DirectorGeorge P. Cosmatos
Release Date(s)1989 (August 19, 2014)
- Film/Program Grade: B-
- Video Grade: B+
- Audio Grade: B+
- Extras Grade: B-
Leviathan was released in 1989, along with a slew of other undersea thrillers such as The Abyss and DeepStar Six. Leviathan was perhaps the cultiest of those films overall, mainly due to its strong visual ties to the other film franchises. It grossed almost $16 million in the U.S. and gained mostly negative critical praise at the time. Today, it’s still seen as a cult film, but has a reasonable following behind it.
Many people have accused the film of flat out ripping off the Alien franchise, as well as The Thing, but the line between paying homage and ripping off is a little blurry at times. The storyline is similar, of course, but there have been many, many Alien knock-offs over the years and none really come under as much scrutiny as Leviathan, and for good reason. It’s certainly no coincidence that Leviathan’s look comes from Aliens, being that production designer Ron Cobb worked on both films (alternatively as only a concept designer on Aliens). And to even further tie it to the Alien franchise, the score was conducted by Jerry Goldsmith, who also scored the first Alien film. The film also contains creature effects from Stan Winston Studio’s key people (who also worked on Aliens). So with essentially most of the same crew from a film about an alien species in tight quarters working on another film about an alien species in tight quarters, you’re bound to have comparisons no matter what. Whether it was intentional or not is another story, and more of a matter of opinion that anything at this point.
Leviathan is also filled with talented people both in front of and behind the camera. It was directed by George P. Cosmatos and co-written by David Peoples, but also features a great cast: Peter Weller, Richard Crenna, Daniel Stern, Amanda Pays, Ernie Hudson, Meg Foster, and Hector Elizondo, just to name a few. The film itself is a bit schlocky, to be honest. It comes off as a bigger-budgeted Roger Corman movie, which is funny because Roger Corman had already ripped off the Alien series with films like Galaxy of Terror nearly a decade before. Overall, Leviathan is a fun monster movie, but it doesn’t really bring anything new to the table. There are some good performances and some fun special effects, but in the end, it just feels like the bastard clone of better movies, in my opinion.
One thing’s for certain: giving Leviathan the Scream Factory treatment was a welcome surprise. The video presentation on this Blu-ray is quite good. There are moments of softness that are derived from the original photography, but overall, it’s a very sharp presentation. There’s a heavy layer of grain with a fine amount of image detail to be found, colors are nicely-saturated, shadow detail is good (although not perfect), and brightness and contrast aren’t entirely consistent (again, partly due to the source). I didn’t see any signs of excessive noise removal or any compression artifacts either. So it’s not a perfect presentation, but it’s a very solid one. The audio portion comes in two channels: English 5.1 and 2.0 DTS-HD. This is another case where I was glad to be given a choice because both channels have their pros and cons. While the 5.1 channel does contain a lot more dynamic range with some very heavy punch in the bass during some of the louder moments, it also cancels out a lot of the dialogue. The 2.0 track, on the other hand, has the dialogue at a perfectly audible level, but with less punch in the low end. Otherwise, everything is mixed well on both tracks, but it’s a matter of preference in the end. Personally, I preferred the 2.0 mix as it’s pretty much the original soundtrack anyways. There are also subtitles in English for those who might need them.
Supplemental material includes the Leviathan: Monster Melting Pot featurette, which contains interviews with select members of the cast and crew; the Dissecting Cobb with Hector Elizondo interview segment; the Surviving Leviathan with Ernie Hudson interview segment; the original theatrical trailer; and a set of trailers for other Scream Factory titles. The main featurette is probably the best extra here, but all of this material is well-worth a look.
Leviathan’s U.S. Blu-ray debut is a welcome one, and the folks at Scream Factory have dusted off a fun movie and made it look great in high definition. The movie itself is no masterpiece of the genre or anything, but it’s fun, and the Blu-ray package it comes in is well worth an upgrade.
- Tim Salmons