Film Review: Contamination (1980)

Also known as: Contamination – Alien arriva sulla Terra (Italy), Alien Contamination (US cut version title), Toxic Spawn (US video title)
Release Date: August 2nd, 1980 (Italy)
Directed by: Luigi Cozzi
Written by: Luigi Cozzi
Music by: Goblin
Cast: Ian McCulloch, Louise Marleau, Marino Mase, Siegfried Rauch, Gisela Hahn

Alex Cinematografica, Barthonia Film, Lisa-Film, Cannon Films, 95 Minutes, 84 Minutes (cut version)

Review:

“Help! Let me out! There’s an egg!” – Colonel Stella Holmes

In Italy, at least back in the ’70s and ’80s, filmmakers didn’t give a crap about copyrights. So this was made as a “sequel” to Ridley Scott’s Alien, even though the only similarity it shares with that film is aliens. But these aliens are pretty much just slimy pods that look like inside out kiwis.

Overall, this isn’t a very good movie but for a 1980 horror picture from Italy, it fits that style and is actually better than a lot of the similar riffraff.

Luigi Cozzi wrote and directed this and it is one of his better films. I thought that the story was decent and I was at least engaged by it. There weren’t many dull moments and even if the aliens were bizarre and hokey, the film had an atmosphere that worked and made them haunting.

I think a lot of what makes this film work is the soundtrack by Goblin. I believe the band had a different lineup than when they worked on the Suspiria soundtrack but they still provide surrealist noise that sometimes has a melody but mostly just sets the tone, generating a sort of uneasiness in the viewer.

My favorite thing about this movie is the special effects. They’re practical, they’re cheap but when bodies start bursting from exposure to alien pods, it all comes off really damn good and it has stood the test of time. That opening scene where the scientists in hazmat suits are exploding all over the place is still effective.

Contamination is Italian horror schlock but it’s entertaining Italian horror schlock with a good amount of fun, explosive gore; the type of gore I like most because it’s not there to gross you out, it’s just there to shock you and catch you by surprise.

Rating: 5.5/10
Pairs well with: other Luigi Cozzi horror films, as well as movies by Lucio Fulci and Lamberto Bava.

Film Review: The Cat O’ Nine Tails (1971)

Also known as: I Am an Eyewitness (Japanese English title)
Release Date: February 12th, 1971 (Milan premiere)
Directed by: Dario Argento
Written by: Dario Argento, Bryan Edgar Wallace, Dardano Sacchetti, Luigi Cozzi, Luigi Collo
Music by: Ennio Morricone
Cast: James Franciscus, Karl Malden, Catherine Spaak

Mondial Te.Fi., Seda Spettacoli S.p.A., Labrador Films, Terra-Filmkunst GmbH, Constantin Film Verleih GmbH, 112 Minutes

Review:

“Nothing’s easy for me. I can’t even knock over a chair without getting caught.” – Gigi, the Loser

I love giallo movies and I have been a fan of Dario Argento since I first experienced Suspiria pretty early in life. For some bizarre reason, I have never seen The Cat O’ Nine Tails. It is part of Argento’s Animal Trilogy, which are three films released consecutively but are unrelated, other than being directed by Argento, having an animal name in their titles and having similar themes from a narrative and stylistic standpoint.

To be brutally honest, while I enjoy the film, overall, this was the slowest old school Argento movie that I have seen. There were aspects of the film that were interesting but it was a boring experience overall.

This has the same visual flair that Argento gave us in The Bird with Crystal Plumage but it seemed to be shot more straightforward and lacked the cinematography and lighting flourishes he employed so well in his previous movie. Where most Argento movies, especially the ones of the ’70s and ’80s, felt so majestic, this one feels very pedestrian for a giallo. Luckily, Argento would embrace his patented stylistic flourishes and give us some vivid nightmares after this picture.

The story is about a middle-aged blind man who helps a newspaper reporter try to solve a series of murders. The murders are connected to a pharmaceutical company’s secret research. The two men then become targets of the killer and must try to outwit the murderer while trying to find out the truth behind it all.

The narrative really is a solid murder mystery that almost has film-noir elements to it. There are those patented noir twists, turns and curveballs that keep you guessing. In some regard, it is an example of a relation between some giallo films and the American and British noir pictures of the ’40s and ’50s. I’ve often called giallo a bridge between noir and slasher flicks and this is an example of how I came to that theory.

This isn’t one of Argento’s best and he even said that it was his least favorite film that he directed. That doesn’t mean that it isn’t worthwhile, especially to fans of his work that want to see how he evolved from his earliest films to his more famous movies.

Rating: 7/10
Pairs well with: The other two films in Argento’s Animal TrilogyThe Bird With the Crystal Plumage and Four Flies On Grey Velvet.

