Released in 1989, the horror thriller Leviathan (98 minutes, R), centers on a mining crew (led by Robocop’s Peter Weller) who discover an abandoned Russian vessel amidst the ocean’s dark waters. Their discovery leads to tragic consequences, as one by one the crew members (which includes Richard Crenna, Hector Elizondo, Ernie Hudson, Daniel Stern, Amanda Pays, and Lisa Eilbacher) fall prey to a slimy monster with an appetite for human flesh.
Directed by George P. Cosmatos (Rambo: First Blood Part II, Tombstone, and the underrated, Charlie Sheen B-flick The Shadow Conspiracy), Leviathan doesn’t completely succeed as a compelling narrative, even though the script was penned by David Peoples (Blade Runner, Unforgiven, Twelve Monkeys). The storyline has similar narrative beats to Ridley Scott’s classic Alien, and if you come to Leviathan with lowered expectations, the picture pays its share of creative dividends.
For one, character actors Crenna (as a morally compromised doctor), Hudson (playing the crew’s resident bad-ass), and Elizondo (he gets the John Hurt moment from Alien) each lend a sense of believability to the proceedings, and co-star Michael Carmine (the 30-year-old died in 1989) showed a rare, natural presence that escapes many actors. As the too cool for school alpha male, Weller’s Steven Beck isn’t a memorable protagonist, as Cosmatos paid more attention to the idiosyncratic behavior of Beck’s motley crew (which also includes a revved up Daniel Stern as an irritant named ‘Sixpack’).
Although Leviathan exists as passable fare, film buffs should check out three excellent interviews on the making of the film:
Leviathan – Monster Melting Pot (40:26) – Special effects vets Tom Woodruff Jr., Alec Gillis and Shannon Shea give a frank look at working with Stan Winston and director George P. Cosmatos on Leviathan. During the segment, Winston’s lifelong perfectionism and desire to craft creatures within a short time window are discussed (Shea also delves into the huge difficulties they encountered making the space suits for Leviathan).
*** There’s a ton of anecdotal material on this special feature – and perhaps the most resonant came from Woodruff Jr.’s recollection of Winston’s generosity. When Woodruff Jr. left to form his own special effects company, Winston actually helped him land jobs for Tremors, Death Becomes Her, and Alien 3.
“(Stan Winston) wanted to see us to succeed as much as we wanted to succeed.” – Tom Woodruff Jr.
Dissecting Cobb With Hector Elizondo (12:36) – Hector Elizondo’s trademark dry humor is in full effect, as he talks about spending three months shooting Leviathan at Rome’s Cinecittà studios. During the interview, he discusses the challenges of wearing the space suit which led to Elizondo’s most dangerous moment on set. He also elaborates on the camaraderie that was on the set among the actors (he describes the late Crenna as a “zen master”).
Surviving Leviathan with Ernie Hudson (15:02) – Ernie Hudson delves into the sets that were created at the Cinecittà studios, and he also talks about shooting some of the water sequences in Malta (Hudson admits that’s not a natural swimmer). Even though he was hand-picked for the role, Hudson smiles during the interview as he remembers working with George P. Cosmatos (he died in 2005), a director he claims is the most “politically incorrect” filmmaker he’s ever worked with:
“(Cosmatos) would say things to people that was challenging, but I know it came from a good place and he meant well. He was a wonderful director who enjoyed what he was doing but it was sometimes very hard to interpret what he was saying and not take offense to it.”
Hudson adds that he has only “respect” and “love” for Cosmatos, a director who was known for his larger than life persona.
***Leviathan is now out on Blu-ray is available for purchase on Shout! Factory’s official site.