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Leviathan (1989)

11/29/97 Monstervision Review & Host Segments

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If you happen to discover any abandoned Russian submarines in the ocean depths, don't make the mistake of raiding their pantry and drinking the vodka. Why? Because it might not be kosher. It might be a germ warfare experiment disguised as a clear, odorless liquid. Daniel Stern finds out the hard way and some of his fellow crew members pay the consequences in Leviathan, an Alien wannabe which also stars Peter Weller (RoboCop), Amanda Pays, Richard Crenna (Rambo), Ernie Hudson, Lisa Eilbacher and Meg Foster.
In a Fangoria interview conducted by Guiseppe Salza and Philip Nutman, Leviathan lead Peter Weller admits that he "signed on for this movie for three reasons. First, I thought the script was strong and the character I play is interesting. Secondly, I wanted to work with George (Cosmatos) again, since we got along very well when we did Of Unknown Origin (one of the greatest giant rat movies ever made). And finally, because I wanted to do another action movie. Robocop was tough to do but very exciting, and I had a good time on Shakedown. I like physically demanding roles."
But the real star of Leviathan is special effects designer Stan Winston, who explains in the Fangoria interview that "the Leviathan design essentially blends fishlike creatures with 'humanoid elements.' The transformations combine recognizable human beings with those of underwater life forms. We did a lot of anatomical research; every creature effect starts from a realistic element, otherwise it wouldn't look right. We're using human anatomy in a way that looks designed, but not artificial. These designs exist in nature, but they're not something you'd expect. Everything in this film is mixed up." In fact, sometimes you don't know whether to laugh or scream. We're thinking about the scene where a certain crew member develops teeth on his palm. Talk about a nasty handshake!
And see if you can figure out the technique used in Leviathan to simulate underwater photography. We won't tell--you'll have to tune into MonsterVision for that answer.


So what's the first rule of undersea terror? Don't go into the sunken ship! Case in point, last week's MonsterVision feature Leviathan, a film about scientists goin' where no man should go at all. If you missed it, don't cry into your favorite beverage. Just read on...
You know what I hate? Underwater photography -- except for "Sea Hunt" -- and "I was abducted by aliens and they put a drill through my brain" movies, like Fire in the Sky. Well, except for the part where they DO put the drill in his brain, that was pretty cool -- but I never really go for those. So I'm Joe Bob Briggs and tonight's movie is "Leviathan," the underwater version of "Alien" that doesn't make a lick of sense. Ask me if I'm happy.
You know what makes even less sense? Remember a while ago when the Canadians blew up a decommissioned warship so that it would settle at just exactly the right place on the bottom of the ocean? They wanted it to be right next to the OTHER ships they've already sunk in the waters between Vancouver Island and the mainland of British Columbia. Their plan? To attract TOURISTS.
They think that tourists will find out they're sinking these ships and say: "Fred! Come on! Let's go scuba-diving THERE!" They think these ships will be fascinating to divers because they can swim around through the various rooms, thinking: "Isn't this cool? I'm doing this UNDER the water." In other words, they could've just tied the ships up next to a wharf and said: "Welcome, Mr. Tourist. Walk through the ship." But somebody thought: "Naaaaaw, that's too EASY. I know. Let's put it 110 feet underwater. Let's make the tourist WORK to see this ship."
I mean, it's one thing when you go to that Sir Francis Drake Channel in the Caribbean where there are 120 shipwrecks from 200 years ago, and they're full of stuff that looks like it could go on the wall at Red Lobster. Cause you dive down there and you go: "Ooooooooo, there were DEAD PEOPLE here. They didn't even take their halberds. What is a halberd?" But if you're diving in the Yuppie waters of British Columbia, all you can say is: "Ooooooooo, here's where the Canadians blew up this destroyer escort because they thought they could make a thousand bucks off me this weekend vacation. Look, there's a porthole!" I mean, it's just not the same experience. Shouldn't somebody tell em this? It's part of the whole trend toward making modern things look like they're 200 years old. You build a hotel in the mountains, but you put wood-burning stoves in the rooms. You don't use powerboats anymore; you learn to sail on your personal teakwood schooner. You buy a brand new jacket out of the J. Peterman catalog only because it looks like the jacket Clark Gable wore in Vienna in 1936. In other words, it's part of this whole retro thing where the whole world is being turned into one giant theme park. They didn't have any decent shipwrecks off the coast of western Canada, so they just by-God BUILT some. Okay, speaking of shipwrecks, let's watch "Leviathan." Roll it.

[fading] The least they could do is put some halberds down there.

"LEVIATHAN" Commercial Break #1
You know, I was kinda half-jokin when I said this is the underwater Alien, but while I was watchin it just now, I started to realize what a DIRECT rip-off it is. Look at how MANY direct steals there are. The captain of the "Alien" ship is Tom Skerritt -- the captain of this ship is Peter Weller. Same character type, they almost look alike. Sigourney Weaver in "Alien" -- beautiful girl who sometimes goes around in her underwear. Amanda Pays -- beautiful girl in her underwear. Ian Holm as the "Alien" medical officer -- here it's Richard Crenna from the Rambo movies. Yaphet Kotto as the tough black crew member -- here it's Ernie Hudson. Veronica Cartwright as the tough tomboy type in "Alien" -- here it's Lisa Eilbacher as Bowman. Harry Dean Stanton in "Alien," as the weird quirky guy -- here we have Hector Elizondo, of "Chicago Hope" fame, the guy who makes the speech about how much better it is to be living underwater. Actually there are two weird quirky guys, because you also have Daniel Stern, as "Sixpack." Those diving suits they wear even RESEMBLE the spacesuits in "Alien." Both films have a scene where the crew is complaining about their shares. Both films are about people on mining expeditions. Both films are being directed by a big company back home that's probably lying to them. And what's the first major plot development in "Alien"? They land on a weird planet and find an abandoned spaceship. What just happened in this movie? Williams and Sixpack discovered a strange place on the ocean floor, and found abandoned ship. Oh, what the hell, it's probly all COINCIDENCE, right? All right, back after the ads.

