Mar 172012
 

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Contamination (AKA Contaminazione) (1980)

First Released: 1980

Director: Luigi Cozzi

Current UK Status: Passed 15 uncut

Contamination was released, and then unofficially cut by 2:40 seconds for the ViP release in 1982, and also the European Creative Film version in 1985. Contamination was removed by the DPP in October 1983, and then was removed from the list almost as quickly as it was added. The film was made available once again in January 1985. The 2:40 seconds of cuts stayed with the film until it was released again, uncut in 2004 for the DVD release.

Italian director Luigi Cozzi had wanted to make films since his teens, and spent most of his career during the 70’s and 80’s making science fiction or horror films, or in the case of Contamination, both! Cozzi also spent much of his film career working alongside the Italian master of horror, Dario Argento. Not only did Cozzi work on many of Argento’s films, he also worked with Argento’s wife, and even made a few documentaries on the great director’s work. At one time Cozzi was even wrote the script for the final film in Argento’s ‘Three Mother’s Trilogy’, and although it was never used by Argento, Cozzi ended up directing the film himself. Calling it De Profundis, the American title was quickly changed to The Black Cat and the film struggled to find a distributor. Later the great Lucio Fulci expressed an interest in directing the same screenplay. Cozzi directed a TV movie in 1973 called The Neighbor, and this was used in Dario Argento’s TV series, Doorway To Darkness. Cozzi also worked with Argento on Phenomena, where he was part of creating the special effects, and he later worked as Assistant Director on Argento’s Two Evil Eyes and The Stendhal Syndrome.  There is no doubt that Cozzi certainly worked with some of the best Italian horror director’s, and he learnt many skills from them, which enabled him to create such films as Contamination, Star Crash, The Killer Must Kill Again and Hercules.  Cozzi’s final film, Paganini Horror, saw him work with Argento’s wife Daria Nicolodi. She co-wrote the script with Cozzi and also starred in the film, and with this being his final film, he then moved on to direct nine episodes of TV series Turno Di Notte. Always staying close to the Argento family, some of the episodes of the TV series featured both Argento’s wife Daria, and also his daughter Asia. Finally, Cozzi ended his directing career with two documentaries on his mentor, Dario Argento: Master of Horror (1991) and Il Mondo Di Dario Argento 3 (1997).

Contamination is yet another film which was added to the Video Nasty list, and it is hard to see why. Granted some of the people exploding scenes are graphic, but nothing horrendous. The fact the film is now available uncut, and as a 15 certificate, just goes to prove that more often than not, the films which were banned simply got caught up in all the controversy. Contamination is not overly gory, and if anything is a very well crafted sci-fi thriller with just a few minor scenes of gore thrown in to tell the story. The film opens with a police chopper flying around New York, searching the harbour for a ship about to dock which may have some problems. Turns out the crew are either all dead, or have vanished, and the police hop on board in full protective gear to see what has happened. They do find the crew, or some of them, and they appear to have exploded. The Captain is also found, and he too is lying on the floor in pieces, and there is also half eaten meals left over which suggests something happened all of a sudden. Further investigating leads to the discovery of a collection of green, pulsating eggs and we quickly find out that these were the cause of the crews violent deaths.

In a wonderfully 80’s scene, one of the police slowly picks up an egg to investigate, and when I say slowly I mean SLOWLY! It takes the poor fella nearly five minutes to pick up the egg as he tries desperately not to drop it or do it any harm. These sorts of moments could only come out of this era, the slow motion is done for intense effect but is instead laughable, but in a good way! The egg explodes, spraying the police with an acidic substance which melts into the body and then explodes it from the inside. Cue more slow motion as we see police explode and guts fly everywhere. It is clear the effect is created by having a bag of goo sat on the victims stomach and a quick squeeze of a trigger causes the bag to explode, but Hell this is great to watch. CGI could never come up with something like this, and that is what made these sorts of horrors fun. You know the directors worked on a budget, you know they had a vision of what they wanted, and you can feel that they have worked so God damned hard at bringing their vision to the screen, and even though it looks a bit rubbish, you cannot help but admire the effort. I love seeing this sort of stuff, where a directors ideas were created and realised in the best way they could do it. No one is bothered about the scene looking perfect, as long as it has the desired effect, and it does. Super slow motion, along with that distorted slow motion sound and echo will leave you desperate to see more exploding bodies, and you will get your fix later on.

