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Dustin Putman



Dustin's Blu-ray Review
Leviathan  (1989)
Reviewed by Dustin Putman

The Film
2.5 Stars
(Release Date: August 19, 2014) – 16,000 feet below the Atlantic Ocean's surface, a team of deep-sea miners are nearing the end of an intensive 90-day mission. When they stumble upon a sunken Russian freighter, they discover records into the deaths of multiple crew members, the captain's video log, and—most unfortunately—a tainted flask of alcohol that unleashes a deadly virus upon the group. As casualties mount and the remaining survivors struggle to escape what very well may become a watery grave, the deceased bodies are overtaken by freakish genetic alterations, each one absorbing into the next to create an unimaginable hybrid monster.

"Leviathan" would probably have not been made without the inspiration of Ridley Scott's "Alien" and John Carpenter's "The Thing"—there is even a chest-bursting scene similar to that former space-set classic—yet director George P. Cosmatos (whose son, Panos Cosmatos, went on to make 2012's mind-twistingly great "Beyond the Black Rainbow") proves adept at staging suspense and goopiness in equal measures. Imagining a creature birthed from a mysterious tropical infection and the human beings it overtakes, screenwriters David Peoples and Jeb Stuart give just enough personality to their ensemble (including Peter Weller as lead geologist Steven Beck, Richard Crenna as doctor Glen 'Doc' Thompson, and Amanda Pays, Daniel Stern, Ernie Hudson, Lisa Eilbacher and Hector Elizondo as fellow crewmembers) before sending them through hell.

There are few deeper messages to be had beyond the cathartic, and the third act strikes as overly familiar even by such generally derivative standards, but the picture is solidly made all the same. It is nice to go back to a time when otherworldly cinematic creatures weren't just made on a computer screen, but came to life via painstaking practical effects and models from artists who rolled up their sleeves and weren't afraid to get their hands dirty. Even when the monster in "Leviathan" looks like it is made of rubber, it is still something that one feels as if he or she could reach out and touch. In front of the camera, it lives and breathes. This is a far more important point than a lot of filmmakers in 2014 realize.

Blu-ray Picture/Sound
 A/A-

Scream Factory's 1080p presentation of "Leviathan" is splendid, possibly one of the label's most pleasing transfers from their catalogue releases of the late-'80s/early-'90s era. Natural and film-like, filled with increased revelatory detail, deep blacks and exceptional image depth, the film has easily never looked this good. The only quibble to be had is some brief mosquito noise and a single line running across the image during the opening credits. Otherwise, this is an eye-openingly clean high-def picture. The 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio comes close to reaching the heights of the visuals, a sonically active treat that gets some good play in the surround speakers as the action ratchets to a creature-feature crescendo. Dialogue is always audible and nicely mixed with the music score and sound effects. A 2.0 DTS-HD track is also included.

Blu-ray Features
  • "Leviathan - Monster Melting Pot" (40:26, HD) - featuring interviews with creature effects artists Tom Woodruff Jr., Alec Gillis and Shannon Shea
  • "Dissecting Cobb" - an interview with actor Hector Elizondo (12:35, HD)
  • "Surviving Leviathan" - an interview with actor Ernie Hudson (15:01, HD)
  • Theatrical Trailer (1:51, HD)
Bottom Line
"Leviathan" arrived in theaters in March 1989, smack-dab in between two fellow underwater thrillers, Sean S. Cunningham's "DeepStar Six" and James Cameron's big-budget "The Abyss." "Leviathan" does not have any pretenses of being anything other than what it is—an underwater variation on "Alien" and "The Thing." Pulled off with a fine cast and a taut storytelling sensibility from director George P. Cosmatos, the film is worth a revisit or a first-time look, whichever the case may be. Scream Factory's Blu-ray of "Leviathan" meets their typical high-quality standards, and, in one area, exceeds them; the main menu—an animated version of the classic one-sheet image—is simply gorgeous, putting the viewer squarely in the mood to see the film even before pressing the "Play Feature" button. This release is an easy recommend. It is great to have "Leviathan" in high-def!

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© 2014 by Dustin Putman
Dustin Putman