Alien Contamination was the title I saw this under in the summer of either ’85 or ’86 on Elvira’s Movie Macabre. I also recall, after I saw this rat explode, making a call to my best friend asking him what the hell was going on. Calls such as these would occasionally happen, since I knew he was watching too, but only when she had a movie on we had never heard of before that had an “interesting” plot.
It was aired a few years later on another channel under yet another of its alternate titles for the U.S., this time as Toxic Spawn. I remember seeing it listed in the TV Guide but ignoring it since it sounded like a zombie movie. I didn’t realize it was the same movie until I happened to skip by it that night as I flipped through the channels.
In the “reality” of this movie we made it to Mars successfully, but what we found was pretty much what every horror and science movie presumed we’d find—alien life! It was a two-man mission: Hamilton (Siegfried Rauch) and a Ian Hubbard (Ian McCulloch) were the astronauts. They found an ominous looking ice cave populated with these “eggs” and they also encountered the being responsible for laying them, but Hubbard’s mind was too strong to be taken over, so the thing took over the weaker willed Hamilton; Hubbard’s tale of caves, eggs and bright lights was thus discredited by the “possessed” Hamilton. Earth officials also believed him and Hubbard was taken out of commission. He now lives as a drunk.
This movie has three main characters; the first one we meet is a Lieutenant Tony Aris (Marino Masé) of the NYPD. You see there’s an out of control cargo ship coming into New York harbor from the tropics and Aris and a hazmat crew are there to greet it once they get it under control. They discover the entire crew dead, and not just ordinary dead, I’m talking super dead, like something exploded from within their bodies. Guts and blood everywhere. The culprit: football sized, slimy, alien eggs that pulsate and make strange noises once they heat up. After that they explode, spraying their surroundings with a corrosive bacteria. If you’re human or even animal and get splashed, your innards explode out of your body within seconds.
There were tons of boxes in that cargo ship from a company called Univerx, a coffee company based in Colombia.
Our next character we’re introduced to is a Colonel Stella Holmes (Louise Marleau), who interrogates Aris in her high tech digs. She and her scientists learn the eggs are not of this earth, which she then connects to the two-year old Mars mission where she helped condemn Hubbard as “unfit for work,” but now realizes he was in fact telling the goddamn straight up truth.
She tracks him down and persuades him to help, she also wants to track down Hamilton to get his two-cents on why he lied, but they learn he recently died in a plane crash. Not really, he just staged his death.
All three head down to Columbia to find the source of this coffee company and in the process learn of Hamilton’s survival and his devotion to this “alien cyclops” he either brought back with him, or followed them back, the movie is never clear how the alien got to earth, just that this thing lays the eggs and for reasons unknown these eggs are taken out into the jungle to ripen. But, yet, heat triggers them to explode, so I’m not sure how that works. Anyhow, the main reason I ended up loving this movie is the pay off in the final act of the encounter all the main characters have with this creature in the basement of this building. The “forbidden room” it’s called.
This creature when I first saw it reminded me a little bit if the alien from the “Dragon’s Domain” episode of Space: 1999. That extraterrestrial menace shared the same glowing, cyclopean eye and the same ability to mesmerize you if you looked at it. Both it and the “Alien Cyclops” from Contamination use their mind control powers to draw you to it so it can eat you. Sad to say but Aris, whom I liked, ends up being alien fodder, but the way he’s eaten actually freaked me out when I first saw the movie. There’s this huge snake like appendage that coils around it. Once you’re drawn to it, this appendage crushes you to death, after that a huge mouth opens up at the end, sucks you in and if you’re too big to fit all in, it crushes you, sucks you farther in, crushes you some more, sucks you in even farther. All this crushing is done with bone crunching sound FX that truly sells the devouring.
Incidentally, the Old One seen at the end of the Lovecraftian 1991 made-for-HBO flick, Cast A Deadly Spell, sports a similar appendage that ends up consuming a human being too, namely David Warner.
Obviously parts of Contamination are inspired by Alien (1979), mostly in the egg and chest bursting department and the discovery of where these eggs were first found. I also thought I had read somewhere that director, Luigi Cozzi (going by the more American Lewis Coates in the credits) was also a fan of Quatermass and that was also an inspiration for this movie. It do see a Quatermass 2 (1957) vibe in it. It still holds up for me today and I remember getting excited when Blue Underground finally released it on DVD here in the states in 2004. I also got excited when Arrow Films’ new US branch (via MVD Entertainment Group) announced it was finally getting blued in a 2-disc DVD/Blu-ray combo back on July 7th.
Video/Audio/Subtitles: 1080p 1.85:1 high definition widescreen—1.0 English LPCM, 1.0 Italian LPCM—English/English SDH subs only
The brand new 2K restoration was thoroughly impressive. It looked like it was filmed yesterday.
- Luigi Cozzi On Contamination (22:54)
- Contamination Q&A (41:05)
- Sound Of The Cyclops (11:30)
- Luigi Cozzi Vs. Lewis Coates (42:52)
- Imitation Is The Sweetest Form Of Flattery (17:25)
- Original Theatrical Trailer
- Graphic Novel (55 panels)
- Audio Commentary With Chris Alexander
- Reverse Cover Art
- 23-page Booklet (35 Years Of Contamination By Chris Alexander/About The Restoration)
Like many of the top boutique distributors Arrow Films always goes the extra mile in loading their releases chock full of extra features. My favorites on this particular one are the period doc Luigi Cozzi On Contamination simply for the behind-the-scenes footage of Contamination’s making, the 2014 Contamination Q&A, Imitation Is The Sweetest Form Of Flattery and the Goblin bio Sounds Of The Cyclops. I’ve never seen modern day Cozzi and McCulloch in any kind of interview and the one they did for the Q&A revealed them to be congenial chaps who had great tales to tell of filming the movie. Cozzi also talked of the many homages to other science fiction movies he put in the film and he indeed confirms the Quatermass 2 one. I also really liked the Imitation extra that dissected Italy’s penchant for cranking out ripoffs of American blockbusters.
For U.S. fans you can buy this combo right on Amazon US and Blue Underground’s 2004 DVD is still in print as well.