scenes footage and director Luigi Cozzi on the birth of Contamination 
  • 2014 Q&A with Cozzi and star Ian McCulloch 
  • Sound of the Cyclops: Maurizio Guarini on the music of Contamination – the Goblin keyboardist discusses Contamination’s dark, progressive rock score and a lifetime of making music for Italian terror
  • Luigi Cozzi vs. Lewis Coates – a brand new interview with the director in which he discusses his filmmaking career from past to present 
  • Imitation Is The Sincerest Form of Flattery: A Critical Analysis of the Italian Cash-In – a brand new featurette looking at the Italian genre movies which sought to cash-in on popular Hollywood blockbusters 
  • Theatrical Trailer
  • Graphic Novel based on the original Contamination screenplay (Disc gallery) 
  • Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Gary Pullin 
  • Fully illustrated collector’s booklet featuring new writing on the film by Chris Alexander
David Paul Hellings

Twitter: @HellingsOnFilm

Images: By author & ravepad.com

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