Leviathan – UHD Blu-ray Review

4.5 Stars "Alien underwater" thriller debuts on UHD Blu-ray
Leviathan Review

Leviathan. In 1989 and 1990, a series of thrillers set beneath the surface of the Seven Seas washed up in theaters in waves. The most famous of these – of course – was James Cameron’s blockbuster The Abyss while the remaining majority of these underseas thrillers were modestly or low budgeted affairs; one of the most notable of these lower tiered films was George P. Cosmatos’ Leviathan. Previously released on DVD by MGM and on Blu-ray by Scream Factory, Kino has licensed the movie for its UHD Blu-ray debut.

Leviathan (1989)
Released: 17 Mar 1989
Rated: R
Runtime: 98 min
Director: George P. Cosmatos
Genre: Adventure, Horror, Mystery
Cast: Peter Weller, Richard Crenna, Amanda Pays
Writer(s): David Webb Peoples, Jeb Stuart
Plot: Perched on the hull of a wrecked Soviet freighter, a team of deep-sea miners led by head oceanographer Steven Beck comes face to face with a mutant creature that's the product of a failed genetic experiment.
IMDB rating: 5.8
MetaScore: 51

Disc Information
Studio: MGM
Distributed By: Kino Lorber
Video Resolution: 2160p HEVC w/HDR
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
Audio: English 2.0 DTS-HDMA, English 5.1 DTS-HDMA
Subtitles: English SDH
Rating: R
Run Time: 1 Hr. 38 Min.
Package Includes: UHD, Blu-ray
Case Type: Black keep case with slipcover and reversible cover
Disc Type: BD50 (dual layer)
Region: A
Release Date: 02/20/2024
MSRP: $39.99

The Production: 4/5

Nearing the end of a three-month deep-sea mining operation at the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean, the crew members of Tri-Oceanic Mining Shack 7 – led by geologist Stephen Beck (Peter Weller) – discover the scuttled Soviet warship Leviathan and salvage a safe from the wreckage. The contents include a videotaped captain’s log, records detailing the deaths of the crew members and a flask of vodka. However, that flask of vodka harbors a deadly secret: it contained a mutagen that genetically alters the DNA of those unfortunate to have consumed the contents of the flask; not only have two of the crew members of Shack 7 have consumed the tainted vodka and have died, but they’re also mutating into a grotesque creature that takes on some of the characteristics of its victims. With a hurricane raging above the surface and cutting off a crucial avenue of rescue, Beck and the remaining crew members must find a way to survive against a genetically modified monster that poses a risk to all life if it makes it to the surface!

Following on the formula set by Alien (1979) and The Thing (1982), Leviathan charts its own course in terms of underwater thrills. Under the direction of George Pan Cosmatos, the film develops a strong character base while gradually developing the tension in its plot; the film greatly benefits from the talents of cinematographer Alex Thomson and production designer Ron Cobb, who both make the underwater mining base feel both expansive and confining at the same time. However, the major star here is the titular creature, created by Stan Winston and his team creature effects creators – including Alec Gillis, Tom Woodruff Jr. and Shannon Shea – who mostly stays in the shadows for a good chunk of the film’s runtime, but once revealed, reveals one of the more hideous and effectively grotesque monsters of the 1980’s. The major flaw with the film is that some of the dialogue – from David Peoples and Jeb Stuart’s script – feels a bit clunky and overripe at times, but the solid cast here helps to sell the premise. So, while it may not break new ground in the horror, science fiction and thriller genres, Leviathan is still a solidly made film that plays off its well-worn conventions to deliver a deliriously effective guilty pleasure; in short, it’s nowhere near The Abyss, but it delivers the goods more often than not.

