Greetings, readers. This marks the beginning of something new we’re doing here at the Blood Sprayer; you see (and Kristy or Wes could explain it better than I can, but I’ll give you the gist) in the 1980s in England, the VHS boom and the open availability of violent films on VHS led to something of a scare fueled by religious groups under the rallying cry of “Think about the children!” This led to a putsch, of sorts, and the passing of the Video Recordings Act of 1984, enforcing stricter censorship on VHS. Some 72 films were put on a list of “Banned Films” and over the coming year we will be profiling each of them in turn. By luck of the draw, my number came up first, and so I present to you, Luigi Cozzi’s 1980 sci-fi/horror clas-sick, CONTAMINATION (sometimes listed as ALIEN CONTAMINATION).
A cargo ship, out of control, drifts into the New York City Harbor. It’s forward momentum checked, a Coast Guard team boards the vessel. The crew is discovered to be dead, and horribly mutilated in a fashion suggesting they exploded. The cargo hold is discovered to contain box upon box upon box of “coffee,” though upon further inspection it’s discovered that this coffee has been replaced, not with Folger’s Crystals, but with football-sized, warty greenish eggs that explode and spray acid when handled. This acid, in turn, causes any human being who comes in contact with it to violently explode, with enough force to send their guts rocketing across the room.
Colonel Stella Holmes is assigned to investigate the eggs and where they come from, teaming up with NYPD Lieutenant Tony Aris. The “acid” is found to be a bacteriological slurry, and the eggs a delivery vector for explosive infection. They also discover a warehouse full of eggs and a network of “dealers” ready to distribute them to New York City’s water supply. These dealers are swiftly executed and the eggs destroyed.
When the biological research team (who detonate a rat in the name of science — the little rodent is placed in a glass tank, and a sample of the bacterium from the eggs introduced into said tank, causing the rat to explode with enough force to completely coat the interior of the tank — all six sides, completely stained in gore!) discovers that the bacterium corresponds to no known Earthly agent, Holmes is reminded of a manned mission to Mars a few years back — one from which an astronaut returned insane, babbling about eggs…
Cue Ian Hubbard (Ian McCulloch, who earlier appeared in Lucio Fulci’s ZOMBI 2), a whiskey-soaked wreck of a man. He tells Holmes of his voyage, with fellow astronaut Hamilton, to the Martian North Pole, where they found a pulsating, humid cavern in the ice…after which he remembers no more, but is brought in to investigate with Holmes and Aris.
The intrepid trio find their way to South America, and the “coffee” plantation the eggs are originating from. Here, they find Hamilton, believed dead following a plane crash six months earlier; he’d faked his death. Now, in the thrall of a bloated, slobbering alien cyclops, shrouded in fog in the bowels of the plantation building, he has begun disseminating the creature’s bacterial slime-eggs as part of the monstrous extraterrestrial’s plot to conquer the Earth. The cyclops, using it’s hypnotically-flashing eye, lures Aris within reach of it’s drooling, hungry proboscis; it begins to lure Holmes in as well, as Hubbard and Hamilton face off; it is up to Hubbard, that whiskey-soaked wreck of a man, to save all of humanity.
Written (story treatment and screenplay, at least) and directed by Luigi Cozzi, who’d earlier struck science fiction gold with STARCRASH, starring Caroline Munro, Marjoe Gortner, Joe Spinell and David Hasselhoff. Music by Goblin, who’d worked closely with Dario Argento for years. Alien cyclops created by Georgio Ferrari, who would later build the shark for Italian JAWS clone GREAT WHITE, and serve as special effects supervisor for 1991’s underrated tribute to classic horror, POPCORN. CONTAMINATION is Italian rip-off GOLD. Yes, I said rip-off; CONTAMINATION was made in the wake of Ridley Scott and Dan O’Bannon’s classic sci-fi horror film ALIEN; though borrowing little more than the egg imagery. Cozzi was and is an avid science fiction fan, and while tapped to create a film that would capitalize on ALIEN’s success, he took it entirely in his own direction.
One film that Cozzi took inspiration from (which sharp-eyed and sharp-witted readers will have already noted) is Lucio Fulci’s ZOMBI 2, aka ZOMBIE. The opening sequence of the uncontrolled boat drifting into New York Harbor is lifted directly from Fulci’s eyeball-skewering classic. Additionally, utilizing actor Ian McCulloch, who played the hero in ZOMBI 2, and even having him refer to a laborer on the “coffee” plantation as a zombie…
It should be no surprise why CONTAMINATION landed itself on the Video Nasty List: Multiple graphic sequences of slow-motion exploding torsos seem the sort of thing to piss of the Morality Police of the United Kingdom or, really, most countries. The special effects work for the gore is effective, looking like it mostly utilized animal offal; there’s a couple sequences where the actors are noticeably “plumper” right before blowing their guts across the floor. It’s cheesy, yeah, but was gruesome enough to offend those with stomachs too weak to handle the extra-chunky marinara. Compared to many of the splatter films that were to follow, CONTAMINATION is fairly tame; and really, I think we can all agree that there is no such thing as an “excessive” number of graphic sequences of slow-motion exploding torsos.
I should note that I actually have a personal history with CONTAMINATION; in December 2008, when I began reviewing films, CONTAMINATION was the first film I reviewed, chosen by dint of being the first film on the first disc of Mill Creek’s “Nightmare Worlds” 50-film DVD compilation. It proved a gateway into the strange world of international exploitation cinema and for that, I am forever in Luigi Cozzi’s debt.
Vive il Cozzi!