Blue Underground // 1980 // 95 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Patrick Naugle // February 21st, 2003
In space, no one can see you make cheesy B grade movies.
Ridley Scott, get your lawyers lined up 'cause here comes the Italian splatter-fest Contamination. When a deserted vessel arrives in New York City's harbors, it carries with it a terrifying cargo: giant green mutant eggs that pulsate with life! And they look suspiciously like the eggs from Scott's sci-fi epic Alien! When humans come into contact with the eggs, they become the victims of a "hideous chest-bursting death" (the DVD case's words, not mine) that includes a shower of intestines and blood. After a few grisly deaths, the government gets involved and finds a dizzying conspiracy of "murder, space monsters, and coffee" (once again, not my words...). Soon a research team begins their decent into the mystery, led by the wacky Hubert (Ian McCulloch, Zombie) and the ice cold Colonel Stella Holmes (Louise Marleau, star of Solange dans nos campagnes, a personal favorite). As they dig deeper and deeper into the eggs' history, the team finds a monster so hideous and so horrible that it can only be...a giant one-eyed alien that looks like an evil version of Oscar the Grouch!. Let the terror begin...
No three words in the English language go together better than "foreign," "movie," and "rip-off." Once again those wacky Italians have managed to steal a good idea from American cinema (the 1970s classic Alien) and turn it into a derivative, badly dubbed exploitation flick. I realize that the budgets overseas may be a little tight, but is the creativity level also that sparse? Are the filmmakers totally void of any and all ideas when it comes to original stories? Apparently the answer is yes, seeing as I've had to sit through numerous Night of the Living Dead clones (Hell of the Living Dead, Let Sleeping Corpses Lie, et cetera). Contamination is at least better than those duds as it includes one of the screens best worst-looking aliens since the Golden Age of sci-fi movies: a cycloptic beast that looks slightly like a Picasso sculpture. The monster even features a single glowing eyeball, reminiscent of some far better Ed Wood movie. The sets are just as bad -- for instance, what is supposed to be some kind of central governmental headquarters appears to be large black balsa wood planks with hidden prop people pushing the sliding doors side to side. Complimenting that stupefying image is Goblin's synth-heavy music score sounding like a reject from George Romero's Dawn of the Dead. I don't feel that I can readily comment on the performances since each one sports worse dubbing than an early Jackie Chan flick. The storyline, such as it is, feature the main characters running around the globe trying to find the killer eggs before it's too late. Sadly for them, this film was "too late" by the time it began pre-production in Italy. Director Luigi Cozzi (hey, don't I buy my pizzas from that guy?) loves to linger on the sloppy special effects, each one cheesier than the last. Watching a man's chest explode once is fine. Twice is pushing it. Nine times begins to try even the most frantic gore hound's patience. In the end all I can really say is spend an hour and a half of your life watching Scott's superior Alien or any of its three sequels. This film has been "contaminated" by plagiarists!
Contamination is presented in a far better 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer than it deserves. The image sports a vast array of inconsistencies, including grain, dirt, washed colors, and some softness in the image. However, even with all of these imperfections the picture still looks better than anticipated -- the colors and black levels are often solid and dark. Overall this is a good looking image that should please hardcore fans. The soundtrack is presented in way more options than is required: DTS 6.1 ES, Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround EX, Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround, and Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono, all in English. Dear Lord, did we need this many audio options? The DTS and Dolby 5.1 tracks are both decent with jarring directional effects mixed in with the original audio track. Though it's nice to see Blue Underground put in the work on this title, the fact remains that the Dolby 2.0 mix would have sufficed nicely. Some minor distortion can be heard on all of the tracks, though this is more likely a source limitation than a mixing problem. No alternate subtitles are available on this disc.
Much like Anchor Bay, Blue Underground has gone the distance to include a few supplements to this nearly forgotten Italian horror movie. The first is "Alien Arrives on Earth," which features director Luigi Cozzi discussing the film's origins, influences (to no one's surprise, that would be Alien), and other aspects about the production. Because the director doesn't speak English, the feature includes subtitles. "Luigi Cozzi on the Creation of Contamination" is a 1980 publicity featurette that shows the director at work in his home and discussing his newest cinematic sensation. Finally there is a theatrical trailer for the film, a poster and still gallery with 67 images, 26 conceptual drawings, and some DVD-ROM content.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Blue Underground
* 1.85:1 Anamorphic
* DTS 6.1 ES (English)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 EX (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono (English)
Running Time: 95 Minutes
Release Year: 1980
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Theatrical Trailer
* "Alien Arrives on Earth" Featurette
* "Luigi Cozzi on the Creation of Contamination" Documentary
* Poster and Still Gallery
* Conceptual Drawings Gallery
* DVD-ROM Content