31 Screams in October, Vol. 2, #24: Contamination (1980)

Posted: October 26, 2015 in Movie Review
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Contamination (1980)

Director: Luigi Cozzi

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

I try to be careful about using terms like “rip-off” when it comes to movies. By now, pretty much every movie being made is inspired by films of the past. It’s almost unavoidable. So, when I see a movie like “Contamination” being labeled as a rip-off …of “Alien” …it’s not an opinion I share. No one can argue against the fact that the only reason why “Contamination” exists is because of Ridley Scott’s 1979 sci-fi/horror classic. But, aside from one gruesome special effect, the two are almost entirely different stories and should be treated as such.

In an opening sequence resembling the one from “Zombie,” a seemingly empty ship arrives in a New York harbor. A team sent down to investigate discovers a large shipment purporting to be of coffee. They also discover the remains of the crew, whose bodies all display wounds that would seem to suggest that they exploded from the inside. The explanation for this is quickly revealed. What actually rests inside the boxes are large, football-shaped green eggs. One of them is found behind a set of pipes and, when picked up, sprays a fluid that comes into contact with all but one of the investigative team, NYPD officer Tony Aris (Marino Masè). The rest all die from horrific wounds identical to those of the ship’s crew.

The military steps in to determine the origin of the organisms and to find out how to neutralize the threat. Col. Stella Holmes recalls a recent two-man mission of exploration to Mars. According to the Colonel’s own findings, Commander Hubbard (Ian McCulloch) had lost his wits while on the Red Planet. Holmes remembers something he’d said about what he’d seen while there, and the description now reminds her of the eggs they’ve discovered on Earth. When asked why they don’t just go talk to Hubbard’s former mission partner, it is mentioned that he has since been presumed killed in a plane crash. Right there, you know the guy isn’t really dead, even though the military’s assumption of his passing is truly genuine. Holmes sees no alternative but to go to Hubbard with what she knows. It takes some doing, but she produces a photo taken of the eggs to show him how serious she is and he agrees to help her follow the trail down to Colombia.

Almost immediately after their arrival, someone attempts to kill Col. Holmes by placing an egg in her hotel bathroom while she’s taking a shower. It fails to kill her, thanks to Hubbard and Tony. Surprise, surprise… Hamilton isn’t dead. In fact, he’s revealed to be under the complete control of an alien monster he refers to as “The Cyclops.” It took hold of his mind in the Martian cave where both he and Hubbard discovered it along with a terrifyingly large amount of eggs. Arranging for the one-person plane being flown by Hubbard to crash, Hamilton takes both Tony and Col. Holmes prisoner. Leading him straight to itself with its mind control, Tony is fed to the Cyclops while Holmes watches in horror. She is almost next, but Hubbard arrives just in time. Recognizing the monster from Mars, and resisting its mental powers just as he had before, Hubbard shoots the creature dead. As a result of his unbroken link to the Cyclops, Hamilton dies as well, exploding from the inside.

Released as “Alien Contamination” here in the States (thus furthering the obvious connection to “Alien”), the limits of its budget are quite apparent. Most of the money appears to have gone towards the chest explosion death scenes. Those effects shots look great, even if you can easily spot the fact that the actors appear to have instantaneously gained some weight right before their deaths. The Cyclops, on the other hand, looks downright pathetic. Hard to grade the acting, since the English dubbing is so painfully obvious with most of the cast. I can only imagine what fun Caroline Munro (the best part of Cozzi’s “Starcrash”) would have been in the role of Colonel Holmes, as was the director’s original intention. But Ian McCulloch does well with what he’s given. Doesn’t hurt that he’s one of the few actors who actually appears to be mouthing the words his character is speaking. Also, Goblin once again produces a great Italian horror soundtrack. Ultimately, although disappointing in some areas, “Contamination” is entertaining schlock which can and perhaps ought to be watched in a double-bill with Lucio Fulci’s “Zombie.”

  1. Sylvia Williams says:

    Sounds like it is at least entertaining! I love the part about “the extra weight gained” right before chest explosions! LOL!!!

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