The VRAs: Contamination (1980)

This is our ongoing series about films that were banned by the British government, using the Video Recordings Act of 1984. You have the right-wing gutter press and a few Christian pressure groups to thank for these films becoming more famous than they had any right to be (in all but a few cases), and the fact they’ve now virtually all been re-released, uncut, while the law remains in place, tells you more about moral panics than it does about the content of the films. See the VRAs “mission statement” here.


If ever there was a film which showed how stupid the whole video nasty thing was, it’s “Contamination”. After being caught by the Video Recordings Act and banned, it was later re-released, uncut, with a 15 certificate. Maybe it was one generation of film censors mocking the previous one? Anyway, I’d have been happy if this stayed banned everywhere in the world, forever.

After seeing a helicopter fly round New York (it’s always a little sad seeing the World Trade Centre on film) we then cut to whatever Italian city they filmed this in. A deserted boat drifting into New York was used in “Zombie Flesh Eaters”, released around the same time, one of those weird bits of cinematic synchronicity. Or one of them ripped the other off, I’m not checking either way. Anyway, the boat is full of boxes from some South American coffee place, but inside them all are weird green eggs- after killing most of the people who do the initial investigating, the ship is secured by some people who are like a special part of the Army, or the Government, or something. Anyway, they’re mainly represented by Colonel Stella Holmes, who has a bit of a flirtatious thing going with the sole survivor of the initial investigation, plucky New York cop Tony.

I wish that gory horror films like this would realise that their plot and acting aren’t really enough to keep people interested in the damned thing. While Tony and Stella meet and befriend Ian, an astronaut who came back from Mars…a changed man…the film steadfastly refuses to get much above a snail’s pace, and the mostly dubbed acting is pretty rubbish, with the honourable exception of Ian McCulloch as Ian. The eggs aren’t in it enough, but when they are they explode and anyone who gets any goo on them will explode a few minutes later – and it’s these explosions, with the really bad special effects that go with them (people who explode have hugely bulky blood/guts packs clearly visible under their clothes) that presumably caused the film to be banned. Or perhaps it’s the brain-buggering stupidity of this exchange:
IDIOT 1: “Don’t touch that, it could be dangerous” (referring to pulsating alien egg)
IDIOT 2: “Don’t worry, it’s fine” (EXPLODES)

Those of you with an eagle eye will have noticed “space”, and “weird exploding eggs” and will have thought of “Alien”. Well, give yourself a pat on the back, as this film was initially conceived as a cheap rip-off of “Alien”. When writer / director Luigi Cozzi realised the budget would be nowhere near enough, he decided to set it on Earth, so that’s what we have. Yay?


It turns out that Ian and Hamilton, the other astronaut, saw something alien during their mission to Mars, but the top brass is hushing it up – oh, and Hamilton brought a seed back which grew into an alien “queen” which is producing eggs at a rather alarming rate. The South American coffee plantation from before comes into it, which means we get a seemingly endless scene of them getting on a plane, going there, messing about in their hotel, etc. It’s so slow!

This film really feels like it’s from the 1950s. The ludicrous cheap rubber alien (SPOILERS!), the way that Tony literally slaps some sense into Stella, or how she goes from Army colonel to simpering love interest as soon as there’s men around to do the actual heavy lifting of the film. Considering how much time is spent on them finding the right hotel room, a bit of information on how they got to Mars and back would have been nice? Ah, who cares.

“Contamination” is another film that really ought to have been forgotten by history, and were it not for its inclusion in the video nasty list, it would have been. “Stupid and boring” is being kind to this one.

Considering it was once banned, that it’s now available to watch on Youtube for free makes that initial decision seem even stupider. Anyway, should you be a glutton for punishment you can fill your boots here:

Rating: thumbs down