Contamination (1980) (Blu-ray/dvd film review).

July 10, 2015 | By | Reply More

Doubtless you have heard of spaghetti westerns but less well-known are the spaghetti Science Fiction movies of which ‘Contamination’ is an excellent example. Made over 30 years ago, set in the USA, shot in Rome and with the obligatory English-speaking actor, in this case Ian McCulloch, it disappeared from sight a long time ago to resurface in high definition Blu-ray as presented by Arrow Films.


Ian McCulloch played a prominent part in the BBC series ‘Survivors’ from the 1970s and was, of course, famous for his B-movie escapades, ‘Zombie Flesh Eaters’, coming to mind. A good actor with plenty of ability, he maybe hasn’t had the best scripts over the years but at least he isn’t badly tainted in ‘Contamination’. However, the very fact that most of the voices are dubbed makes it feel a bit amateurish. You can get over this by using some extra features on the Blu-ray, such as listening to it in Italian with subtitles.

‘Contamination’ begins with a cargo ship steaming into New York Harbor with nobody at the wheel. The cops manage to stop the vessel and, when investigating the interior, they find a series of badly mutilated bodies, guts splattered everywhere with blood in abundance. Strangely, there are lots of green pods lying about. These things the size of melons with knobbly bits and some pulsating in an orange light. One explodes and, despite three men being encased in environment suits, they violently explode, too, their interiors erupting outwards with volcanic activity. Not a pretty sight!

Colonel Stella Holmes (Louise Marleau) investigates. She is a top ranking military expert and it isn’t long before the team she leads comes to the conclusion that the pods are alien in nature. They enlist the help of disgraced astronaut, Commander Ian Hubbard (Ian McCulloch), and eventually they get to the source of the pods. When Hubbard went to Mars, he had a look inside a strange cave where something even stranger happened. The other astronaut, Hamilton (Siegfreid Rauch), went through a metamorphosis and despite Hubbard saying that alien hanky-panky had been going on, nobody believed him.

This led them to the source of the trouble, namely Cyclops, the alien from Mars. A hideous beast to be sure, it had one eye and many mouths, all large enough to eat a human whole. Grown from a seed taken back by Hamilton, it had a plan to dominate the Earth by killing off its population using the pods. A more grotesque alien you haven’t seen, except for the fact that it’s a bit rubbery and slow to move.

Spectacular special effects are absent but you have remember it was made 35 years ago. Consequently, it does appear rather dated. The budget at the time wasn’t astronomical and, although attempting to cash in on ‘Star Wars’ and ‘Alien’ movies, it is many divisions lower down from these. Otherwise, it’s a reasonable enough story. You’ve got to watch it detached from 2015 and imagine you are back in time to 1980, even if this was before you were born. Doing this, everything turns out very reasonable.

The Blu-ray comes with a host of extra stuff which includes a commentary from Chris Alexander, editor of ‘Fangoria’, a featurette with director of ‘Contamination’, Luigi Cozzi, music from the movie, a featurette on Italian Science Fiction, a trailer and a graphic novel on the disc. It also comes with a booklet containing comments on the movie. Certainly no shortage of extra material here, much to keep you occupied for a few hours.

At the time it was made, the exploding bodies and the gruesome Cyclops put ‘Contamination’ into a video nasty category but, now that we’ve seen it all before, it’s actually more laughable than horrific. There’s nothing really to be frightened about but there’s plenty of tension and drama, especially when they investigate a South American coffee factory which is manufacturing alien pods behind the scenes. Ian McCulloch makes the most of the action sequences, coming out on top as the hero. Combined with all the extra material, this is certainly a Blu-ray to recommend but should be viewed with caution because the next time you’re in a supermarket, you will regard the green melons suspiciously and give them a wide berth.

Rod MacDonald

July 2015

(region Blu-ray/DVD A/1: pub Arrow Films. 2 Blu-ray/DVD discs 95 minute film with extras. Price: $39.95 (US), £17.75 (UK).

cast: Ian McCulloch, Louise Marleau and Siegfreid Rauch

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Category: Films, Horror

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