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Leviathan (Blu-ray Review)

LeviathanThe year 1989 is seminal year in my life in film.  It had the summer that saw my love of film grow exponentially with such franchise films at Batman, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade and License To Kill.  One conversation concerning 1989 seems to have sort of been forgotten over the years.  That year had five films involving deep sea science fiction adventures.  Most notably remembered is James Cameron’s The Abyss, but there was also DeepStar Six, The Evil Below, Lords Of The Deep and today’s film we’re here to discuss; Leviathan.  Leviathan is surprisingly the first one of these films to make the jump to Blu-ray (DeepStar Six will make its debut on the format in Japan on November 5 of this year).  While not under the Collector’s Edition banner, Scream Factory has still given this underappreciated film some great extras.

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Film 

Geologist Steven Beck leads a six month undersea mining operation.  Its a rag tag bunch of deep sea diving minors with Beck being the no nonsense leader of the group.  With only a few days left, a member gets off course and winds up finding the Leviathan; an old Soviet ship now wrecked at the bottom of the ocean.  The crew takes an interest in going through a box of files and belongings from the ship trying to figure out what happened to them.  But, things get eerie when one crew member develops an odd rash and then dies.

Leviathan is a fun throwback mash up of Alien and The Thing that takes to the deep seas instead of the far reaches of outer spaces or the polar Antarctica.   Its pretty obvious and honest about it, but doesn’t care an has fun telling this story its own way.  George P Cosmatos film does so in a respectful and honorable manner.  Critics absolutely destroyed this film the first time around.  Holding a 10% on Rotten Tomatoes is a downright shocking sight in doing some research on the film.  If those same critics saw the film today, I hardly doubt they’d be as harsh.  Leviathan is truly a film that deserves another look.

Peter Weller leads what was probably a pretty rock solid cast back in 1989.  As mentioned in the bonus material, the film was a pretty big deal because it was Weller’s big followup to Robocop and he was a name to follow.  Also joining in on the party was the late Richard Crenna who was the type of actor you bring in to class up a monster picture such as this one.  Then you throw in big time 80s character actors Daniel Stern, Ernie Hudson and Hector Elizondo and you’re already cooking.  Amanda Pays was coming off of Max Headroom and Lisa Eilbacher who you might say “who?” now was much more of a commodity.  And this cast really gels.  Each fits the bill of some “type”, but each performer knows well enough to make it their own and rounds them perfectly.  They successfully pull of a sense of camaraderie with one another but also the fact that their sick of each other’s guts from being in such close quarters for 2 months and are ready to take a break from one another.   I don’t want to forget to mention Meg Foster is a presence in this movie too as a villain-esque character (the creepiest eyes in the business).

Stan Winston’s effects crew came on board to do this over The Abyss.  And that was mainly because Stan knew that if he went to The Abyss he couldn’t give less than 110% for James Cameron.  Stan was trying to direct Pumpkinhead at the time and wanted to be able to focus on that as well.  Thankfully for Leviathan, they got these guys.  There is tremendous practical effect work going on in this film that mirrors the work on John Carpenter’s The Thing.  A few moments don’t hold up or are obvious, but a lot of it is gross, grimy and plenty effective today.  I also still think the monster is totally rad when we get to see it.

George P Cosmatos underwater supernatural thriller is an absolute joy to watch.  Yes, you’ve been down this road with other films before, but this one does it really well.  It has fantastic sets, shot composition and practical effects.  Mix that with a solid story and a fun 80s throwback cast and its one fun sci-fi/horror adventure.  This one may not have been well received upon its initial dive, but it has certainly stood the test of time.  Aside from some of the technological devices in the movie, this definitely feels an indeterminate time and place.  As I said, if you love Alien or The Thing you should get a kick out of this one.

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Video 

Encoding: MPEG-4 AVC

Resolution: 1080p

Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1

Clarity/Detail:  Fans, Leviathan looks absolutely beautiful on Blu-ray.  I was absolutely amazed at how pristine this picture looks.  Detail is high and the image is nice and sharp.  The sets are rich with seeing every nick and scratch in this “lived in” underwater universe.  You can see every bit of water drop, fingerprint and fabric wrinkle on the picture.  Also the effects are even gooier and more gross in high definition.  Another notch on the bedpost of remarkable transfers from Scream Factory.

Depth:  There is plenty to Marvel at here.  Whether it be the actors amidst the set or some of the underwater camera work, there is a great 3 dimensional feel to the image.

Black Levels:  Blacks are solid and at an average level.  Crushing is minimal if present at all.

Color Reproduction:  Colors look natural.  Blues and reds of course are the standouts.

Flesh Tones:  Skin tones remain consistent throughout and are sort of colder.  Detail is remarkable especially in closeups.  You get every wrinkle, scar or gash in the highest resolution.

Noise/Artifacts:  Surprisingly, this 25 year old film appears squeaky clean without the slightest hint of any sort of digital tampering.

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Audio 

Audio Format(s):  English 5.1 DTS-HD MA, English 2.0 DTS-HD MA

Subtitles: English

Dynamics:  This is fine 5.1 presentation that gives you a feel of the underwater base.  Sound effects are played with a different volumes to provide different scare tactics throughout.  Jerry Goldsmith’s score also sounds lovely.

Low Frequency Extension:  There are some good tanker type noises enhance by the subwoofer.  As well as fire and crashing effects.

Surround Sound Presentation:  A very atmospheric 5.1 has you feeling deep seas sounds as well as the functioning ship.  There is also some play with scare sounds in the rear speakers.

Dialogue Reproduction:  Loud, clear and front heavy.

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Extras 

Leviathan comes with a reversible cover art that displays alternate poster art.

Leviathan – Monster Melting Pot (HD, 40:26) – The creature effects artists discuss turning down James Cameron’s The Abyss and choosing between working on this film and Deepstar Six.  Its a very detailed and candid tale of creature making and working with Stan Winston.

Dissecting Cobb With Hector Elizondo (HD, 12:35) – An interview with the actor as he discusses his role in the film and working with his fellow castmates.

Surviving Leviathan With Ernie Hudson (HD, 15:01) – The Ghostbuster discusses his disappointment with dying at the very end of the film and also how he was handpicked by the director to be in it.  He says its one of his least talked about films when he goes to conventions, but there’s always a few fans.

Theatrical Trailer (HD, 1:51)

More From Scream Factory – Trailers for Without Warning, Lake Placid, Saturn 3 and Swamp Thing.

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Summary 

Go out and pre-order/buy Leviathan.  Its one of the easiest recommends this month.  Scream Factory may not have “Collector’s Edition” on it, but I’m not sure you’re ever going to find a better release of the film.  The presentation is fantastic and the interviews provided provide over an hour of wealthy information (the effects guys talk the film for 40 minutes and I swear it felt like 10).  Leviathan is a completely under-appreciated gem from 1989 that I think time has been very kind to.  It’s also been given a terrific release from Scream Factory.

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Writer/Reviewer, lifelong obsessive film nerd. As eager to educate in the world of film as I am to learn. An avid lover of horror, schlock and trash, Brandon hosts the Cult Cinema Cavalcade podcast on the Creative Zombie Studios Network (www.cultcinemacavalcade.com) You can also find more essays on his blog Naptown Nerd (naptownnerd.blogspot.com).

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