Sunday, September 28, 2014

Alien Arrives On Earth!

Video Nasty #31






NTSC running time: 95:14
Original Title: Alien Arriva Sulla Terra
Other alternate titles: Alien Contamination, Toxic Spawn
Directed & Story by Luigi Cozzi (as Lewis Coates)
Written by Cozzi & Erich Tomek
Produced by Claudio Mancini
Music by Goblin
Starring: Ian McCulloch, Louise Marleau, Marino Mase, Siegfried Rauch, Gisela Hahn, Carlo De Mejo
Body Count: 16, plus a rat (fake) and a big scary monster.
Availability: Region 0 DVD from Blue Underground.

BBFC Status
Why it's a Nasty: Exploding bodies with lots of gore.
What was cut: Not a frame, the film was not submitted for classification until...
Current UK status: Contamination was passed uncut with a 15 certificate on March 10, 2004.
UK Availability: Region 2 DVD from Anchor Bay

Once again, I've got something a bit more involved than a trailer.  Put on your tinfoil hat, wrap yourself in a blanket, and make sure your windows are locked.  Shortly after the success of Ridley Scott's Alien in 1979, the knockoff artists in the Italian film industry (bless their thieving hearts) made at least two unofficial sequels to the US sci-fi hit.  One was Ciro Ippolito's Alien 2: Sulla Terra (available on DVD in the US as Alien 2: On Earth), which hit Italian screens in April of 1980.  Four months later the other, Luigi Cozzi's Alien Arriva Sulla Terra (which translates to Alien Arrives On Earth) hit Italy's cinemas under a title insisted upon by producer Claudio Mancini: Contamination.

New York City: an abandoned freighter is reported to the police.  A team on a helicopter lands on the ship and brings it in to dock.  NY cop Lt. Tony Aris (Marino Mase) leads a medical team onto the ship.  They wear hazmat suits and search from stem to stern.  They find several corpses, corpses which appear to have exploded.  The hold is filled with boxes, each one bearing the logo of a Colombian coffee company...but they don't contain coffee.  Each holds a handful of large green egg-like spheres.  The team picks up one that's rolled under a pipe.  Heated, pulsating, and emitting an ominous breathing tone, the egg explodes...and so do the bodies of most of the team.  Only Lt. Aris survives.

He's taken by the government, decontaminated, and placed in isolation.  Col. Stella Holmes (Louise Marleau) and Agent Young (Carlo De Mejo) get his statement and track the "coffee" shipments to a warehouse across town.  When they attempt to stage a raid, the shady characters in the warehouse commit suicide by alien egg - a single shot to one of the hundreds of these things scattered on the floor causes the silent thugs to explode.  What the hell is going on here?  Who are these people?  And what are they doing with all these eggs?  Col. Holmes enlists the help of Commander Ian Hubbard (Ian McCulloch), the only person to have seen these eggs a cave on Mars!

Hot off the success of his previous film, Starcrash, Luigi Cozzi wanted to make another sci-fi film and he found his inspiration in the 1979 US smash Alien.  Working out of the same production offices as another 1979 hit, Zombi 2, his producer urged him to pick up the same cast, though the only star they were able to secure was McCulloch.  (It's interesting to note that Zombi 2 also opens with a derelict ship sailing into New York.)  Cozzi wanted Caroline Munro, who he had just worked with on Starcrash, as Col. Holmes, but he was thwarted again by producer Mancini, who wanted someone "older and ugly" (Cozzi's words), so Canadian Louise Marleau was cast instead.  (And let's be fair here, Marleau is no beauty queen but she's far from homely.)

Unlike Alien, the chestbursting effects are overly gory (which is tons of fun) and nothing comes out of the people except their guts - they just explode for no reason!  There are some action movie elements (again at the behest of Mancini) as well, and the film clips along at a good pace.  Not too long, not too short, Cozzi really did a good job.  The score is by the always-incredible Italian prog-rock combo Goblin, and highlights Fabio Pignatelli's bass playing.  You can't go wrong with Goblin, they're just amazing.

And the alien!  What we see at the finale isn't anything like Giger's sleek black creations, it's a lot more gooey and green.  What it really reminded me of is the squid-monster in Alan Moore & Dave Gibbons' Watchmen comics, and I found it a little scary.  The animatronic beastie wasn't to Cozzi's liking and he used careful editing to maximize the effect.  I think it worked, I was not at all comfortable while that fucking monster was on screen.  More discerning viewers might laugh, but screw them, it's nice to get a scare from a monster in a B-movie, most of them are schlocky compared to the monster in Contamination.

Interestingly, several of the cast members appeared in other films that ended up on the Video Nasty list: Ian McCulloch starred in Zombi 2 (Nasty title: Zombie Flesh Eaters), Marino Mase features in Dario Argento's Tenebre, Gisela Hahn in Jesus Franco's El Canibal (Nasty title: Devil Hunter), and Carlo De Mejo appeared in Lucio Fulci's Quella Villa Accanto Al Cimitero (The House By The Cemetery, see Video Nasty #3), as well as appearing in Fulci's Paura Nelle Citta Dei Morti Viventi and John Shadow's Microscopic Liquid Subway To Oblivion.  (Who is John Shadow?  I finally know, and will have more about it on this page in the near future...but in the meantime you can read my piece on the subject in Bloodfeast Inc. #17, a great zine published by Cleveland, Ohio DJ and horror fan Mike Salamone.  Look them up on Facebook and send them money, it's killer and worth more than the $5 cover price.)

So if you're in your helicopter and someone asks you to check on an abandoned boat, make sure you wear a hazmat suit, and don't touch anything!  You couldn't get me on one of those.  I'll be here where it's safe.  Because my name's Justin.  JustinCase.

No comments:

Post a Comment