Still relatively fresh off of his best known performance as RoboCop (1987), Peter Weller acquits himself well as the leader of the underwater mining expedition; he would reprise his role of RoboCop the next year in RoboCop 2 before another notable lead performance in David Cronenberg’s Naked Lunch (1991). Second billed here – and reuniting with Cosmatos following Rambo: First Blood Part II (1985) – Richard Crenna makes a notable impression as Glen “Doc” Thompson, the shack’s medic who uncovers the deadly mutagen that begins killing off the crew; he would return to television before resurfacing theatrically with a part in the spoof comedy Hot Shots! Part Deux (1993). Though billed last, Héctor Elizondo has one of the film’s most notable parts as the straight-talking Cobb; the year after this movie, he would receive a Golden Globe nomination for one of his best film roles, playing the Beverly Wilshire hotel manager in Pretty Woman. Rounding out the cast are Ernie Hudson as Jones, Amanda Pays as Willie, Daniel Stern as “Sixpack” (the first crew member to succumb to the mutagen), Lisa Eilbacher as Bowman (the second to die from the mutagen tainted vodka), Meg Foster as the Tri-Oceanic Corp. executive, Eugene Lipinski as the captain of the Leviathan and Michael Carmine – in one of his last roles before dying from AIDS complications shortly after the film’s release – as DeJesus.

Video: 5/5

3D Rating: NA

The film is presented in its original 2:35:1 aspect ratio, taken from a brand new HDR/Dolby Vision transfer created from a 4K scan of the 35mm interpositive; the UHD Blu-ray disc presents the film in HDR, while the accompanying Blu-ray disc presents the film in SDR. Film grain, fine details and color palette are all faithfully represented with minimal cases of scratches, tears and dirt present; curiously, this transfer doesn’t open with the MGM logo compared to previous home video releases. That difference aside, this release is still likely the best the movie will ever look on home video, besting the previous MGM DVD and Scream Factory Blu-ray release.

Audio: 5/5

There are two DTS-HD Master Audio tracks as options for this release on both UHD Blu-ray and Blu-ray discs: a 2.0 lossless track and a 5.1 surround track. Dialogue, sound mix and Jerry Goldsmith’s music score are all presented faithfully with minimal cases of distortion, crackling, popping and hissing present. Overall, this release is likely the best the movie will ever sound on home video and surpasses the previous MGM DVD and Scream Factory Blu-ray.

Special Features: 4/5

On both UHD Blu-ray and Blu-ray discs

Commentary by film historians Steve Mitchell & Nathaniel Thompson – Newly recorded for this home video release, Mitchell and Thompson go into detail about the film’s production and also talk about the film’s place in horror and science fiction in the late 1980’s.

On Blu-ray disc only

Leviathan: Monster Melting Pot (40:26) – Special creature effects artists Alec Gillis, Tom Woodruff Jr. and Shannon Shea reflect on creating the grotesque titular creature for Stan Winston in this archival featurette from the 2014 Scream Factory Blu-ray.

Dissecting Cobb (12:35) – Actor Héctor Elizondo looks back on making the movie in Italy and some close calls on set in this interview from the Scream Factory Blu-ray.

Surviving Leviathan (15:01) – Ernie Hudson shares his memories of working on the film in this interview from the Scream Factory Blu-ray.

Theatrical Trailer (1:54)

Bonus KLSC Trailers – DeepStar Six & Deep Rising

Overall: 4.5/5

Despite a lackluster performance at the box office and ambivalent notices from the critics, Leviathan has still earned a small cult following due to its solid cast, production values and creature effects. Kino has done a solid job with this UHD Blu-ray release, with a quality HDR transfer and carrying over all of the special features from the Scream Factory Blu-ray while adding a new and informative commentary track for this release. Very highly recommended and worth upgrading from both DVD and Blu-ray.

Mychal has been on the Home Theater Forum’s reviewing staff since 2018, with reviews numbering close to 300. During this time, he has also been working as an assistant manager at The Cotton Patch – his family’s fabric and quilting supplies business in Keizer, Oregon. When not working at reviewing movies or working at the family business, he enjoys exploring the Oregon Coast, playing video games and watching baseball in addition to his expansive collection of movies on DVD, Blu-ray and UHD, totalling over 3,000 movies.

Post Disclaimer

Some of our content may contain marketing links, which means we will receive a commission for purchases made via those links. In our editorial content, these affiliate links appear automatically, and our editorial teams are not influenced by our affiliate partnerships. We work with several providers (currently Skimlinks and Amazon) to manage our affiliate relationships. You can find out more about their services by visiting their sites.

Share this post:

View thread (13 replies)

Bartman

Supporting Actor
Joined
Aug 5, 2017
Messages
757
Real Name
Trevor Bartram
You had me at The Abyss (I had the laserdisc boxed set). I saw Leviathon on Prime in HD a year or so ago, good flick. What's the track record of Kino 4K's being released to streaming services (other KIno channels not available on LG TVs)?
 

