Leviathan (1989) - 4K Ultra HD Blu-rayOverview -
It beat The Abyss to theaters, Blu-ray, and now George P. Cosmatos’ underwater creature feature Leviathan will beat James Cameron’s aquatic opus to 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray thanks to Kino Lorber Studio Classics. When an underwater mining crew happens upon a genetic experiment gone wrong, they’re in a fight for survival in a desperate attempt to reach the surface starring RoboCop, Col. Trautman, and Winston Zeddemore. The new 4k Dolby Vision transfer is a nice treat for this fish flick with solid audio options and some new and archival bonus features to match. Recommended
Storyline: Our Reviewer's Take
After blowing up theater screens with The Terminator and Aliens, James Cameron was a hot Hollywood commodity and his next epic adventure The Abyss was going to be one for the books. But if there’s one thing Hollywood loves to do is cannibalize itself. “If 20th Century Fox was going to have their sci-fi water movie, we can have one too!” And so everyone from Roger Corman to Sean S. Cunningham feverishly rushed to get their own “knockoff” to theater screens. Of these films, George P. Cosmatos’ "Underwater Alien" film Leviathan floats to the top.
Thousands of feet below the surface, the crack silver mining crew of Shack 7 is just three days away from finishing their 90-day haul and heading for the surface. Shack boss Beck (Peter Weller) has had a hell of a time keeping his crew on task but the end is near. Medicinal washout Doc (Richard Crenna) rarely shows up on the job. Miners Williams (Amanda Payes), “Six Pack” (Daniel Stern), Jones (Ernie Hudson), Bowman (Lisa Eilbacher), Cobb (Hector Elizondo), and DeJesus (Michael Carmine) are ready to go. But when Six Pack slips over a ridge, the team discovers a mysterious scuttled Russian ship. But the secret they uncover is far more terrifying and deadly!
No shame, no guilt, I love Leviathan. I grew up with this fun creature feature and it’s been a family favorite since we first checked it out on VHS. Where else are you going to find a movie starring RoboCop, the guy that trained Rambo, the coolest Ghostbuster, Theora from Max Headroom, Axel Foley’s best friend, a Wet Bandit, and Mr. Grey from The Taking of Pelham One, Two Three with creature effects by Stan Winston and a score by Jerry Goldsmith? Nowhere, that’s where! It's a genuine one-of-a-kind sci-fi horror creature feature.
Sure, the plot is basically a dime-a-dozen high-concept hybridized version of Alien, but it manages to put a creative spin on an old yarn. Instead of a beast hatching out of someone’s chest cavity, our big creature transforms its victims into a freakish mutation, a fish-like beast with razor teeth that can regenerate itself from even a severed limb into a whole new creature. For me, the scariest thing is that the people it transforms remain a part of the best and most terrifying of all - they’re conscious! So even if this thing takes a bite out of you, you’re just going to be tissue for the making of another beast and you’re along for the ride.
Now if you really pit these rushed-to-screens knockoffs of The Abyss side-by-side, Leviathan and DeepStar Six are almost identical beat-for-beat carbon copies. They forgo the heady high-brow science fiction dealings of Camerons’ show and Corman’s daffy Lords of the Deep and aim for the tried and true audience-pleasing gnarly creature feature. Sure, different aquatic monsters, but key story beats are very nearly the same right up to their respective final creature showdowns. Conveniently enough both have key cast members from RoboCop! While I enjoy the hell of out DeepStar Six, I tip my hat toward Leviathan.
What Leviathan has going for it is Cosmatos’ assured direction, a great script from David Webb Peoples and Jeb Stuart, great Stan Winston creature effects, the respectable cast, and a rousing Jerry Goldsmith score. The film doesn’t waste too much time before getting right to the action. There’s just enough character development for the audience to give a damn about who lives or dies. While the main creature is largely shrouded in shadow, the few looks we get are chilling. Of Stan Winston’s creature creations, it’d put it alongside the Kothoga from The Relic. It’s certainly no Alien Queen, Terminator, Predator, or any member of the Monster Squad, but it’s a pretty damn cool critter.
Sure, if you get to the nuts and bolts of the operation, Leviathan is a pretty standard effort. Not wholly original with a lot of recycled elements from better movies, but I’ll still give credit where credit is due. A favorite that goes beyond simple nostalgic memberberries, the film is a fun run with some great tension, suspense, and a few good scares and some gnarly gore. Peter Weller stands tall as our hero in between Robo appearances as Richard Crenna shows he’s never above the material. Meanwhile, Ernie Hudson and Hector Elizondo work overtime as the sensible humorous audience surrogates saying what we’re all thinking. Amanda Payes may not get a lot to do but thankfully she’s never stuck as the cheap dame-in-distress sexpot. Lisa Eibacher and Michael Carmine score the most tragic characters of the lot and it’s because of Daniel Stern’s sleazy Six Pack that I chipped a tooth as a kid trying to open a pop can with my teeth. Leviathan is the right kind of disposable entertainment for a cold dark night or the right show to watch just before you take your first scuba lesson!
