Tuesday, July 07, 2015

LEVIATHAN (1989)


For those that were around for the experience 1989 was a strange year for science fiction movie fans. That was the year we got three high profile underwater monster films released all within a few months of each other. This was back in the heady days of producers trying to rush similar films into production to piggyback on the predicted success of a big budget movie that was in the public consciousness. That's how 1982 saw THE SWORD & THE SORCERER in theaters before the highly anticipated CONAN THE BARBARIAN. Well, in cinema the rip-off dollar is a very good dollar so the news of hit maker James Cameron's new project called THE ABYSS sent other studios into a frenzy to find a comparable script and so we got Sean Cunningham's miserable DEEPSTAR SIX as well as this low rent effort.

On the surface LEVIATHAN has everything going for it. It has a decent budget, a talented cast, a tried-and-true plotline and a director coming off a huge hit. Sadly, the one thing they forgot was to locate a good script instead of just any old pile of papers. This film has many faults but almost all of them can be traced back to that sad-ass script. The story is nothing but a transparent combination of chunks of ALIEN and a measure of Carpenter's THE THING mixed with a dash of ...... not much. The film can be summed up (as it is on the IMDb) this way - " Underwater deep-sea miners encounter a Soviet wreck and bring back a dangerous cargo to their base on the ocean floor with horrifying results. The crew of the mining base must fight to survive against a genetic mutation that hunts them down one by one. " In other words, its 'ALIEN meets THE THING underwater' and I'm sure that was how it was sold to the money people to convince them it was going to be a hit in the year of Cameron's CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE OCEANIC KIND. It wasn't, making about $15 million which did not return a lot to the investors I'm sure.


I have to be honest and confess that some of that $15 million included a few of my hard earned bucks. Yes, I saw LEVIATHAN in the theater and it certainly sucked in 1989 so why did I sit down and watch the damned thing again? Curiosity, of course. I had not seen this misbegotten mess since '89 and I wondered if the film had aged into something better than I remembered. Long story short - it hasn't!


When I mentioned before that the director (George P. Cosmotos) was coming off a big hit it should be clarified that the film in question was actually made four years before this - RAMBO: FIRST BLOOD PART II (1985) and isn't exactly a cinema classic. In fact, it is one of the dumbest action films of the 1980's but it WAS a huge hit, which is something that you couldn't say about his next film COBRA (1986). Yeah - two shitty Sly Stallone movies in a row with rumors that the star/writer was the real director on both occasions. And knowing the fact that Stallone had COBRA edited down to his less-than-ninety-minutes specifications it would appear that Cosmotos might have been a name hired to fill a slot for some reason other than his skill behind the camera. Hell- the man supposedly didn't even direct the western TOMBSTONE (1993) from what I've read with star Kurt Russell reportedly stepping in to get the moviefinished.


But I'm off track. Where was I? Oh, yeah - LEVIATHAN. The film sucks and among its many crimes is that it wastes one hell of an interesting cast. I mean damn- any film that stars Peter Weller, Richard Crenna, Ernie Hudson, Daniel Stern, Amanda Pays, Hector Elizondo and Meg Foster has a solid group of players flexible enough to do almost anything and there are moments when several of them get to shine, especially Weller and Crenna. The film is pretty lifeless with tired situations and relationships coupled with dialog just doesn't have any real snap or a plot sans any real drive. That the script is a dog's breakfast seems to have been evident to the cast and it feels like they all knew they were walking through a copy of a better scenario. As I watched the other night I gave up counting the direct rips from ALIEN right about the time I realized I was also counting off rips from THE THING and had gotten the separate counts mixed up. And to add to the offense, its two day after watching the entire film from beginning to end an I can barely remember specific scenes so its not even a fun rip-off. Ugh!

4 comments:

Nick Rentz said...

You are absolutely right about Deepstar Six. Miguel Ferrer easily steals the show and is the only reason to watch it. There are a couple other 1989 underwater films that I wonder if you've seen, Lords of the Deep( Corman) and The Evil Below( Italian). There was also Endless Decent/ The Rift filmed in 89 but not released until 90 or 91 and you mentioned that you only enjoyed the bloody middle. Lastly, did you catch The Abyss in the theater?

Rod Barnett said...

Oh my Yes - I caught THE ABYSS in the theater and really liked it. I felt it was much better when the extended edition came out years later and need to revisit it sometime soon.

I have not seen LORDS OF THE DEEP or THE EVIL BELOW but both look amazingly bad! I'll put them on my 'find eventually' list. And yeah - THE RIFT was typically awful Juan Piquer Simón silliness. He'll never top PIECES or SLUGS in my book.

Nick Rentz said...

I've always heard the extended version is better and if it's the copy shown on tv, then it's the only version I've seen. 'Find eventually' list.... I like that. When are you doing J P Simon's Mystery on Monster Island as a Naschy episode? It's not good, but it's cheesy and a little more polished than some of Simon's other films. Naschy is barely in it, but Peter Cushing and General Zod are!

Rod Barnett said...

Not sure we'll actually cover Mystery on Monster Island - there is so little Naschy. We are toying with doing an episode on several of his cameo appearances as a special.