Film Review: Devil Fish (1984)

Also known as: Shark – Rosso nell’oceano (Italy), Monster Shark, Monster from the Red Ocean, Devouring Waves, Shark: Red in the Ocean
Release Date: September 7th, 1984
Directed by: Lamberto Bava
Written by: Gianfranco Clerici, Dardano Sacchetti, Herve Piccini, Vincenzo Mannino, Luigi Cozzi, Sergio Martino
Music by: Fabio Frizzi
Cast: Michael Sopkiw, Gianni Garko, William Berger

Filmes Cinematografica, Nuova Danis Cinematografica, Filmes International, National Cinematografica, Films Du Griffon, DLF Distribution, Lanciamento Film, 90 Minutes

devil-fishReview:

This is an Italian ripoff of Jaws. Except in this film, we have a giant sharp-toothed fish that also has squid like tentacles. This was pretty unique for 1984 and the Syfy Channel, whose new spelling I will never get used to, pretty much stole the concept with all their weird hybrid creature features such as  SharktopusDinosharkCrocosaurusPiranhacondaSharktopus vs. Pteracuda and Sharktopus vs. Whalewolf. What in the holy hell is a “whalewolf”?

For a film boasting the talents that this one does, it should have been better. Director Lamberto Bava, the son of Mario Bava, went on to make the Demons film series and those were fantastic. But maybe like James Cameron, this is Bava’s version of Piranha II. It certainly feels similar to that film.

This movie also has the acting talents of spaghetti western regulars Gianni Garko, known mostly as Sartana, and William Berger. But then, Luigi Cozzi was also involved in the film and he was responsible for the horrendous Lou Ferrigno Hercules movie, as well as Starcrash, which is mostly watchable because the angelically majestic Caroline Munro is scantily clad the entire picture.

Devil Fish or Monster Shark or whatever of the half dozen other names it’s called is not a good movie. It is amusing in some parts but there just isn’t a lot to sink your teeth into (pun actually intended). It is full of a lot of sciencey mumbo jumbo that isn’t very engaging. Most of the times the creature actually does show up, it is pretty obscured or shot with such tight closeups that it is hard to get a grasp of what this monster looks like. Nothing about the creature makes much sense. Even the poster doesn’t make sense, as it shows the fish coming out of the water to swallow its victim but the victim’s arms are in front of and under the fish’s jaw. That is not the attack of a skilled predator.

As is customary with the films I review that have ended up riffed by Mystery Science Theater 3000, I should mention that you can watch this in an episode of that show. You’ll find it near the end of season nine.

Rating: 3/10

Film Review: Starcrash (1979)

Release Date: March 7th, 1979 (USA)
Directed by: Luigi Cozzi
Written by: Nat Wachsberger, Patrick Wachsberger
Music by: John Barry
Cast: Marjoe Gortner, Caroline Munro, Judd Hamilton, Robert Tessier, Christopher Plummer, David Hasselhoff, Joe Spinell

Columbia, American International Pictures, New World Pictures, 94 Minutes

9c17a67296586aa6c2d153e13395f1deReview:

Starcrash is an Italian science fiction fantasy film that came out during the height of low budget Italian ripoffs of successful American films. The copyright laws in Italy of the 1970s were pretty chill and they produced a slew of films that would’ve had filmmakers lawsuit crazy in the United States.

It is pretty obvious that this movie is a ripoff of Star Wars. From the use of lightsabers, a giant planet destroying super weapon and pretty much everything else in this movie, it is pretty clear what the Italians were trying to tap into.

Of course, being that it is an Italian film, it is sexy as hell. The movie stars a scantily clad Caroline Munro. Still to this day, she is everything I want in a woman. Okay, maybe not everything but she was my first crush as a kid and out of all my childhood crushes, is the one I still find stunning and absolutely perfect, whether it was in this film, Dracula A.D. 1972, Captain Kronos – Vampire Hunter, The Spy Who Loved Me, Maniac, The Golden Voyage of Sinbad, Slaughter High, The Last Horror Film, At Earth’s Core or as a beautiful deceased corpse in the Dr. Phibes movies. But this isn’t about me perving over the stunning Ms. Munro.

Starcrash is a really bad film. So bad that it was featured on an episode of Mystery Science Theater 3000. But it is one of those bad films that is quite good for its faults.

The dialogue and situations are unintentionally funny. The characters are over the top and too bizarre to believe. And then there is the dubbing. Caroline Munro is an English speaking actress, being that she is from England, but she got a bizarre American accent dub from another actress. It just makes this film feel even more surreal than it already does.

We also get to see a very young David Hasselhoff show up in the film as a prince who needs rescuing but is actually a pretty heroic character in his own right. Joe Spinell, who would go on to work with Munro in several films and is most known as Gazzo in the first two Rocky films, plays the evil Count Zarth Arn.

The one thing that stands out above all else in this film, is the fact that it looks like 70s pop art. The bad effects and space battles are beautiful in their simplicity and color. The set design looks like something Roger Corman would’ve done twenty years prior but they work and make this film one of the best campy sci-fi movies in history.

This film has a 4.0 on IMDb, I get it. As a piece of filmmaking it is a 4.0 film. However, as far as being fun and unintentionally awesome for all its flaws, it is a much better watch than a 4.0 film.

And it has Caroline Munro in it.

Rating: 6/10