Contamination



Contamination is a 1980 Italian-West German science fiction-horror film directed by Luigi Cozzi and starring Ian McCulloch.

A deserted ship is boarded as it speeds alarmingly towards the New York docks. The inspection reveals the corpses of the entire crew, whose bodies have all seemingly exploded from within, and a cargo that is supposed to be boxes of coffee but actually contains a large number of green eggs/fruits/pods. One of these ‘things’ has escaped from a spilt box and become wedged under a hot-water pipe, it starts glowing…

We actually learn from the extras that Cozzi originally wanted to make a much more direct Alien knock-off, just set on Earth and titled, appropriately, Alien Arrives on Earth. But his producers wanted to make a film more like or The China Syndrome or James Bond. Well, they never really saw to eye and wound up pulling in both directions, ultimately creating a weirdo hybrid-compromise film…[2]

Weirdly, the James Bond influences all seemed to borrowed from Dr. No, which was strangely out of step with the other borrowed elements. More curiously, they tried to rip off James Bond and not have a leading character with any character or charisma.

Another influence was the opening scene which was pretty much a straight lift form Fulci’s Zombi 2 from the previous year. Whilst it does make a great intro, it’s curious that both films end up muddying the waters, having the evil force exhibiting behaviours that contradict the rest of the story.

One exploded pod seems to have been enough to wipe out the entire crew, who were all gathered in a single room except for the Captain who ran upstairs to the bridge and locked himself in a cupboard. The implication is that the toxic substance is gaseous and lingers and spreads, but the air was safe by the time the ship is boarded.

When members of the boarding party are killed, the victims were only those that came into contact with the toxic substance in the initial explosion. The latter rule seemed to also be in force in the warehouse scene when the workers effectively killed themselves but caused those members-of-the-authorities-who-had-discarded-their-gas-masks no harm. This meant that in the hotel bathroom scene later on, all she had to do was stay behind the shower screen until the seed pod exploded.

Why did the warehouse workers kill themselves? Why not shoot the eggs at the other end and try to kill the authorities? And if the eggs are heat sensitive, isn’t burning them a dangerous idea? And why would you not have that shot of thousands of exploding eggs in boxes?

The alien that is revealed in the final scenes is a major problem. It’s not really explained as to how it got to Earth. The other astronaut brought it back as a seed, but why did that seed grow into an alien and not an exploding pod?

It’s impossible to take seriously as well, on the one hand it looks like a giant halogen lamp with an alien built around it, on the other hand it looks like one of The Simpsons‘ Kang and Kodos.

And how does it survive? It produces a lot of eggs and so presumably needs sustenance, but it’s not going to get much food on Mars, likewise if its hypnotic powers don’t work on everybody then its meagre rations are even further reduced, and if survivors know to avoid it then its food supply is almost totally lost.

On Mars, all of its eggs were stored inside its own mouth – so does it eat its own eggs? Was it constantly at risk of blowing itself up?

The implication on Mars was that the cave (see above) was the alien, and what was inside was just an organ. On Earth, the organ seemed to be the alien

The film benefitted from the different story elements that the makers had welded together, because you had no idea what was going to happen next. But when the investigators went to the coffee plantation, why did Ian McCulloch go off and get in a plane on his own? They already knew where the plantation was, and he certainly wasn’t going to see any eggs at that altitude, what was he looking for? And he wasn’t in contact with anyone else, so it only makes any sense to the plot at all, that he happened to crash in the coffee plantation. But why was a man who’d been drunk for seven years allowed to go to a foreign country and hire a plane without supervision?

Obviously one could raise questions about the ending, with the native authorities arriving just at the right moment uninvited, the hundreds of troops that poured out of a four-seater helicopter, but it wrapped things up to the benefit of the audience ultimately.

There was a better a story to be told with the eggs and with a darker and more shadowy alien. The eggs as weapons, underground networks smuggling them around the world, but who’s supplying them? And why? Is the creature on Earth enslaved? Or, is it back-seat driving the show? And, is the creature independent or just an extension of the Martian original? And further, is an exploratory mission to Mars necessary?

[1] Wikipedia. Contamination (film). Retrieved 15 October 2016.
[2] the-losthighway.com. Contamination: Arrow Vs. Blue Underground (DVD/ Blu-ray Comparison). Posted by John W McKelvey on 7/09/2015. Retrieved 15 October 2016.

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