Execrable: Contamination

Contamination (A.K.A. Alien Contamination) (1980)

Directed by Luigi Cozzi
Written by Luigi Cozzi, Erich Tomek
Produced by Claudio Mancini, Ugo Valenti, Karl Spiehs
Starring Louise Marleau, Marino Masé, Ian McCulloch, Siegfried Rauch, Gisela Hahn, Carlo De Mejo, Carlo Monni, Mike Morris, Brigitte Wagner


Intercepted en route to New York City, a freighter contains a crew of corses, and gooey, thermoreactive eggs filled with bacterial silicon that induces the internal explosion of any organism it splatters. They’re tracked by the colonel (Marleau) of a clandestine governmental agency to a Colombian coffee plantation and exporter, where she’s headed with a police detective (Masé) and former astronaut (McCulloch) to exterminate their source.


Apparently enthralled by Alien, Cozzi (ill-)conceived his first draft of this script as a sequel to the classic horror, then revised it in accordance with budgetary limitations. This schlocky, successful ride on those long coattails is less irksome for its derivation than his insufferably immature trio, who are as emotionally incontinent as addled adolescents.


Besides some excessive close-ups and zooms thereto, Cozzi’s direction is fair. He’s credited once again under his preposterous pseudonym, Lewis Coates.


Giuseppe Pinori’s photography is similarly satisfactory.


Perhaps once or twice a smidge too sudden, neither can any other complaint be lodged against Nino Baragli’s theatrical cut.


As simply scripted, everyone plays their puerile parts broadly or blandly, but only the leads rankle. Late Masé’s spunk is gratingly unfunny, McCulloch’s querulousness miffingly melodramatic. Marleau has all the allure and presence of a dead fish; Cozzi wrote her part for luscious Caroline Munro, which is why everyone’s so taken with this frump.


Some quirky riffs by Goblin are expectedly catchy, though hardly their best work.


Opening aerial shots of NYC focusing on the Chrysler Building, World Trade Towers and Statue of Liberty are directly arresting. In slow motion, fulminations of eggs, then polluted people entertain. A climactic confrontation with the picture’s final boss, a massive, slimy, cyclopic extraterrestrial, and his thrall (Rauch) is gruesomely goofy to behold.


Who can fathom the measure of Marleau’s colonel?! She’s sanctioned to command strike forces domestically, but not abroad. The stipulations by which she performs her mission furnish incentive, but make no sense. Her hunt for the alien scourge is intrepid until she’s locked in a bathroom with one of its eggs, whereupon she panics like a halfwit rather than forcing open its visibly flimsy door. In one inexplicable scene, Masé avows his enduring affection and yearning for Marleau, but they’ve known each other for three days. When he finally stops whining and seizes the day, McCulloch’s hero is a relief from his annoying allies.


It’s not scary in the slightest, but this Italo-German production is too irritating to view without an expert riff.

Instead, watch Lily C.A.T..

Palatable: Le mans

Le mans (1971)
Directed by Lee H. Katzin
Written by Harry Kleiner
Produced by Jack N. Reddish, Alan Levine, Robert E. Relyea
Starring Steve McQueen, Elga Andersen, Siegfried Rauch, Ronald Leigh-Hunt, Christopher Waite, Fred Haltiner, Louise Edlind, Luc Merenda
At least so much a document of the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 1970 as a human drama, this pet project of its superstar leading man and semi-professional racer finds McQueen as a contender in the “Grand Prix of Endurance and Efficiency,” vying with a frequent German rival (Rauch) and haunted by the death of an Italian competitor a year earlier to whose widow (Andersen) he gravitates mutually. At Katzin’s behest, DPs René Guissart Jr. and Robert B. Hauser cunningly shot their principal footage from profuse prospects and panoramas during and after the actual event at its picturesque Circuit de la Sarthe, commencing with exhaustive establishing shots of and about the venue, its shoaling spectators, correspondents, medical facilities, pit lanes, sprawling parking lots, a police detail assigned to security and cramped traffic en route to the race. No conversational dialogue’s uttered during the first half-hour, when industrious preparation by pit crews and drivers alike culminates to a gripping depiction of the standing start exclusive to the ’70 race. During breathers while their alternates race, a Swiss driver (Haltiner) of Porsche’s team moots the prospect of retirement in discourse with his wife (Edlind), Andersen and McQueen reflect on the sport’s hazards and personal significance, and journalists probe their subjects for ancillary insights. Otherwise, the true stars here are sleekly swift Porsche 917s, Ferrari 512s and their functional mock-ups streaking across the circuit’s lengthy straights. On a track that’s claimed no few lives, numerous shunts were spectacularly staged and meticulously cut with intermittent slow-motion effects to evoke crashers’ disoriented kinestheses and emphasize a looming, treacherous, often fatal facet of automotive racing. Close-ups of the drivers and blistering first-person vistas from their cramped seats afford indispensable outlooks adjunct to ample exteriors, along with gorgeous nocturnal shots punctuated by dazzling headlights, periodically accompanied by Michel Legrand’s jazzily jaunty and emotively orchestral music. Like many fine pictures pertaining to marginal sports, McQueen’s and Katzin’s venture suffered commercial failure in ’71, but has since found favor in a cult audience including gearheads, racing enthusiasts and McQueen’s fans, whose appreciation of its authenticity and technique fortify its preeminence as a nonesuch of auto racing cinema.