Thursday, July 2, 2015

CONTAMINATION (1980) (Arrow Video Blu-ray Review)

Label: Arrow Video
Release Date: July 6th 2016 
Region Code: Region FREE
Certificate: 15
Duration: 95 minutes
Audio: Language: Italian/English 1.0 Mono 
Video: 1080p HD Widescreen (1.85:1) 
Director: Luigi Cozzi 
Cast: Ian McCulloch, Louise Marleau, Marino Masé, Siegfried Rauch 

Luigi Cozzi's throbbing Alien knock-off begins with a cargo ship drifting into New York harbor - not unlike the beginning of Lucio Fulci's Zombi (1970) but on a larger scale. The crew are all found dead, their bodies seemingly turned inside-out by an unknown force. As authorities explore the derelict ship they discover crates of coffee in the hold from Columbia. Inside they find not coffee beans but thousands upon thousands of pulsating green eggs, which have the appearance of tumor filled zit pustules. The eggs seem to grow when exposed to heat and explode upon contact - spraying a corrosive green fluid which causes humans to explode in a horrendous torrent of blood and guts -- captured here in exquisite slow-motion. 

Special Division Five is called in to assess the situation and we're introduced to the sexy Colonel Stella Holmes (Louise Marleau) who quarantines the cargo ship and orders the eggs to be frozen. Of course the science-geeks back at the laboratory have to run some tests on the eggs, exposing a rat to the green fluid from the egg, causing it to explode just like the humans did. It soon becomes clear that these eggs are not of this planet, and that someone intends to cultivate them here on Earth, but to what diabolical end? 

Colonel Holmes team-up with Lt. Arras (Marino Masé) from the NYPD and a former disgraced astronaut named Hubbard (horror icon Ian McCulloch) who two years earlier reported seeing eggs during a NASA mission to Mars .. just wait till you see the Mars excursion flashbacks scenes and the toothy mouth of the the Martian cave ...and those motorcycle helmets, cheap doesn't even begin to describe it. Hubbard's former astronaut partner Hamilton (Siegfried Rauch) at the time contradicted his story, attributing the encounter to a form of space madness brought on by the enormous stress of the mission, but now it seems that Hamilton might be a slave to the alien eggs.

The authorities raid a warehouse at the boat docks hoping to capture those responsible, in the ensuing melee there's plenty of gunfire with a nice bloody shot to the head, plus they uncover thousands more of the alien eggs. The human collaborators explode before they can be apprehended with loads of splatter, afterward the evil clutch of eggs are destroyed, burning them with flamethrowers. Having destroyed the alien eggs in NYC Arras, Hubbard and Holmes head off in search of the tropical origins of the lethal cargo, tracking down the treacherous Hamilton and and the hideous one-eyed alien creature who seems to be pulling his strings.

There's plenty of schlock and cheese to enjoy, beginning with the score from Goblin is ham-fisted and fun, and once the trio arrive in the tropics we are subjected to a pretty goofy half-formed love triangle and a love story that lasts for all of ten seconds. Additionally, Colonel Holmes seems to enjoy a good authoritative slap to the face, which Hubbard is only to happy to provide, slapping her hard after she calls him "soft, you're half a man", to which he retorts "that's just so we understand one other", to which she gleefully replies, "yes, I believe we do understand one another" with a perverse smile on her face -- such a weird little slice of misogyny mixed in with the schlocky science-fiction thrills, gotta love those Italians. 

Landing in Columbia the trio secure a hotel  where one of Hamilton's minions plants an alien egg in Holmes shower, jamming the door shut and trapping her inside with the pulsating menace. Unfortunately despite the perfect set-up there is no nudity during the scene, just Holmes panicking and knocking on the door screaming for help as eerie enlarged egg pulsates, threatening to coat the Colonel in the gooey corrosive green slime.

Eventually the trio end up at on a clandestine coffee plantation where we finally catch-up to the one-eyed alien monster who speaks through Hamilton through some form of mind control, and it's a b-movie disaster of a creature, created by FX designer Giovanni Corridoli (Zombie Flesh Eaters). A gooey and ridiculous cyclops of an alien, with large folds of green flesh and mouths that somewhat resemble a vagina oozing a milky secretion. The design reminded a bit of Kang and Kodos, the comic alien duo from The Simpsons, minus the classic sci-fi glass helmets.

