Leviathan Blu-ray Review
Directed by George P. Cosmatos
Written by David Webb Peoples and Jeb Stuart
1989, Region A, 98 minutes, Rated R
Blu-ray released on August 19th, 2014
Peter Weller as Beck
Richard Crenna as Doc Thompson
Amanda Pays as Willie
Ernie Hudson as Jones
Hector Elizondo as Cobb
Daniel Stern as Sixpack
Lisa Eilbacher as Bowman
Michael Carmine as DeJesus
Meg Foster as Ms. Martin
Members of an underwater silver mining facility are nearing completion of their three-month operation when they discover the sunken remains of a Russian freighter. Inside they find a safe filled with assorted items, one of which introduces a mysterious illness, putting everyone on their ship in immediate danger. The leader, Beck (Peter Weller, Of Unknown Origin), is demanding an emergency evacuation, but Martin (Meg Foster, They Live), the corporate liaison on the ship above, is reluctant to comply. After one of the crew begins showing bizarre symptoms, the ship's doctor (Richard Crenna, Rambo: First Blood Part II), begins running tests on the others, but tries to keep the seriousness of the situation quiet.
The rest of the team are ready to go home and are growing anxious, especially DeJesus (Michael Carmine, Band of the Hand), who is still recovering from a near-fatal scare involving a malfunctioning dive suit. Jones (Ernie Hudson, The Hand That Rocks the Cradle) and Cobb (Hector Elizondo, Young Doctors in Love) are the most level-headed of the group, and would rather just get the job done so they can get paid. Sixpack (Daniel Stern, Blue Thunder) has a temper and is a bit of a misogynist, which adds unnecessary stress on Willie (Amanda Pays, Oxford Blues) and Bowman (Lisa Eilbacher, Live Wire), the two women on the job.
Threats of an imminent hurricane prevent the crew from being evacuated for an additional 12 hours. The medical situation escalates and begins to reveal itself as something far more sinister than a simple infection. Soon, the team is forced to work together for survival as something begins stalking them throughout the ship. Their situation takes a darker turn and the question shifts from can anyone survive to should they. From this point forward, Leviathan alternates between a creepy horror flick and a high action thriller as our dwindling number of heroes face off against an undersea creature that appears unstoppable.
Led by Peter Weller, the cast is impressive for a nautical monster movie. Richard Crenna was enjoying a second wind to his long career (thanks to the Rambo franchise) and is clearly having fun here, and Ernie Hudson, Pays and Elizondo all bring a sincerity to their roles and are the heart of the undersea crew. Daniel Stern is still fun to watch and he shares great onscreen chemistry with Lisa Eilbacher as Bowman. The highly talented Michael Carmine is a welcome addition here, in one of the late actor's final performances.
Skillfully directed by George P. Cosmatos (Cobra), things move at a brisk pace while he continues to elevate the risk for our heroes. Working from a script by David Webb Peoples (Blade Runner) and Jeb Stuart (Die Hard), Cosmatos is provided with several creepy set-pieces that are enhanced by the beautiful cinematography of Alex Thomson (Legend). The impressive list of names behind the camera doesn't stop there, as the freaky creature effects are designed by Stan Winston (Aliens) and everything on screen is complemented by a score courtesy of the legendary Jerry Goldsmith (Psycho II).
1989 brought a trio of nautical adventures to movie theaters and while all three made money, none of them over-performed at the box office. When mega-director James Cameron announced he was making The Abyss, an underwater adventure that would likely dominate cinemas, two similar titles quickly went into production to compete for the summer box office dollars. Movie studios notoriously throw rival films into the mix (think Tombstone vs. Wyatt Earp); in this case audiences got both DeepStar Six and Leviathan as rivals to Cameron's endeavor. Of the two smaller titles, Leviathan was the more successful and, despite being dismissed by critics as an Alien / The Thing hybrid, it actually works as a fun monster movie.
Video and Audio:
Leviathan is presented in the original 2.35:1 aspect ratio and has never looked better, granted this is the first time the film has gotten any attention on home video in 16 years. While not exactly reference quality, the transfer hits best where it needs to with strong colors and natural flesh tones. Having seen the previous DVD release, I have no complaints, as this is quite the upgrade.
There are two audio options offered here and both are good. The DTS-HD MA 5.1 track offers a solid presentation that benefits the intensity of the action and brings Goldsmith's score to the front, but purists will want to stick with the DTS-HD MA 2.0 track that preserves the original stereo mix. Dialogue remains clear and free from distortion and English subtitles are provided for anyone in need.
The main attraction here is the Monster Melting Pot (40 minutes) featurette that talks to Alec Gillis, Tom Woodruff Jr. and Shannon Shea, three longtime members of the late Stan Winston's effects crew. I could listen to these guys tell stories for hours and never get tired of it—honestly, the adventures they have had are just crazy. Topics this time around include working in Italy, the difficulties of creating the dive suits, creature designs and on-set tension between Winston and Cosmatos. There are plenty more stories from these three on the upcoming Pumpkinhead Blu-ray and hopefully Scream Factory keeps the tales coming.
Hector Elizondo sits down to discuss the ups and downs on this picture in the segment Dissecting Cobb (13 minutes). The man appears gracious and pleasant as he is clearly pleased that people are interested in hearing his thoughts on the material. He alludes to the difficulties of the production without throwing blame in any particular direction and maintains a nice sense of humor about the film.
Ernie Hudson fans will want to check out the laid-back interview Surviving Leviathan (15 minutes) in which he reflects on his work with the cast and crew. His stories are wide ranging, from awkward moments with the director's language barrier to attending a screening of the film in South Central Los Angeles.
Trailers for Leviathan and other Scream Factory releases are also on hand to round out the special features.