Friday, 10 July 2015

Blu-ray Review: Contamination (Arrow Video)

Following a campaign by Mary Whitehouse and the National Viewers and Listeners Association, the Director of Public Prosecutions released a list of 72 films the office believed were in violation of the 1959 Obscene Publications Act.
Amongst the titles to be banned from video stores were "Tenebrae", "Zombie Flesh Eaters" and "SS Experiment Camp". The term 'Video Nasties' would go on to inspire banner headlines on the front pages of newspapers in the early 1980s.
Well, non-one was going to tell us what we could and couldn't see, so an underground movement came into being where fanzine editors, writers and readers began to record and swap tapes. Soon, it was possible to access not only the nasties which had been taken off shelves of video stores nationwide, but also a wide range of genre fare that had never seen light of day in the UK. 3rd gen video bootlegs were how I first encountered the likes of Jess Franco's "Venus In Furs", Bava's "Kill, Baby...Kill!" and such disreputable fare as "The Beast In Heat".
Luigi Cozzi aka Lewis Coates' "Contamination" was one of the titles to draw attention from the authorities, and was released in a trimmed version. Now, Arrow Video have just released the film on Blu-ray with an uncut 15 certificate.

This science fiction/horror film begins with a crew-less freighter named 'The Caribbean Lady' which soon draws the attention of New York port authorities. A search of the vessel reveals dead bodies that look like they'd exploded from the inside.Lieutenant Aras (Marino Mase) finds huge green egg-like objects which have been concealed in what initially appeared to be a cargo of imported coffee.After two fellow investigators fall victim to substance sprayed from the eggs, Aras teams up with Colonel Stella Holmes (Louise Marleau) to identify the centre of operations for this threat to humanity, and stop those involved.
An earlier flight to Mars involving two men with vastly differing accounts of their time on the Red Planet is thrown into the mix, presenting genre favourite Ian McCulloch as Commander Hubbard, with his opposite number, Hamilton, played by Siegfried Rauch.
At times, "Contamination" moves into the realms of the ridiculous, and a monster (named 'Cyclops) is far from being one of Italian cinema's finest creations. And yet, this film entertains , moving through a snappy 95 minutes which, overall, reward the time invested, as Goblins score works its magic in the background. The film is quite bloody in places, with good special effects, but should never have been caught up in all the hysteria back in the day.
It's a pleasing slice of nostalgia for those of us who first caught the film on VHS, and should also win new converts to the Cozzi fold.

Arrow's Blu-ray presentation is a 2K restoration and looks excellent in HD, with stable colours and good depth.
The extras begin with 'Luigi Cozzi On Contamination'. This is a 22m 55s archive documentary, where the director explains why Science Fiction cinema is generally unloved in Italy, and how he tailored the film to gain international success. He talks about the films influences (amongst them, "Alien" and the 2nd "Quatermass" film); the difficulties caused by special effects requirements and there's also footage of Cozzi directing some of his cast.

Contamination Q&A (41m 5s)
This was filmed at the Abertoir Horror Festival in Aberystwyth on 15th November 2014, and hosted by Arrow's Ewan Cant.
Cozzi talks about the tight 5 week shoot which took place in 3 different locations, and why he agreed to a title change for his film. We hear about an encounter with a dwarf thief (Cozzi still bears the scars) and his reaction to the films 'Video Nasty' reputation. Ian McCulloch is always entertaining, and here he declares he found the eggs ridiculous, but admits he was surprised to learn 'Contamination' was a low budget production. He also records that the end of his Italian film career was a great sorrow. The final 10 minutes of this Q&A are given over to the audience, prompting questions about dubbing and the Goblin score. Ian admits he thought the film had no future at all, and brings the event to a close by talking about horror conventions. It's a hugely enjoyable session, and listen out for Ian's story about his wife's uncle and those banned films - it's a tale I never tire of hearing.

'Sound Of The Cyclops' (11m 31s)
Here, Goblin keyboard player Maurizio Guorini discusses the score and his own career; chats about joining the band; the line-up changes and why they weren't well promoted.

'Luigi Cozzi vs Lewis Coates' (42m 53s)
This is a brand new interview with the director, covering his love of Sci-Fi; his early career as a writer; meeting Mario Bava, Dario Argento and Antonio Margheriti, and there's also a clip from "Blood On Melies Moon" - his first film in 25 years and one to look out for in 2016.

'Imitation Is The Sincerest Form Of Flattery' (17m 26s)
A featurette concerning Italian movies cashing in on Hollywood blockbusters. Maitland McDonagh and Chris Poggiali take a look at the likes of "Great White" (which got into deep water with Universal); the Post Nuke movies and the stars involved, including John Saxon and Fred Williamson.
The original theatrical trailer follows (3m 14s) and there's a chance to view the graphic novel based on the original screenplay, with artwork by Sergio Muratori. Look out for the shower scene which shows considerably more than the film!

The final extra on the disc is an audio commentary with Fangoria and Gorezone editor Chris Alexander, who is a huge fan of this film. In fact, he labels his chat a "fan commentary", going on to call "Contamination" the "ugly duckling of Italian genre cinema". He notes the opening scenes similarity with Lucio Fulci's "Zombie Flesh Eaters"; holds forth on the cast including Marleau, explaining Cozzi would have preferred Caroline Munro, and the turbulent relationships in Goblin. He also talks about that 'Beatles moment' in the film and his opinion on remakes. Chris makes some excellent observations throughout, including his comparison on the underlighting in the Cyclops' lair with Fulci's "City Of The Living Dead".
It's well worth a listen, and may well prompt some viewers to change their opinion on the film.

The extras are concluded in the shape of a booklet, containing new writing on the film. Chris Alexander returns with a piece titled "35 Years Of Contamination", which includes his own observations and those of Luigi Cozzi who explains that Fulci and himself never had the freedom enjoyed by Dario Argento, and that "Contamination" would have been a different film if he'd managed to get Munro the part.
There are also notes on the transfer, and some solid colour stills.

For fans of this film, Arrow's Blu-ray is an essential purchase, with a great presentation of the film and some meaty extras, and newcomers are also recommended to take a look at this entertaining sci-fi romp, warts and all.
"Contamination" is a Region B+A release and is available to buy now.

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