Contamination (1980)


Introduction

Contamination (a.k.a. Alien Contamination, Toxic Spawn or Larvae) is a 1980 science fiction-horror film directed by Luigi Cozzi and starring Ian McCulloch.

The film is about an alien cyclops creature that uses human agents to place eggs all over Earth. The eggs release a gelatinous goo that causes people to explode when they come into physical contact with the substance. The tagline on the Italian one-sheet (“…e ora tocca a voi!”) translates as “…and now it’s your turn!”.

The Body Snatchers TV series and film collection.

Outline

A large ship drifts into New York Harbour, seemingly abandoned. The ship is discovered to be carrying large containers of coffee, hidden inside of which are a series of football-sized green eggs. The crew sent in to explore the ghost ship find the mutilated remains of the former crew gathered in one place, and they soon discover the reason why: when disturbed, the green eggs explode, spraying a viscous liquid over everything. The liquid is toxic to living creatures, and causes the body to immediately explode.

The military’s answer to this phenomenon is Colonel Stella Holmes (Marleau). She establishes a link between the green eggs and a recent mission to Mars that ended badly for the two astronauts who descended to the planet. One of them disappeared, and the other, Commander Hubbard (McCulloch), had a breakdown and subsequently became an alcoholic. When pressed, Hubbard agrees to help Holmes in her investigation of the insidious plot to bring the deadly eggs to Manhattan, and it takes them, along with sarcastic New York cop Tony Aris (Masé), to a Colombian coffee plantation. All is not as it seems; Hubbard’s former astronaut colleague is apparently alive and well and living under the influence of a monstrous alien cyclops, which is using mind control to further its plot to flood the world with the green eggs and wipe out human life on Earth.

Cast

  • Ian McCulloch as Commander Ian Hubbard.
  • Louise Marleau as Colonel Stella Holmes.
  • Marino Masé as Lieutenant Tony Aris, NYPD.
  • Siegfried Rauch as Hamilton.
  • Gisela Hahn as Perla de la Cruz.
  • Carlo De Mejo as Agent Young.
  • Carlo Monni as Dr. Turner.
  • Mike Morris as Dr. Hilton.
  • Martin Sorrentino as Black Warehouse Doorman.
  • Angelo Ragusa as Warehouse Doorman.
  • Brigitte Wagner as Doctor.

Production

After the success of his film Starcrash, director Luigi Cozzi wanted to follow it up with another science fiction film. On seeing Ridley Scott’s film Alien his producer decided he wanted Cozzi to make something similar. Due to budgetary constraints Cozzi decided to set the film on Earth, although retaining the ideas of the alien eggs and a large creature from Scott’s film, and duly wrote a script called Alien Arrives on Earth. Producer Claudio Mancini wanted to use the name Contamination, which had been the working title for an aborted film he had been developing based on the Jane Fonda film The China Syndrome. The name was duly changed against Cozzi’s wishes, with the producer also insisting on Cozzi developing more James Bond-style elements as opposed to his science fiction theme.

The film’s production offices were in the same building as those used by the makers of Zombi 2 and, impressed by the profits that film had made, Cozzi decided to try to hire the same cast members, although ultimately Ian McCulloch was the only actor to work on Contamination. Cozzi wanted to use Caroline Munro (who had been featured in Starcrash) as Colonel Holmes but once again the producer overruled him and hired Louise Marleau instead.

Contamination was shot in eight weeks between 14 January and 04 March 1980. The film schedule included three weeks in Rome and then a further two weeks split between location shooting in New York City, Florida and Colombia. Cozzi had wanted to use animation or stop motion photography to realise the alien cyclops at the film’s climax but was once again overruled by the producer, and an animatronic version was constructed instead. Cozzi subsequently claimed that this creature failed to work properly and would barely move, so he had to use rapid jump cuts to hide the fact that it was being pulled about by stagehands.

Release

Contamination was released in Germany on 09 May 1980, where it was distributed by Residenz-Film.

After the Video Recordings Act, Contamination was classed as a video nasty. Specifically, the film includes graphic depictions of human bodies exploding violently in slow motion, as well as the grisly remains of such explosions. While the explosion effects are not technically graphic (each of the exploding victims is encased in some kind of bulky costume that is obviously hiding the mechanism that sprays the gore), they are extremely bloody.

Years later, the BBFC classified the uncut version with a 15 certificate. It was released on home video in the United States under the titles Alien Contamination and Toxic Spawn, which are both heavily edited. Cozzi later revealed that Cannon Films, the film’s North American distributor, had changed the name to Alien Contamination in order to capitalise on the popularity of Ridley Scott’s Alien (1979). It is now available in the US in an unedited version which has been released on DVD.

Arrow Video released the film uncut on Blu-Ray in 2015. The uncut version runs 95 minutes.

Trivia

  • According to director Luigi Cozzi during a Q&A, the film was partially funded by Colombian drug dealers.
    • When the movie made money they were very pleased with their investment.
  • Writer/director Luigi Cozzi originally wanted Caroline Munro to play Col. Stella Holmes.
  • The names of astronauts Hubbard and Hamilton pay homage to sci-fi writers L. Ron Hubbard and Edmond Hamilton.
  • Writer/director Luigi Cozzi’s first script for the film was titled “Alien Arrives on Earth,” making no effort to hide that his inspiration for Ridley Scott’s Alien (1979) and that this was his idea for that film’s sequel.
    • Some countries also directly marketed the film as a sequel to Scott’s film.

Production & Filming Details

  • Director(s): Luigi Cozzi.
  • Producer(s): Claudio Mancini and Karl Spiehs.
  • Writer(s): Luigi Cozzi.
  • Music: Goblin.
  • Cinematography: Giuseppe Pinori.
  • Editor(s): Nino Baragli.
  • Production: Alex Cinematogrphica S.r.l., Barthonia-Film, and Lisa Film.
  • Distributor(s): Residenz-Film (Germany) and Cannon Films.
  • Release Date: 09 May 1980 (Germany).
  • Running Time: 82 minutes (edited) and 95 minutes (uncut).
  • Rating: R/15.
  • Country: Italy and West Germany.
  • Language: English.

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