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Branded as a “video nasty” in the UK, director Luigi Cozzi’s Contamination takes the premise of Ridley Scott’s classic Alien and peppers it with exploding guts galore and a dangerously infectious soundtrack from celebrated Italian prog-rockers Goblin (Deep Red, Suspiria).

A cargo ship drifts up the Hudson River. Its crew: all dead, their bodies horribly mutilated, turned inside out by an unknown force. Its freight: boxes upon boxes of glowing, pulsating green eggs. It soon becomes clear that these eggs are not of this planet, and someone intends to cultivate them here on Earth. But who? And to what end?

Starring Italian horror veteran Ian McCulloch (Zombie Flesh Eaters), Contamination is an ultra-violent sci-fi epic that really gets under the skin. In space, no one can hear you scream – but on Earth, the terror rings loud and clear!


About the transfer: Contamination is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.85:1 with mono sound. Contamination has been exclusively restored in 2K resolution for this release by Arrow Films. The original camera negative was scanned in 2K resolution on a pin-registered Arriscan at Immagine Ritrovata, Bologna. The film was graded on the Baselight grading system at Deluxe Restoration, London.

Thousands of instances of dirt, debris and light scratches were removed through a combination of digital restoration tools. Image stability and density fluctuation issues were also improved.

The film’s mono soundtracks were transferred from the original optical sound negatives at Immagine Ritrovata, Bologna. The soundtracks were restored and conformed by David Mackenzie. Some minor instances of noise still remain, in keeping with the condition of the materials.

There are times in which the film’s audio synch will appear slightly loose against the picture, due to the fact that the soundtrack was recorded entirely in post-production. This is correct and as per the original theatrical release of Contamination.

Video


Contamination arrives on Blu-ray with a newly minted transfer created by Arrow itself, which is usually a guarantee of superior image quality. Thankfully Contamination doesn't break from the norm, as a few film artefacts aside this is a very pleasing presentation of a relatively obscure, low-budget Italian horror. With this being my one (and possibly only) viewing I can't comment on previous standard-definition releases, but one assumes that they weren't a patch on this presentation. The image here is very finely detailed, has a strong, generally natural colour palette, convincing shadow detail and surprisingly little print damage. That's not to say it's entirely absent, as white flecks of varying size are visible throughout. There are also some pulsing issues, but nothing particularly troublesome if truth be told. David McKenzie's compression is as solid as ever (I swear he's not paying me for all of these ocmpliments), all of which amounts to a very pleasing effort. I don't think it's quite up there with the label's very best, but it's a damn fine effort considering the source material.

Audio


The disc includes both English and Italian LPCM 1.0 Mono audio tracks, but you'll probably want to steer clear of the latter thanks to its inferior fidelity. It doesn’t really matter though, as like many Italian genre films Contagion was shot without sound and dubbed in post-production. As such the actors' lip movements never quite marry up with the spoken dialogue, but once you understand that it isn't a technical fault it's fairly easy to forgive. Obviously it's not the most dynamic or engaging of soundtracks, but it does the basics well enough; the only issues I had were some occasional noise and the dialogue being overwhelmed by the score every now and then. Speaking of the score, it comes courtesy of Dario Argento's favourite prog-rock band Goblin, and is probably the most interesting thing about the soundtrack. It's not up their with their greatest endeavours and it's often clumsily edited, but it's still relatively pleasing.

Extras


Another Arrow release, another fine batch of supplemental material. Here's a full list of the disc's contents.

  • Feature Commentary by filmmaker, Fangoria editor and Contamination super-fan Chris Alexander
  • Luigi Cozzi on the Creation of Contamination – an archive documentary hosted by the director and including behind-the-scenes footage
  • 2014 Q&A with Cozzi and star Ian McCulloch
  • Sound of the Cyclops: Goblin’s Maurizio Guarini on the music of Contamination – the Goblin keyboardist discusses Contamination’s dark, progressive rock score and a lifetime of making music for Italian terror
  • Imitation Is The Sincerest Form of Flattery – A critical analysis of the Italian 'Mockbusters' trend of filmmaking which sought to capitalize on the success of Hollywood blockbusters
  • Theatrical Trailer
  • Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Gary Pullin
  • Collector’s booklet featuring new writing on the film by Chris Alexander, illustrated with original archive stills and posters
  • DVD Copy

Overall


That it took three or four viewings to get through Contamination is not a particularly ringing endorsement of its charms. At the end of the day it's a low-budget Alien kock-off with bad acting, terrible pacing—just witness the ridiculously long bathroom scene as an example—and poor special effects (you can literally see the wires holding up the alien creature in some scenes). Granted I'm not a big fan of Italian horror pictures of this ilk, so Contamination was never likely to set my pulse racing, but I found it disappointing when compared to other low budget productions. For a far more detailed and indeed complimentary review of the film you might want to check out my colleague Gabe Powers' effort.

While it's fair to say that I'm not a big fan of the feature itself, Arrow's Blu-ray is another technically impressive effort that is sure to please those with a fondness for Italian gore-fests. The new 2K master looks very impressive throughout, and while the audio has a few minor issues there are no calamitous artefacts to contend with. Of course the hallmark of many an Arrow release is the quality of its bonus material, and Contamination also delivers on that front.

** Note: The images below are taken from the Blu-ray release and resized for the page. Full-resolution captures are available by clicking individual images, but due to .jpg compression they are not necessarily representative of the quality of the transfer.

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