I don't know about you, but I always get a kick out of these Italian knock-offs of successful American science fiction films. In this case, it's Alien that serves as the major inspiration, although one can't help but draw a similarity here and there with the classic Invasion of the Body Snatchers, as well. Naturally, Contamination (or Alien Contamination, as it was called in the USA) doesn't even begin to compare with Aliens, but it is worth viewing - if you're a fan of the genre, at least. I think it's safe to say that those who care nothing about low-budget science fiction and horror films will not enjoy this film at all, and those without the stomach for gore should also stay away. The film basically has just one gory effect, but it's a pretty good one and is used on a number of occasions. Gorehounds like me, of course, will revel in the "he done blowed up real good" moments.
Contamination opens with a cargo ship barreling into New York Harbor, its crew unwilling or unable to respond to radio calls. Once authorities corral the thing and pull it in, the mystery of the missing crew is solved - they're all very dead, their bodies seemingly ripped open from the inside. Of the three men sent in to explore the ship, only local cop Tony Aris (Marino Mase) comes back out alive. Having found a bunch of strange egg-like things in the ship's hold, the other two made the mistake of picking one up - quickly demonstrating to Aris the awful, immediate, and painful way in which everyone on board the ship must surely have died. That's more than enough reason for the government to quarantine the entire area and send in Colonel Stella Holmes (Louise Marleau) to figure out what the heck is going on.
Tests soon reveal the deadly acidic nature of the "eggs," as well as the fact that they are not terrestrial in origin. So where did they come from? As it so happens, Commander Ian Hubbard (Ian McCulloch) had described finding the same sorts of objects in a Martian cave he explored on a recent manned mission to the Red Planet. No one believed him, though - until now. He reluctantly joins Holmes and Aris as they follow the deadly cargo's trail back to a coffee warehouse in Colombia, where all things are revealed.
Not surprisingly, Contamination has its share of weaknesses. Special effects, apart from your general lab design details, aren't among them. Sure, the dark-ish nature of the print sometimes makes it hard to fully enjoy the sight of people exploding from the inside out, but writer/director Luigi Cozzi's commitment to quality gore is obvious. The storyline, though, is rather weak, the acting is not of the highest caliber, and you have to slog through several sections of painfully boring exposition on your way to the end.
I should also mention the fact that there are basically two versions of this film. Unfortunately, I was only able to find the American version (released as Alien Contamination), which has a run time of some 84 minutes. The original film runs a full 95 minutes, so you'll definitely want to pick up that full-length version if at all possible. Why would they cut a full ten minutes out of this film, you ask? It almost surely stems from the fact that the UK's infamous Video Recordings Act originally led to Contamination being branded a "video nasty," effectively banning it at the time. (It has since been released in the UK with a 15 certificate.) Apparently, slow-motion shots of characters exploding were just too extreme for the mother hens clucking over the British Isles.