‘Contamination’ or — If Alien Met James Bond?
You know what — this is the film ‘Alien 3’ could’ve and possibly should’ve been.
So ‘Contamination’ (1980) discovers director Luigi Cozzi up to his usual tricks, namely plundering every science-fiction movie ever made with unapologetic and gleeful abandon then merging them all together resulting in something distinct and weirdly unique. This time Cozzi’s jumping off point is ‘Alien’ (1979) before veering off into ‘Invasion of The Body Snatchers’ (1956) until coming out the other end as a James Bond movie, specifically ‘Moonraker’ (1979). I guess you can’t be accused of ripping something off if you steal from everyone else at the same time. And some people call these movies dumb.
A large shipping tanker is found drifting just off the coast of New York and laden with countless alien eggs, eggs which explode when disturbed and covering their victims with a liquid which, in turn, makes the victims explode too. The military call in Colonel Stella Holmes who links the mysterious eggs to the reports of an astronaut, Commander Hubbard, who had survived a doomed mission to Mars where he reported seeing a giant, alien cave filled with hundreds of strange eggs. No one believed him when he returned, but they’re starting to believe him now.
With the help of chirpy New York cop Tony (who is what a New York cop would be like if played by Seinfeld’s Kramer), Stella and Hubbard set out to track the source of the deadly eggs, an investigation which leads them to a sinister Colombian coffee company who might be packaging and transporting more than coffee beans around the world.
‘Contamination’ is a typical Cozzi movie in that it’s highly derivative but also loaded with a genuine passion for sci-fi so even though nearly everything is lifted from elsewhere it feels less an exercise in cynical exploitation but more because all those moments were cool and awesome. Why not lift them? And even though the movie starts with the eggs and chest-bursting from ‘Alien’ it’s not long before its gone off in another completely different direction.
Unfortunately even though ‘Contamination’ contains Cozzi’s passion for sc-fi that excitement doesn’t quite reach the screen with the same intensity as his previous ‘Starcrash’ (1978) with drops in pacing and energy in the second act. After a particularly strong opening thirty minutes the film settles down into a more laid back rhythm and even though Cozzi is still pulling off some nice stuff visually it also slows the movie down. This could put some people off.
But if you can click into that shift in dynamic there’s still a lot to enjoy here. There’s a silly, extended sequence involving Stella and an egg in a shower that’s both dull and nicely handled at the same time, as though it was directed by Brian De Palma under general anesthetic. The film then picks up in the last half hour where we discover the evil baddie is, essentially, a Bond villain skulking in a Bond villain lair and under the control of a… well, I won’t spoil the ending but it’s fun.
There’s also a pretty cool music cut (the score is by Goblin) towards the end demonstrating a relatively sophisticated approach to the sound editing and the entire movie, even during the more languid scenes, is peppered with little flourishes and inventive touches. The gore is over the top and decently executed considering the lack of money and the set-design also has the feeling of punching above its weight.
‘Contamination’ isn’t a masterpiece, or even any good, and it’s not likely to win over any doubting converts to low-budget Italian sci-fi, but it’s a fun adventure made with passion, some ingenuity and a lot of genre love. And even though the story is derivative it builds and develops on what it steals from. After all, change Commander Hubbard into Ellen Ripley, turn the Colombian coffee company into Weyland-Yutani and what with the aliens eggs being brought back to Earth this could’ve made for a decent legitimate idea for an ‘Alien’ sequel.