As a general rule I like to remain positive about most of the stuff I review. There just doesn’t seem to be much point in spending as much time as I do, writing about movies and such, if I can’t at least try to find something to enjoy in the title that I’m reviewing. To a large degree I’ve set a hard task for myself recently, by deliberately seeking out older, often low budget, movies and forcing myself to watch them. If that process has taught me anything, it’s that there are some real gems hidden deep in the back catalogues of DVD retail sites like cdwow… but on the other hand, there’s some utter crap too!
The 1980 spaghetti-fi [Italian science fiction], CONTAMINATION would be the greatest waste of time ever, were it not for the two short ‘documentaries’ which accompany the movie as extras on the DVD. These two pieces — both with Italian dialogue and English subtitles (unlike the feature, which is English) — were shot decades apart, but both feature screenplay writer and director, Luigi Cozzi and his assertions that he is the sole miracle worker behind the brilliance of this film… except for the bits that suck, they were clearly someone else’s fault. The producers mostly. Cozzi happily blames the film’s failure on the producer’s choice to name the film Contamination, instead of ALIEN ARRIVES ON EARTH, the title that Cozzi originally gave the movie. The producer too is at fault for the casting of the lead actress, Louise Marleau, whom Cozzi refers to as ugly.
Cozzi openly admits that the film was produced with the intention of cashing in on the success of Ridley Scott’s ALIEN, but goes on to defend himself against any accusations that he be seen as a outright copycat by listing scenes from Contamination and the sequences from other people’s movies from which he took the ideas.
Watching Cozzi make one ridiculous statement after another certainly shifts your whole appreciation of the main feature, turning it from a tragic failure into something to be laughed at mockingly. It plays out much like something from ‘funniest home videos’, where watching someone break their fall from a trampoline by slamming their genitals into a metal pole turns from something you wince in pain while watching, into something you laugh hysterically at when you realise that the ‘victim’ bought the punishment on themselves by being an utter dickhead.
Cozzi’s pride over the script he has written is obvious as he sits at the typewriter on which the screenplay was forged, even doing us the honour of clacking away at a key or two for those unfamiliar with the workings of such a device. Seeing this takes the experience of enduring the awful dialogue, full of harebrained attempts at authoritative technobabble, and the ill-conceived plot of Contamination, riddled unfathomable leaps of logic, to a whole new place. Watch in awe as a police officer, too stupid to get the hell out of a ship’s hold after finding several disfigured bodies, manages to spot that the font used to mark the cargo is different on some boxes… obviously an unequivocal link to the mangled corpses.
Again, low budget special effect are something that, as a classic movie fan, you simply have to put up with. You suspend disbelief for the sake of going along with the story. But constant references to ‘movie secrets’, ‘movie magic’ and Cozzi’s assertions that he’s breaking some kind of unwritten code by allowing us to know the inner workings of these scenes is nothing short of comedy gold. Especially when you consider that the effect in question involved stuffing the actors shirt with animal innards, purchased from the local butcher, and using a compressed air pipe to expel said guts from said shirt.
I’ve seen some bad science fiction films in my day, but this transcends bad. This is the SPINAL TAP of science fiction. The only thing that could possibly make this DVD better, would be to take the two short documentaries and cut them into the movie itself. What you’d end up with would be something akin to a long lost episode of GARTH MARENGHI’S DARKPLACE… only better, because you get to laugh at Contamination, not with it. [buy]