While not one of Luigi Cozzi's better films, Contamination rarely fails as far as entertainment is concerned, not least on account of being an opportunistic cross between Zombie and Alien.
The opening sequences recall Fulci's film, but clearly aspire to be bigger and better on every level: Rather than a boat, we have a bona fide ship heading up the New York coastline. Rather than two cops going on board, we have a four man team. And, rather than finding evidence of one or two deaths, they uncover a score or so of bodies – the entire crew of the Caribbean Lady.
The cause of these deaths, however, is less obviously threatening than Zombie's flesh eater, instead looking like a “giant squash, avocado or mango,” albeit one that pulses with light and emits a curious whining sound.
But it soon proves just as deadly as one of the men ignores advice and picks it up.
The thing reveals itself as an alien egg as it explodes and covers three of the men in goo. Seconds later they explode – in messy slow motion...
It's a fairly crappy effect, but one that has a certain shameless charm to it. And, besides, you're going to be seeing a lot more of it, and the eggs themselves, as the plot unfolds.
Having escaped, the sole survivor, Lieutenant Aris (Marino Mase) is placed in quarantine and decontaminated. He's then visited by Colonel Stella Holmes (Louise Marleau), a government agent, who is first interested in what he has to say for himself and then understandably concerned.
They go to the company responsible for importing the eggs – purportedly a consignment of coffee – into the city and there discover a warehouse full of zombie-like men who explode when shot. (Amongst them is Martin Sorrentino, the sceptical detective in City of the Living Dead etc.)
Prior to pursuing the eggs to their Caribbean plantation source, Colonel Holmes decides to call upon alcoholic ex-astronaut Commander Ian Hubbard (Ian McCulloch, further reinforcing the Zombie connection now that we've moved in a more Alien direction).
Holmes had previously dismissed his stories of alien eggs on Mars and the death of his colleague – let's call him Kane, since that's his role – as rubbish, but is no longer so sure.
Having recruited an initially reluctant Hubbard to the team, Holmes and her men head for the source of the eggs and all the trouble.
Eventually they discover in encounter the Alien Cyclops, a monster important enough to have its own billing in the credits and clearly the place where a considerable proportion of the overall budget went.
Who will triumph? Is humanity doomed?
Though once on the banned list in the UK, Contamination is really a pretty innocuous film. While there's a fair bit of gore – albeit only enough to warrant a 15 certificate on the film's UK re-release, rather than the 18 given Alien and Zombie – it is hardly mean spirited or laden with dubious psychosexual subtexts.
Luigi Cozzi simply isn't that sort of filmmaker, the atypical The Killer Must Kill Again somewhat excepted. Rather, he's just someone who likes his science fiction and his monsters and would do whatever he could to bring them to the screen.
And there's the rub: His direction isn't too bad all things considered, but as usual he suffers from a lack of budget and quality collaborators that prevent him from realising the vision that was probably in his head.
The exceptions are Goblin, who provide the score, portions of which were later recycled in Hell of the Living Dead.