In the glory days of DVD, MGM could be counted on to deliver plentiful back-catalog titles to the fans who were willing to snap them up. Today, this studio seems more interested in funneling out such titles via their HD channel or via made-on-demand DVD-R’s. Luckily for fans, Scream Factory has stepped into this void and often picks up MGM titles that would otherwise not get special edition blu-ray releases. Their latest release in this vein is Leviathan – and it offers a tidy little high-def/extras package for those viewers.
Things start nicely with a solid transfer. The results bring some depth and detail to the film’s deliberately grungy visuals, giving them a greater clarity than they had in standard definition. In terms of audio, both 2.0 and 5.1 lossless stereo tracks are included. The 5.1 track was used for this review: while it isn’t as action-packed as a modern multi-channel mix, it gets the job done and adds a little boost to Jerry Goldsmith’s lush score.
The Scream Factory disc also throws in a trio of new featurettes. The first and most substantial of the bunch is called “Monster Melting Pot.” It runs about 40 minutes and features interviews with FX men Tom Woodruff Jr., Shannon Shea and Alec Gillis. All three men worked for Stan Winston’s FX studio at the time and all have plenty to say about the sometimes funny, always hectic experience.
They’re frank about the disappointment of not getting to work on The Abyss, reveal that they had to do twice the work (monster and diving suits) and discuss how the multi-creator approach and directorial interference led to a “monster stew” design that all the artists found less than satisfying. There are plenty of funny stories about director George Cosmatos and what a character he was, including a great story about Winston chewing him out. The effects and the challenges in doing them so quickly are all addressed but it ends on a nice note with Woodruff telling a tale about Winston’s generosity to his crew. All in all, this is fun and educational for FX fanatics.
There are also two shorter interviews with Leviathan cast members. The first is a twelve-and-a-half minute chat with Hector Elizondo, who has a charming “working class” approach to his profession. He offers fond memories of his castmates, particularly “zen master” Richard Crenna, and is frank about Cosmatos being difficult for the actors to work with. He also tells a hair-raising tale about almost getting crushed while in a diving suit.
The other actor interview is a fifteen minute chat with Ernie Hudson, who reveals that Cosmatos personally called him to cast him in the film and gives plenty of details on the challenges of learning to swim for the film and working with special effects. He confesses his disappointment at the arbitrary fate of his character in the film, speaks fondly of his cast mates (especially Crenna) and admits he thought the final creature kind of looked like a chicken(!). He’s kinder to Cosmatos than Elizondo but admits he had a politically incorrect way of talking to people that often ruffled feathers.
The disc is rounded out by some trailers: the first is a theatrical trailer for Leviathan that pitches it like a thrill ride and effectively exploits its recognizable cast. The other trailers are in a “more from Scream Factory” section, offering theme-appropriate fare: sci-fi is represented by Without Warning and Saturn 3 while monster movies are represented by Lake Placid and Swamp Thing.
In short, this is another tidy little special edition from the ever-prolific Scream Factory. If you’re into ’80s horror and sci-fi, this is a worthy disc to pick up.
To read the Schlockmania film review of Leviathan, click here.