The build-up to the  end is a fun bit of awesomeness, with the reveal of the giant one-eyed alien, the Bond-type villain Hamilton meets an appropriately gruesome fate, and an ominous downbeat ending that comes perhaps a bit to quick, but it is what it is, a fun Italian Alien knock-off with more than a few nods to the classic Invasion of the Body Snatchers, but amped with buckets of blood and Italian knock-off goofiness. There's a lot to love here, weather you love gory science fiction or just revel in bad cinema there's plenty of both for your enjoyment.

Audio/Video: Arrow Video went back to the original negative for a brand-new 2K restoration f the film and the results are beyond what i could have hoped for. The film looks fantastic with a fine layer of film grain, a modest amount of fine detail and improved clarity, a fantastic 1080p HD transfer all the way around. Audio chores are capably handled by a the PCM 1.0 Mono track, with choice of either Italian or English languages, with optional English subtitles. The dubbed-English track is solid, dialogue comes through very clean and crisp and is well-balanced. The Goblin score is fun, and though I wouldn't consider it top tier among their filmography, it does have a certain cheesy charm about it.

Arrow have again gone above and beyond with bonus content for this release, beginning with a commentary by filmmaker, Fangoria editor and Eurocult enthusiast Chris Alexander who provides a fan-based commentary with is quite good with some fun observations and the story of how he discovered the film the first time, a nice blend of fandom and insider info. There's also a 22-minute vintage documentary about the making of the film with director Luigi Cozzi loaded with behind-the-scenes footage, a 41-minute Q/A from 2014 with with Luigi Cozzi and actor Ian McCulloch, a brand new 43-minute career-spanning interview with the director, a 12-minute interview with Goblin keyboardist Maurizio Guarini who speaks about creating the score for the movie, plus a new 17-minute featurette, Imitation Is The Sincerest Form of Flattery: A Critical Analysis of the Italian Cash-In  with the participation of noted author Maitland McDonagn and Chris Poggiali fromTemple of Schlock, which is a fun overview of the Italian knock-offs of the seventies and eighties, mentioning such classic knock-offs as Killer Fish and the outright theft of Great White, a Jaws knock-off the that Universal has pretty much sued out of existence. 

Extras are finished-up with a trailer for the movie and a 55-page black and white digital comic based on the original screenplay with artwork by Sergio Muratori. There's also a 12-page illustrated collector's booklet with writing on the film by Fangoria's Chris Alexander. and a sleeve  of reversible artwork featuring both the original and newly commissioned artwork by artists Gary Pullin. 

Special Features
- Brand new 2K restoration of the film from the original camera negative
- High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) and Standard Definition DVD presentations
- Original Italian and English soundtracks in mono audio (uncompressed PCM on the Blu-ray)
- Newly translated subtitles for the Italian soundtrack
- Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing for the English soundtrack
- Brand new audio commentary by filmmaker, Fangoria editor and Contamination super-fan Chris Alexander
- Notes on Science-Fiction Cinema – an archive documentary featuring behind-the-scenes footage and director Luigi Cozzi on the birth of Contamination (22 Mins) HD
- 2014 Q/A with Cozzi and star Ian McCulloch (41 Mins) HD
- Sound of the Cyclops: Maurizio Guarini on the music of Contamination – the Goblin keyboardist discusses Contamination’s dark, progressive rock score and a lifetime of making music for Italian terror (12 Mins) HD
- Luigi Cozzi vs. Lewis Coates – a brand new interview with the director in which he discusses his film making career from past to present (43 Mins) HD
- Imitation Is The Sincerest Form of Flattery: A Critical Analysis of the Italian Cash-In – a brand new featurette looking at the Italian genre movies which sought to cash-in on popular Hollywood blockbusters (17 Mins) HD
- Theatrical Trailer (3 Mins) HD
- Graphic Novel based on the original Contamination screenplay (Disc gallery)
- Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Gary Pullin
- Fully-illustrated collector’s booklet featuring new writing on the film by Chris Alexander

Arrow Video's new 2K restoration of Luigi Cozzi's sci-fi splatter classic is top notch and the extras were far beyond my expectations, watching this again for the first time in years I was surprised by just how much my appreciation for the Alien knock-off had grown, this was quite a bit of fun. A high recommend for fans of Italian gore and science-fiction horror, a fantastic Blu-ray from Arrow Video.