Vital Disc Stats: The 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray
Leviathan stalks the depths of 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray thanks to Kino Lorber Studio Classics with a new 2-Disc release. The 4K is pressed on a BD-100 disc with a BD-50 serving up the 1080p goods. Both discs are housed in a standard two-disc case without stocking offering up alternate insert artwork with an o-card slipcover depicting the classic theater poster image (makes me wish I could hang my 3’ x 12’ vinyl theater banner). The discs each load to static-image main menus with traditional navigation options.
Note - as of this writing we haven’t been able to pull disc-sourced 4K images. All pics are pulled from the included 1080p disc.
Reportedly sourced from a new 4K scan of the interpositive, the 2160p Dolby Vision HDR transfer for Leviathan I’m pleased to report is a welcome upgrade. I was generally happy with what Scream Factory did for their Blu-ray a decade ago, but it’s clear this is the winning option. Even without the negative available, the interpositive delivered impressive clean clear details. That’s the biggest improvement from disc to disc is the lack of frequent speckling in this transfer. Film grain is also better refined, less intrusive with cleaner fine lines and textures. Perhaps not a massive night-and-day improvement but a worthwhile improvement just in terms of presentation. The other notable gain in my book is the image appears much less “pink/orange” than the Scream Factory disc. I’d never really noticed it much until I was doing the disc flippies but it’s there and I found this slightly changed color timing looked more natural.
This isn’t exactly a bright and colorful film to begin with, it’s pretty drab since it all takes place in a dirty mining rig. It’s greasy toupe saveur captured on celluloid. Our only real splashes of color are in the deep blue ocean (which was just lighting, smoke machines, and chicken feathers), the occasional spurt of yellow accents, and deep crimson blood red for all the gore. The Dolby Vision grading does a wonderful job giving these primaries their moments to shine while also highlighting and improving shadows and the deep blacks where the creature hides. Skin tones look a little more healthy and normal now, not quite so “orange.” I’m pretty damn happy this one turned out as well as it did. It’s not a flashy film, it’s not very big and expensive looking (look closely and you can see set walls wiggle), and it largely relies on those dark spaces to sell the scares. My figure is if the original 35mm negative could have been sourced, we might have seen some more dramatic improvements but as is this is still very good.
As with the previous release we have two audio options, a DTS-HD MA 2.0 track and a 5.1 track. Both sound good but comparing them to the older Scream disc tracks, they don't quite feel the same. The 5.1 track is still pretty good but at times can sound pretty thin and distant like the Scream version. However, it does sound like some more low-end work was done for this version to give some of the more action-heavy scenes some heft. Likewise, the 2.0 track for this release sounds more engaged than the previous disc. If it’s a fold-down it’s not a bad one as I didn’t feel like sound effects, the score, or dialog exchanges got thinned out or went missing. Dialog for both tracks is on point without issues. The Jerry Goldsmith score is just as rousing and tension-filled as ever. The final “punch” before the credits roll is still one of the silliest sound effects but I love it.
KLSC does right by fans giving us a mix of old and new to swim through. The hour of content from the Scream Factory disc comes back - and it’s all very good stuff if you never saw them. Ernie Hudson and Hector Elizondo both share some great memories of making the film, but the true winner is the Monster Melting Pot featurette as various survivors of Stan Winston’s creature studio talk about working for the effects master as well as trying to get the damned monster to work for Leviathan. On the new content stage, we have another excellent audio commentary featuring contributions from historians Steve Mitchell and Nathaniel Thompson. It’s a lively and informative track with some valuable tidbits but it’s also an entertaining listen as the two contributors genuinely sound like they’re having a good time.
- Audio Commentary featuring Steve Mitchell and Nathaniel Thompson
- Leviathan - Monster Melting Pot (HD 40:26)
- Dissecting Cobb - Interview with Hector Elizondo (HD 12:35)
- Surviving Leviathan - Interview with Ernie Hudson (HD 15:01)
- Theatrical Trailer
- Deep Star Six Trailer
- Deep Rising Trailer
For one hundred minutes of "shut your brain off enjoy the ride" fun, it doesn’t get much better than Leviathan. George Cosmatos took a pretty basic pedestrian sci-fi creature feature and gave it a little weight and legitimacy but didn’t overcook it into something it wasn’t. "The Abyss meets Alien" is a more than fair descriptor but don’t let that simple reduction deter you from checking it out. A great cast lines up to square off against a frightening fishy freak brought to life by the legendary Stan Winston. Pull out your copy of Deep Star Six and make it a double feature! Now on 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray, Leviathan makes a nice splash on the format with a welcome Dolby Vision transfer, solid audio, and a nice assortment of new and archival extra features. Certainly not the biggest A-to-B visual improvement but better than we’ve had before. Recommended
Order Your Copy of Leviathan on 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray
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