It's unfair to accuse Italians of stealing movie ideas from Americans. It's true, but it's still unfair. But, at least they're usually willing to admit that they are stealing, and isn't imitation the sincerest form of flattery? Such is the case with "Contamination", which is better known in this country as "Alien Contamination", a film which was released in 1980 to capitalize on the succes of "Alien".
Whereas "Alien" was about a monster that came from an egg-like object, "Contamination" focuses on the eggs and only gives the monster a little screen-time at the end. As the film opens, an unmanned ship sails into the harbor of New York. The crew investigating the ship, including police detective Tony Aris (Marino Mase), find the hold to be full of large, green eggs. They soon learn that when the eggs get warm, they explode, causing anyone within close proximity to explode as well.
Aris is taken to a government lab, where he is debriefed by Colonel Stella Holmes (Louise Marleau). They begin to investigate the origins of the eggs and discover that they may be linked to a doomed mission to Mars involving astronaut Hubert (Ian McCulloch). They also realize that someone may be planning to use the eggs to take over the world.
You've got to hand it to "Contamination", it apparently has no shame in imitating the films that inspired it. The eggs are straight out of "Alien", as are the exploding chests, and a cavern in which the eggs are discovered bears a close resemblance to the derelict ship found on LV-426 in "Alien". However, that's where the similariites end, especially since when the chests explode here, nothing emerges except for guts! The remainder of the film is more of a thriller, which devolves into a James Bond knockoff, as the team races to save the planet from the alien eggs. For me, a point of interest was the fact that several scenes in "Contamination" echoed themes which would emerge in "Aliens". Now, I'm not implying that James Cameron & Co. ripped off a rip-off, I'm just saying that there's similarities.
Due to the unabashed "homages" to "Alien" and the non-stop gore supplied by the exploding victims, "Contamination" has some fun moments. Unfortunately, most of the film is bogged down by boring dialogue scenes and gratuitous padding of people walking and driving. Even the film's most suspenseful scene, which involves a woman, an egg, and a bathroom, becomes tedious as the scene is drawn out for far too long. The lack of any real action in the film belies the movie's low-budget. And the dialogue scenes contain way too much dialogue, bombarding the viewer with a deluge of unnecssary words. While "Contamination" makes good use of the ideas that it's stolen, at heart it is simply another boring Euro-horror film.
Bill Lustig's Blue Underground company continues to show its commitment to resurrecting forgotten cult classics on DVD. "Contamination" is presented in an anamorphic widescreen and has been letterboxed at 1.85:1. The image is very sharp and clear, showing just a slight amount of grain in some of the daytime shots. The print used here looks far better than those seen in Blue Underground's first releases, such as "Shock Waves" and "The Prowler". There are some defects from the source print which show through here, but they are mainly contained to small scratches and black dots. The colors look good, and man, are those green eggs green!
For all of the work that was put into the video transfer, Blue Underground has really gone overboard on this DVDs audio package. The disc contains a DTS-ES track, a Dolby Digital Surround EX track, a Dolby Surround 2.0 track, and finally a mono track. So, you audio completist will certainly have your pick. For this review, I sampled both the DTS-ES track and the Dolby Digital Surround EX one. Both offer clear dialogue, with no distortion or hissing. The only real difference is that the DTS track is slightly louder. While both offer some surround effects and a moderate bass response, neither is really spectacular, and ultimately sound like remixes. In no way do they sound like the DTS or EX track from a modern film. There was no wall shaking or scared children to be had here.
The DVD contains a host of interesting extras. We start with the 18-minute segment "Alien Arrives on Earth", which was co-writer/director Luigi Cozzi's original title for the film. This is essentially an interview with Cozzi in which he describes the origins of the film and his battle with the producer to bring a science-fiction movie to the screen. His talk is interesting and serves as a mini-audio commentary for the film. The best part is his comments about the film's lead actress. Yow! This is followed by "Luigi Cozzi on the Creation of 'Contamination'". This 23-minute featurette was obviously made sometime in the early '80s (it carries no credits) and features Cozzi discussing the making of the film. The bulk of the segment is made up of behind the scenes footage. Cozzi shows a great deal of spirit here, but his chat on the first featurette was far more entertaining.
Next up, we have the film's original trailer, which has been letterboxed at 1.85:1. This is followed by two still galleries, one displaying posters and production stills, while the other offers conceptual drawings. The final extra is a treat for those of you equipped with a DVD-ROM. It's a black & white graphic novel adaptation of "Contamination"! But, somehow the exploding chests only work in color.
"Contamination" may be the ultimate example of a film trying to piggy-back on a bigger, more successful movie. The film contains some fun, gross moments, but it's slow pace eventually drags it down. However, Blue Underground has done a great job with this DVD.