The story now moves on to a well presented thriller as a select group try to discover where these eggs came from, and what they are doing here. The detective from the ship investigation is here, Lt Tony Aris (Marin Mase) and he learns who will be in charge in a hilarious scene where he is kept in a glass room for fear on him being contaminated. Here he meets Col. Stella Holmes (Louise Marleau), the sex symbol of the film, and a woman most definitely in charge. Later she hunts down Commander Ian Hubbard (Ian McCulloch) a former astronaut who flew to Mars a few years back. Since then he has been a recluse thanks to the mission going horribly wrong, and it turns out that Hubbard has seen these eggs before. When Holmes finds Hubbard there is no love loss  between them as she quizzes him. Eventually he gives in to her questions and bellows “what else do you wanna know, how many times a week I screw?!!” Since he has become a drunk, his complaints is met with Holmes’ hilarious response “it’s obvious in your condition you couldn’t even get it up, even if you had a crane”, all said with a straight face as if there was nothing funny about what she just said at all. 80’s humour, you gotta love it!

The film then moves along at a fairly tight pace as after listening to some scientists waffle on for a bit, and a search of a factory storing the boxes containing the eggs causes more mayhem, we head to South America. Here is where the boxes containing the eggs were made, it is a coffee factory, and the three investigators are not welcome. Director Cozzi cleverly keeps the film very interesting as not only are we enjoying the plot to find out where the eggs have come from, but we also have the added bonus of sexual tension between Holmes and her two men. The film offers up plenty of light hearted comedy as well, as the three banter between each other. The cast here are great fun to watch on screen, and the director cleverly uses their natural friendships to great effect. We very quickly meet the bad guys too, and these are played with that old fashioned bad guy charm you don’t see much these days. Here the bad people try so hard to be bad that they end up looking rather amusing. Seeing the main man behind the eggs scream at two waitresses to “get out!!” is hilarious.

However, the plan to distribute these glowing, pulsating and strange noise making eggs cannot be the work of just a human, oh no. Come the end we are told we have to go and meet ‘The Cyclops’. “The Cyclops?” comes the response from Lt Aris, “Yes The Cyclops” comes the response from the villain as the camera zooms in on his face and lingers there for a brief moment. With such a big build up to The Cyclops, you begin to worry it may not be all that, but thankfully it is a wonderful creation. Oh how I miss the days when a latex monster full of air being pumped around it and plenty of goo falling off it would suffice. Bizarre sound effects and dodgy camera work along with the actors suddenly forgetting how to act make the finale to this film terrific. Another thing to point out here is the Cyclops’ eye, it reminded me of an apple with a light bulb inside it. Ha! Brilliant. Music plays out while the action goes on and we sit on the edge of our seat loving every minute. Let’s not also forget the wonderful sound effects as people are punched and kicked, all amplified so much it drowns out everything else! This reminds me of a scene earlier on where Hubbard slaps Holmes, the slap sound will come close to blowing your speakers!

Contamination is a huge amount of fun, and never becomes truly offensive, horrific or even violent. It is a great sci-fi thriller which builds a great  and reliable story that doesn’t really offer up anything new, but then it doesn’t need to. It is clear director Cozzi learnt a lot from his peers, and while Contamination could never be regarded in the same light as some of Argento’s classics, it serves its purpose well. Contamination is the perfect example of why horror and sci-fi were so big in the 80’s, great fun, a little humorous and with the odd bit of gore thrown in for good measure.  I enjoyed this a lot!

Should Contamination have been added to the Video Nasty’s List? Absolutely not, this is another example of the DPP gone mad!

Rating: ★★★★★★½☆☆☆

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  2 Responses to “Contamination (AKA Contaminazione) (1980)”

  1. When I first saw this on when it first came out on VHS, the ‘exploding’ scenes were quite graphic for it’s time. The cut version dampened the film slightly. Watched it again recently, and I agree with you, why was it cut and put on the banned list?

    The beginning is similar to ‘Zombie Flesh Eaters’?

  2. Matt Wavish

    Most certainly, the opening scene is almost identical to Zombie Flesh Eaters, although Fulci’s superior version is incredibly scary as that big, fat zombie crawls out into daylight.

    Contamination, on the othere hand, should never have been banned, I agree!

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