Ian McCulloch, ... uh... Alien Slayer, Part 3 - Contamination

In the final part of our look back at the work of the great Ian McCulloch, we're taking something of a diversion and blasting 'Mac' off into space to fight Alien rip offs.

Who better to detail these adventures than the high priest of the cult of McCulloch himself, Mr Jim Moon of Hit the jump and praise McCulloch:

Luigi Cozzi is something of a cinematic legend, well at least among lovers of cult films. To begin with, he has had a long association with Italian auteur Dario Argento, scripting Four Flies on Grey Velvet, providing special FX for Phenomena and serving as assistant director on several other Argento flicks. However, he is perhaps best known for helming the infamous Star Wars cash-in Starcrash, a movie now much loved for its many faults. However, although years away from its *ahem* critical rehabilitation as a classic good-bad movie, Starcrash still turned a profit and, being very impressed by the next ground-breaking scifi that came along, Alien, Cozzi set about ripping it off... we mean... producing a movie inspired by it.

Of course, he wasn't alone, every man and his dog were crowbarring any tall chaps they could find into latex suits bedecked in pipes and KY jelly at the dawn of the '80s. Cozzi's project, initially titled Alien Arrives On Earth, however, ended up taking a very different shape to all the other slimy monster chasing half-naked girls in steam-drenched corridors movies that oozed onto our screens. Apparently, Cozzi initally wanted something far closer to Scott's movie, but producer Claudio Mancini alleged inisited on tweaking the plot to give it more of an espionage flavour, so instead we got a very different kind of movie. Although it involved alien eggs and exploding stomachs, it's more a scifi investigation movie than the bug hunt you expect; an action orientated Quatermass with no-budget Bond thrills, if you can imagine such a thing. 

The plot is fairly straight-forward: a mystery ship drifts in the waters outside New York, and investigators discover the crew has all died horribly. Sounds familiar? Well Cozzi was just next door to the Zombie Flesh Eaters production office... but, moving swiftly on, it's discovered that the ship is packed with eggs of a species unknown to science that have a nasty tendency to cause peoples tummies to explode. Very soon super- duper military types are on the case, headed up by Louise Marleau, who deduces this is something to to do with a recent failed mission to Mars. 

She recruits the surviving astronaut McCulloch (next door to Zombie Flesh Eaters remember), who, very quickly, shakes off his alcoholism and transforms into a square-jawed hero. Along with a smart-mouthed cop, they tracing the origin of this deadly cargo back to a secret compound in South America, where The Cyclops, an alien beast with more tentacles than sense, is plotting to take over the world.

Now, nevermind niggling questions, such as what kind of species has eggs that explode, Contamination is great fun. Admittedly, logic isn't the plot's strongest suit, and there's the usual blend of atrocious line delivery and scenery chewing you expect in such schlock fare, but it has a goofy energy that is infectious. Cozzi might have set out to deliver bleak scifi chills, but what he delivered is actually an entertainingly pulp caper. This is reflected by the Cyclops itself, which, surprisingly, isn't a car-boot sale Giger knockoff, but looks like a throw back to the aliens of 50s science fiction, all big cranium and light-up eyes.  

The opening act is very strong and, while the middle meanders a bit, there's a fun finale where the mighty McCulloch guns down hordes of hazmat-suited goons and alien eggs. Even when the film is losing pace around the mid section, there's enough daft attempts at snappy dialogue to keep you amused and, failing that, you can pretend that, as the alien eggs are being smuggled around, the globe disguised as coffee,  Cozzi is making an prophetic metaphor about a certain caffeine-based franchise that's taking over our shopping precincts. 

Of course, we should mention that once upon a time, Contamination was a notorious film, and not for its shameless borrowing from other sources either. Thanks to its many sequences of people exploding, this title was one of the movies that found its way onto the infamous Video Nasties list. While the effects work is very bloody, strangely enough, the effects of the eggs on the human body are actually far-less graphic than those featured in Alien. Like so many of the Nasties, the gore, although memorable, appears very-tame fare and it's hard to understand why this rather-daft scifi caper ended up on the list.  

All in all, exploding chests included, Contamination is a good-natured exercise in pulp action. Certainly, it deserves better than to be vilified, either as a violent video or a shameless Alien knock-off. While a certain amount of the entertainment value is, shall we say, 'ironic', particularly in regards to the dialogue, it is still a fun slice of B-movie joy, ideal for a night with friends, beer and pizzas. Plus, you get heaps of quality McCulloch action, proving yet again that he is truly one of the unsung heroes of the B-movie.

1 comment:

  1. I loved the movie of alien contamination I watched it twice and will so again off and on and the soundtrack is beautiful the director did a splended job and so did all the actors and actresses. thanks guys and gals love ya.