JimJasper

Second Unit
Joined
Dec 21, 2004
Messages
291
Location
Oregon
Real Name
Jim
Great review, Mychal, I'm down here in Eugene! Always wanted to see this film, and it seems like the 4K would be terrific.

Just curious about your thoughts on the 5.1 audio regarding
* .1 LFE? ← Much depth or what was the impression to you?
* And the surrounds ← could you tell if they were discrete? Were surrounds very active throughout? Did they have much depth? Despite the vintage of the film, while these components can be thinly used, but sometimes they are surprisingly thrilling with a richer, wider frequency than expected. Curious about your thoughts?
1708198828034.png
 

t1g3r5fan

Reviewer
Joined
Jul 1, 2012
Messages
1,607
Location
Salem, Oregon
Real Name
Mychal Bowden
My impression was that the 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track here is similar to the one on Shout/Scream's 2014 Blu-ray, but the UHD blu-ray offers a little extra depth here.
 

Wayne Klein

Second Unit
Joined
Mar 9, 2005
Messages
481
An entertaining sort of b-movie, Watched the 4 k version streaming. Looks good. Nice extras. I would consider it for a sale but otherwise I’m good. Great review. Good movie. love the ending but wish it was a bit less cliched at the end.
 

Bartman

Supporting Actor
Joined
Aug 5, 2017
Messages
757
Real Name
Trevor Bartram
An entertaining sort of b-movie, Watched the 4 k version streaming. Looks good. Nice extras. I would consider it for a sale but otherwise I’m good. Great review. Good movie. love the ending but wish it was a bit less cliched at the end.
Where did you watch it 4K streaming? Justwatch & Reelgood just show HD available.
 

Wayne Klein

Second Unit
Joined
Mar 9, 2005
Messages
481
Where did you watch it 4K streaming? Justwatch & Reelgood just show HD available.
It’s Possible it was HD only. I think it was on Amazon or Apple. My wife was already watching it and I came in during the first five minutes. I assumed it was the latest 4K version. Either way, it looked really good but keep in mind it was streaming with all the limitations that apply. If it was a lower rez transfer, it looked really exceptional.
 
Last edited:

Kaskade1309

Senior HTF Member
Joined
Apr 7, 2020
Messages
4,250
Real Name
S
Received my copy on Sunday; seems like I've been waiting for this release forever...

In my humble assessment, this was typical Kino, so far as the picture quality is concerned -- definitely passable and better than it's ever looked on any other format, but not reference. The audio was another issue altogether; the 5.1 DTS-HD MA track was on the low side in terms of mastering volume (probably what they had to work with), and dialogue was buried in the mix to the point that I needed to crank my system's master volume way up just to make out what Weller, Crenna and others were saying in certain spots. Even then, the dialogue was thin and difficult to discern, not really responding to the amplification that well. Again, though, typical Kino in this regard.

It was fun to revisit this under-the-radar cult favorite, though, and I applaud the studio for bringing this title to the latest greatest format. In retrospect, this was far from the graphic body horror of The Fly or The Thing -- which I remember it being when I used to watch it as a kid -- landing it more in the category of "Alien underwater."

I reckon this will be the best Leviathan will look, at least in our lifetimes.
 

Wayne Klein

Second Unit
Joined
Mar 9, 2005
Messages
481
My copy finally arrived from Bullmoose. It looks pretty good overall and is a nice upgrade from the Blu-ray. Anything with Peter Weller, Ernie Hudson, Amanda Pays and Richard Crenna can’t be all bad!
 

Malcolm R

Senior HTF Member
Joined
Feb 8, 2002
Messages
25,180
Real Name
Malcolm
I remember being thrilled in 1989 with all these undersea monster movies on the release schedule. Then I watched them and it was mostly one disappointment after the other. I think Leviathan is probably the best of the group that set a pretty low bar. But with FX by Stan Winston and a decent cast, it was a pretty fun creature feature.

The Abyss was the better film from this genre in that period, but I recall being disappointed that there weren't really any "monsters" in that film. At that age, I was all about horror movies and monsters.
 
Most Popular
Available for Amazon Prime