Genre: Sci-Fi Horror Running Time: 1 hr. 35 min.
Release Date: June 11th, 1982 MPAA Rating: R
Director: Lewis Coates Actors: Ian McCulloch, Louise Marleau, Marino Mase, Siegfried Rauch, Gisela Hahn, Carlo De Mejo, Carlo Monni
helicopter team scours the waters around Manhattan looking for a missing cargo ship, the Caribbean Lady, heading back from the tropics. When they finally spot it, they’re unable to communicate with – or even see – any of the crew, despite the fact that Captain Pedro Mendez radioed in the night before to indicate that everything was fine. After the vessel is tugged into a quarantined dock, Dr. Turner (Carlo Monni) of the Health Department is brought in to supervise an examination of the contents, which are feared to be contaminated.
The white-suited, gas-masked (but eyewear-less) investigators soon discover that the entire crew has been killed, seemingly ripped open from the inside and completely dismembered. When they find crates of coffee containing large, green, glowing, pulsating, moaning eggs, one of the football-sized orbs explodes, causing all but Police Lieutenant Aris (Marino Mase) to erupt spontaneously like bags of jelly. The pier is evacuated and placed under an emergency status while Special Division 5’s Colonel Stella Holmes (Louise Marleau) is assigned to get the situation under control. The remaining cargo is frozen to prevent further casualties as scientists begin to analyze the sacs, determining that highly volatile, active bacteria is at the heart of the devastation – along with a potential terrorist plot by a maniacal cult.
Slow-motion chest-bursting sequences and blood-spattered corpses start off the gruesome makeup effects, though the repetition of these specific forms of gore prevent them from being as outrageous or memorable as the most famous scene in “Alien” (1979) – which this Italian production clearly imitates. The scares aren’t constant enough to make it much of a horror film, while the science-fiction elements aren’t futuristic enough to impart much to that genre, either. With the eventual South American crime/drama thrills and even a minor romantic subplot, “Contamination” is an incredibly confused, indecisive, hackneyed hybrid of styles and themes – obviously lending to its release and advertising with multiple titles, including “Aliendrome,” “Toxic Spawn,” and “Alien Contamination.” Plus, the music by Goblin rarely seems to fit. In the end, one of the best bits involves Stella trapped in a bathroom with an egg, where nothing really happens except for an excruciating wait for an inevitable rescue.
The major contributor to “Contamination’s” failure is the pitiful dialogue. Casual chatting, which goes so far as to describe in detail the very images shown to the audience, becomes unusually annoying quite rapidly. Due to the dubbing, the filmmakers clearly felt it was necessary to over-elaborate and reiterate with the dialogue, to be certain that viewers wouldn’t get lost. But the cracking of jokes and the continual banter disrupts the creepiness of the sets and the grisliness of dead bodies. Furthermore, the story unfolds with the help of spoken recollections of historical events (particularly a Mars mission, helmed by Commander Ian Hubbard [Ian McCulloch]), as if “Contamination” couldn’t afford actual outer-space scenes to open the picture – resorting instead to simple talk about a crazy astronaut who returned from the red planet with wild tales of extraterrestrial eggs. Oddly, this setup is eventually followed by a flashback that briefly visualizes a snow-capped region and a cave on Mars – still exhibiting a distinct reluctance to simply film footage of a space venture. By the time the climax rolls around, unveiling the one-eyed monster running the show (“Don’t do what the cyclops wants!”), the low-budget vibe and poor scripting has already consumed any potential for serious entertainment value.
– Mike Massie