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Kino Lorber Plumbs the Depths in Search of Leviathan

Feature Presentations: Episode 101

Welcome to this column dedicated to my appreciation of physical media supplements called Feature Presentations. The goal of this column is not to say whether a film is good or bad and worth picking up or not- I would like to highlight the discs that go the extra mile and provide film fans with enough tasty tidbits to satisfy even the hungriest of cinephiles. Today’s article will focus on Leviathan from Kino Lorber.

Beck stands in water screaming and pointing a flamethrower toward something off-screen.

I never have or will claim to be an expert in reviewing the technical specs of a physical media release. There are plenty of knowledgeable people in this realm of commenting on the audio and video aspects of a disc with better setups than I’ll ever own. This column, Feature Presentations, is a way of highlighting the supplemental material within a given disc. With all that out of the way, let’s get to the good stuff and dive into my review of this 4K UHD/Blu-ray release of Leviathan.

As a disclaimer of transparency for this episode of Feature Presentations, my review of Leviathan comes from a review copy that Kino Lorber provided for review. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

Hollywood is a weird beast. Every few years, movie theaters find themselves as a battleground for competing titles with similar plot strands. 2009 saw the vastly different yet unconscionably similar Observe & Report matched against Paul Blart: Mall Cop. 1998, Armageddon took on Deep Impact, and 1997 saw Volcano match magma with Dante’s Peak. But nothing compared to 1989 and the influx of action and horror pictures set under the waves. Notwithstanding the barely-if-at-all theatrical releases of The Evil Below and Lords of the Deep, and the 1990-released The Rift, 1989 saw a battle of three underwater films battling it out for under-the-sea supremacy: Sean S. Cunningham‘s Deepstar Six, James Cameron‘s The Abyss, and today’s movie: George P. Cosmatos’ Leviathan.

I have fond memories of catching Leviathan multiple times on cable television as a child. Maybe not the most responsible thing in my household, but it made me who I am. It was never a movie that scared me as a kid. I found it more of an exciting piece of popcorn entertainment that played into my pre-pubescent sensibilities. Monsters, gore, action, carnage, and Peter Weller? Now you’re speaking my language!

I do not recall how old I was when I first saw Leviathan, but I know some people would feel I was too young. While some may scoff at the idea of a pre-pubescent kid spending 90 minutes watching an undersea creature slice and dice its way through an undersea facility, nothing about the film scared or traumatized me (that I know of). It actually provided memories of fun times watching a Murderer’s Row of talented and capable character actors, elevating B-movie material into a fun and entertaining romp that spoke to my pre-pubescent cerebellum.

Now that I’ve revisited a childhood favorite in 2024, I’m glad it holds up well as a fun, undersea Aliens knockoff. Peter Weller dutifully holds down the fort while Meg Foster, Hector Elizondo, Richard Crenna, and Ernie Hudson solidly keep the film afloat (pun intended). Leviathan doesn’t aim for prestige. It’s a B-movie through and through, and those associated with the film know this all too well. It’s a throwback to a simpler time when cinemagoers wanted to get their feet wet at the local cinemas, and the creators of Leviathan happily obliged.

Many years ago, Scream Factory had the film rights to Leviathan, but at some point, they lapsed, and their Blu-ray became out of print and highly sought after in the collector market. As the years passed, questions were posited about if and whether the film would come back into circulation via another Blu-ray edition or a possible 4K UHD release. Kino Lorber stepped up to the plate, and after some delays, this new, spiffy edition has landed, allowing Leviathan fans to breathe a collective sigh of relief that the days of paying exorbitant prices for the Scream Factory edition are in the past.

Bowman lays on her back, her head turned to the camera, crying.

Getting into the package for Leviathan, the release comes with a slipcover featuring the film’s theatrical poster. You also get reversible artwork for the art wrap with an alternate marketing design. Regarding the discs, both include a feature-length audio commentary with film historians Steve Mitchell and Nathaniel Thompson. Both men come to the track as fans of Leviathan and with plenty of knowledge about the film and its production history. They touch upon 1989 and the year of undersea thrillers, the production in Rome, and the film’s monster effects. Even if the commentators occasionally veer off-topic and joke around with the movie, there’s plenty here to make this discussion more than welcome for its inclusion.

The remaining supplemental material, located on the Blu-ray only, looks to be features ported over from the Scream Factory release.

First up is the 40-minute featurette “Leviathan: Monster Melting Pot,” focusing on the film’s practical effects. Special effects artists Alec Gillis, Tom Woodruff Jr., and Shannon Shea sit to discuss their work and thoughts on the film’s production. Each has plenty of stories to tell and discuss how the monster’s design came to be, working in Rome with a tight schedule and the politically incorrect nature of director George P. Cosmatos. Alec Gillis, in particular, has a handful of standout tales: his honest opinion on his design for the “hand creature” and how he became a therapist to the movie’s helmer. While the featurette only focuses on the effects aspect of Leviathan, it never gets too “in the weeds” with jargon and offers plenty of behind-the-scenes information.

“Dissecting Cobb” is a 12-plus-minute interview with actor Hector Elizondo to discuss his time on set. I’ve always enjoyed Hector Elizondo when he makes a screen appearance: the definition of a character actor. And I was happy to see that the man is not far from the characters he plays. Jovial and welcoming, Elizondo looks back on his time with the cast and crew of Leviathan with positivity and warmth. Even while discussing the closest he came to death during filming, he recalls the time of someone enjoying their work. The actor offers mixed feelings about the directorial style of George P. Costmatos. One story, in particular, is joyous to hear Elizondo tell about Lee Marvin and the approach to playing a “bad guy” character. Between his bonding with the actors and working in Rome, working on the film left the actor with what appears to be happy memories.

Slightly longer than “Dissecting Cobb,” “Surviving Leviathan” is an interview with actor Ernie Hudson. Hudson discusses how he came aboard the production and his opinions on the NSFW personality of the film’s director, the disappointing demise of his character, his viewing of the movie in South Central, Los Angeles, and the appreciation he feels when fans mention the film instead of Ghostbusters, or The Crow. “Surviving Leviathan,” ironic as a title as there ever will be, is a terrific piece, and it’s a pleasure hearing his opinions on the film and agreeing with the ludicrous notion of his character not making it to the end credits.

The disc comes to a close with trailers for Leviathan, Deepstar Six, and Deep Rising.

A close-up of Doc's face silhouetted in shadow.

And there you have it! As I mentioned earlier, Leviathan holds up well as a monster-on-the-loose B-movie flick. There’s gore, action, tons of talent in front and behind the camera, and a movie that wants to entertain, which it does in spades. Those who chose not to take out a second mortgage on purchasing the out-of-print Scream Factory edition can fret no longer as Kino Lorber swoops in to throw out a physical media lifeline with a kick-ass 4K UHD/Blu-ray combo package complete with new and archival bonus materials that has no trouble keeping its head above water. 

Written by Robert Chipman

Robert is a lifelong cinephile and has had an admiration with film for as long as he can remember. When he's not checking out the most recent theatrical release, viewing a movie on one of a 1,000,000,000 streaming services or picking up the latest physical media disc, he's trying and failing to make it in Hollywood as a screenwriter. He also has a weird fascination with Stephen Dorff. Make of that what you will. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

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