A team of coast inspectors are shipped in via helicopter to investigate a ship that has turned up unscheduled in New York's harbour. At first the boat appears to have been abandoned. But then the searchers uncover a couple of mutilated corpses - crew members who appear to have literally exploded from the inside out.

Say, the strange cargo stored on the boat's lower deck - numerous boxes labelled as containing Univerx Coffee - couldn't have anything to do with this, could they?

Well, one of those boxes has toppled over and its contents have spilled out. So our team of investigators can quickly deduce that it wasn't coffee being shipping into New York ... but strange, throbbing green eggs.

As they get closer, the investigators are covered in green yoke as one of the eggs splats open. Within seconds the three men covered in the goo begin to bloodily explode out of their white sanitary outfits. Their leader, police lieutenant Tony (Marino Mase), can only look on in horror.

He's no less mortified when he's subsequently picked up by the authorities and thrown into quarantine while a bunch of government officials, led by colonel Stella (Louise Marleau), run tests on both him and one of the eggs that they've retrieved from the scene.

After it's established that the yoke of said egg is powerful enough to blow a lab rat into smithereens within seconds, Stella and her team pal up with Tony to dig deeper into the origin of the eggs. Before too long, they fathom that the eggs are of alien origin.

All of which leads Stella to pay a visit to disgraced ex-astronaut Ian (Ian McCulloch), who she remembers was dismissed from his job after returning from a disastrous mission to Mars where he reckoned he'd stumbled across loads of these eggs.

"You must know by now that national security is at stake ... and possibly even more than that", Stella sagely reckons. No shit. Luckily she now has Ian on board too, if he can stay sober long enough, to help her and Tony ascertain who is responsible for smuggling these Martian eggs onto Earth, where they're hording them and what their motives for doing so are.

CONTAMINATION is, of course, a cheap cash-in on ALIEN. Complete with alien eggs, exploding stomachs and government research laboratories that have a distinct bargain-basement resemblance to the interiors of the Nostromo.

It looks cheap as fuck, yes - from the aforementioned set design, to the really rubbish rendition of Mars and the rudimentary gore effects. The dubbing is so poor you'd swear it was intentionally bad. The script is so cheesy that it now seems purpose-built for fans to knowingly guffaw at during festival screenings (something picked up on by McCulloch in one of the disc's extras).

But, as with many otherwise irredeemable cheapies from the early 1980s, CONTAMINATION retains a charm that totally overrides its considerable shortcomings. It's briskly paced, knowingly trashy and filled with memorable set-pieces (my personal favourite being the moment the lovely Marleau is trapped in a hotel bathroom with one of the ominously pulsating alien eggs).

The Goblin's score is typically excellent too, a pulsing electronic affair which really lends atmosphere to director Luigi Cozzi's taut pulp drama sequences.

Formerly removed from UK video store shelves during the nasties cull of the mid-1980s (though never officially banned), CONTAMINATION resurfaced in the early 1990s in a heavily-cut, BBFC-endorsed '18' certificate version.

By the advent of DVD, however, even the BBFC had acknowledged that the film was little more than harmless fun. It was released in its uncensored entirety by Anchor Bay in what was, for its time, a very nice special edition.

Fast-forward to 2015, and Arrow Films Video have overseen the film's leap to HD. Now available on region-free blu-ray from Arrow on both sides of the Atlantic (well, dual-format release - but we were sent a blu-ray screener for review), CONTAMINATION has never been better served.

For a start, the film - fully uncut, naturally - looks fantastic.

Presented in its original 1.85:1 ratio and enhanced for 16x9 televisions, this full 1080p HD transfer is given the benefit of a healthy bitrate. Colours are bolder than ever before - especially reds - while blacks remain solid throughout, darker scenes are much clearer than fans will recall from previous releases, while the cleanliness of a new 2k restoration from the original negative materials never compromises an agreeably filmic quality which is maintained from beginning to end.

Lossless mono audio tracks are available in both English and Italian language variants. Though the cast speak a mix of both languages, I prefer the former: it retains McCulloch's voice and stays true to the ridiculous dubbing that loaned the film inappropriate charm while watching it on video all those many moons ago. The important thing here is that we have a choice of both tracks - and that both offer clean, clear and consistent playbacks. That Goblin soundtrack has never sounded better.

Optional English subtitles are well-written and easy to read at all times.

The disc opens to an animated main menu page. From there, a pop-up scene selection menu allows access to the film via 12 chapters.

A plethora of bonus features kick off with Chris Alexander's entertaining audio commentary track. Right from the very start he makes no bones about this being nothing more than a fanboy track. Of course, there are fascinating titbits of trivia offered throughout, but first and foremost Alexander is here to celebrate everything that works in (and in spite of) the film. It's great fun.

Critics Maitland McDonagh and Chris Poggiali are on hand for the enjoyable new 17-minute documentary "Imitation is the Sincerest Form of Flattery". Although this examination of how the Italian industry ripped off US hits such as JAWS and ALIEN doesn't really tell us anything we didn't already know, it's still fun hearing the likes of THE BRONX WARRIORS, STAR CRASH, KILLER FISH and CANNIBAL APOCALYPSE being namechecked. The various clips of key movies are even better.

Also new is a 41-minute audience Q&A session hosted by Arrow's Ewan Cant, in which McCulloch and Cozzi field questions from the Abertoir Festival audience in November 2014. This is excellent, the director joining everyone else in speaking English as the film's title changes are discussed along with McCulloch's very honest reasons for appearing in the film, talk about the FX work, the shooting locations, the Mafia-sourced financial backing and much more. Fascinating stuff.

CONTAMINATION's original 3-minute theatrical trailer is presented in 1.66:1 with English audio.

Owners of the old DVD will remember the 23-minute interview with Cozzi which is interspersed with behind-the-scenes footage from CONTAMINATION's shoot. It suffers from a soft, faded VHS-type visual quality and muffled audio (Italian with English subtitles) but, so what? It's a wonderful archive companion piece to the main feature and it's great to see it ported across here.

Much better (and a great way of seeing how much Cozzi has changed over the years) is an all-new 43-minute interview with the director, in which he presents a retrospective on his own illustrious career. Fantastic.

"Sound of the Cyclops" finds Goblin keyboardist (and sometime Claudio Simonetti replacement) Maurizio Guarini discussing the film's superb score, as well as some of the other films he's contributed soundtracks towards. Best of all, this amiable English-language 11-minute piece opens with Guarini playing a snippet of the CONTAMINATION score on his home piano.

We also get the original graphic novel based upon the film, which is reproduced here in black-and-white photo gallery fashion.

This impressive set is concluded by a colourful 24-page booklet containing an excellent new essay by the aforementioned Alexander which looks into the film's obvious influence, the Italian rip-off industry in general, and more, along with notes on the restoration. We also get double-sided reversible cover artwork.

CONTAMINATION is supremely silly, trashy fun. It looks great here and has been afforded a fantastic array of extras. I'm a big fan of this film in all its flawed, ignoble glory - if you are too, you really do need to add this brilliant set to your collection.

Review by Stuart Willis

Released by Arrow Video
Region All
Rated 18
Extras :
see main review