Review of “Contamination” (1980)

trailer from YouTube Yeah, I couldn’t make much sense of it either, and I’ve seen the movie

Plot:

A cargo ship speeds toward New York Harbor. The crew is not aboard, although the life rafts remain. Half-eaten meals sit on tables. The log book reveals nothing. But the investigators find corpse after bloody corpse looking as if they’ve exploded from inside.

Spilling out of boxes marked “café” (coffee) are what look like giant green coffee beans. The investigators find one pulsating, turning orange, and… singing. One member, NYPD Lt. Tony Aris  (Marino Masé), warns another not to pick it up. “Oh, don’t worry,” says the other.

Yeah, it explodes, and all but the guy who warned the others die in agony, spilling their guts, despite their protection suits.

The viewer next sees the surviving man in an isolation unit wearing nothing but a blanket, understandably upset about his treatment. Through a window, he complains to Col. Stella Holmes (Louise Marleau). The news of his rank forces him to salute and drop the blanket.

The giant coffee beans turn out to be not eggs per se but a “concentration of bacteria of unknown type.”

Our heroes trace the shipment of the “coffee” to a warehouse and get a warrant. While serving the warrant, they are met with gunfire. Our heroes do the only logical thing—drive their truck through the warehouse door. Realizing the jig is up, the three warehouse workers (the uncredited Nat Bush, Angelo Ragusa, and Martin Sorrentino) kill themselves. Worm-like beings explode from their chests.

Yeah, that rings a bell.

Holmes orders that all the green coffee/eggs things be burned. After consulting with the scientific team, she concludes that the eggy/bacteria thingies must come from nearby. There was that expedition to Mars two years earlier. One man is now dead, and the other, Commander Ian Hubbard (Ian McCulloch), mentally unfit to serve.

She pays him a visit.

Commander Hubbard has seen better days. He stumbles over the empty beer cans in his apartment but recalls his expedition to Mars. It differs materially from his partner Hamilton’s (Siegfried Rauch). But Hubbard drew pictures of the eggy bacteria when he first arrived back. He’s seen them.

Our heroes find the shipments of coffee come from a plantation in South America. There, they find the biggest coffee beans you ever did see growing on the ground.

Thoughts:

Other than the Alien borrowing/rip-off, this suffers from a whole lot of speechifying and some terminal misogyny. When Col. Holmes tries to get Hubbard to end his pity party and help the fight the alien, she tells him she wonders if he’s a man—a pretty miserable thing to say to anyone. He slaps her across the face. They then agree they understand each other.

Down in South America, Col. Holmes wants to shower before getting some dinner, much to the annoyance of Hubbard and Aris. The evil coffee plantation owners are watching them, though, and slip an egg into the bathroom while Holmes is enjoying (…yes, enjoying…) her shower and lock the door from the outside. For a pièce de résistance, they hang a “Do not disturb” sign outside her room.

Holmes realizes someone has been in the bathroom. She sees the egg, pulsing and singing to her. Frantically, she pounds the locked bathroom door, screaming for help. Poor helpless woman, even if she’s a colonel in the military. Going through her cosmetics bag, she finds a nail file and other implements to try to pick the lock. Rescue comes via the disgraced/crazy Commander Hubbard, who breaks down two doors to get to her.

Pro tip: if you’re locked in a bathroom with an alien life form that’s about to explode and kill you, you can do any of the following as the situation demands: 1) douse it with caustic cleaner, 2) set alien life form afire with a scented candle, 3) throw the plastic shower curtain over it and/or, 4) use the top of the toilet tank to break down the door.

The movie is known by the alternative titles Alien Contamination, Toxic Spawn, and Larvae.

The English dubbing from the original Italian is obvious, but I find this forgivable. The acting is fair. The script is abysmal. Why does Holmes need either Aris—a NY cop—or Hubbard—a disgraced and reinstated astronaut—to help her investigation the eggs? Why is she investigating the eggs? The special effects as gory but fall short of convincing. People’s chests explode regularly with a lot of blood to show, but it’s clearly a costume rig.

And the dialogue… the kindest things I can say is that there’s a lot of it. People flap their gums. Controlled by the alien and does its bidding, the bad guy gives a speech about how the meaning of life is to kill or be killed, the strong control the weak, yadda, yadda, yawn. The closing scene is supposed to be profound. Perhaps there is some thought in it. Holmes says she’ll never look at the night sky the same again, wondering what else is out there.

I cannot recommend this. It takes itself too seriously to be fun. I guess the exploding torsos earned it the R-rating.

If, for some reason, you want to watch this, it is available for free on YouTube



Title: Contamination (1980)

Director:
Luigi Cozzi

Writers:
Luigi Cozzi (screenplay)
Erich Tomek (screenplay)


Cast:
Ian McCulloch as Cmdr. Ian Hubbard
Louise Marleau as Col. Stella Holmes
Marino Masé as NYPD Lt. Tony Aris
Siegfried Rauch as Hamilton
Gisela Hahn as Perla de la Cruz
Carlo De Mejo as Agent Young


Released: 1980
Length: 1 hour, 35 minutes
Rated: R

Published by 9siduri

I have written book and movie reviews for the late and lamented sites Epinions and Examiner. I have book of reviews of speculative fiction from before 1900, and short works in publications such Mobius, Protea Poetry Journal, and, most recently, Wisconsin Review and Drunken Pen Writing. I'm busily working away on a book of reviews pulp science fiction stories from the 1930s-1960s. It's a lot of fun. I am the author of the short story "Always Coming Home," a chapbook of poetry titled "Sotto Voce," and a collection of reviews of pre-1900 speculative fiction, "By Firelight."

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