[fading] Wonder what's gonna happen NEXT. Pass me that "Alien" script. They're not gonna have a mutant bust out of somebody's stomach, are they? They wouldn't go THAT far.

"LEVIATHAN" Commercial Break #2
Okay, thank goodness, the sappy yucky poorly-written love scene is over, between Peter Weller and Amanda Pays, wearing her perky jogging outfit. This movie was filmed at the famous Cinecitta Studios in Rome, on the largest soundstage there, Stage 5, which is ALMOST as big as the biggest stage in Europe, the 007 Stage at Pinewood Studios in London. And the reason they needed such a big stage is that all those underwater scenes . . . are NOT underwater. They did what they call "dry for wet," where you fill the stage with a certain kind of smoke that makes everything murky, like you're under water, and then you run the film twice as fast as normal film, so when you play it back, the actors are moving at half-speed. They also weave the camera a little bit, make it move back and forth slightly, the way it does when the camera is mounted on a boat. In the story they're supposed to be 10,000 feet down, and the ocean 10,000 feet down is pitch black. Unfortunately, you can't film pitch-black, so they made it blue-green instead. They did several tests of it and showed the test film to some divers who work underwater a lot, and they were completely fooled -- thought it was underwater photography. Anyway, it's not that novel a technique. 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea did the same thing. Clash of the Titans. The "Captain Nemo" TV series. Even Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea... should have been called "Voyage to the Bottom of the Sound Stage." Okay, commercials, and then back to "Leviathan."

[fading] What does "Leviathan" mean? "Big ole sea monster," right? You know what they shoulda called this movie? "Whalien."

"LEVIATHAN" Commercial Break #3
They're dropping like flies now, aren't they? Daniel Stern is down. Lisa Eilbacher is down. Two of the most interesting actors in the cast. But they're observing one of the cardinal rules of a horror film: the best-looking people die last. Now. Remember the scene where Richard Crenna asks the computer what's wrong with Sixpack, and the computer says "Organism of unknown origin"? Well, that's a little inside joke, referring to the movie Of Unknown Origin, probably the greatest killer-rat movie ever made, which also starred Peter Weller, and which was also directed by George Pan Cosmatos, the director of "Leviathan." Not to be confused with the 1995 TV movie, Unknown Origin -- without the "of" -- which was, of course, about an undersea mining company. How confusing is THAT? Anyhow, Cosmatos is a Greek guy. He started out as an assistant director on big-budget films made in Greece, like "Exodus" and "Zorba the Greek." And then he made commercials in the sixties, and then he made a bunch of low-budget European films in the seventies, and his big breakthrough in America was "Rambo," starring Sylvester Stallone, in 1985. Co-starring Richard Crenna. And everybody said, "Hey this guy is GREAT." And then the next year he made Cobra, starring Sylvester Stallone, and everybody said, "Well, maybe not." He's known as a master of action, which we could use a LITTLE BIT more of when we continue with "Leviathan," after the ads.

[fading] Lisa Eilbacher is always great with the emotional stuff. Remember her in An Officer and a Gentleman? The feisty little boot-camper who had to struggle to get through the obstacle course? And then she finally makes it? Well, she's DEAD now. [in the movie]

"LEVIATHAN" Commercial Break #4
What's going on here? Don't you find this a little hard to follow? The thing went through a steel door, it shorted out the power, they got rid of the Daniel Stern mutant monster but the arm of it was flopping around, there's that slimy salamander thing that plunged through Michael Carmine's chest, Amanda Pays is jogging again for no reason. And they're doing that extreme tight closeup thing, where they just show a little piece of the monster, they never show the whole thing. They copied that from "Alien," too. I mean they copied it from "Alien One," too. They ALSO copied it from "Alien." It's one OTHER thing they copied from "Alien." And from here on out it's all-out war on the mutant, as we continue with "Leviathan," after the ads.

[fading] They mainly ripped off Alien. But they didn't stop there. It's kind of a cross between "Alien," The Thing, The Abyss, Lifeforce, Blade Runner, The Fly, Jaws, and Booty Call. Course, all those movies are derivative of the 1965 Vincent Price flick, "City Under the Sea," where underwater smugglers who never age live with their gill-man slaves. Whatever happened to gill-man slaves? I could USE a good gill-man slave. Or a gill-WOMAN slave. "Slither on over here, honey."

"LEVIATHAN" Commercial Break #5
Well, THIS is a great place for a break, right where Richard Crenna's chest starts to pulsate. It's not like we don't know what's gonna happen, though, is it? Richard Crenna is always great, one of my favorite actors. He's such a Hollywood veteran -- he's acted in eight decades now. Started as a teenager, doing radio serials in the thirties. He had a hit TV series in the fifties, Our Miss Brooks. Another one in the sixties, "The Real McCoys." He's made a whole slew of great movies, like Wait Until Dark and Body Heat. All the "Rambo" movies. The last two things I saw him in are "Jade" and "Sabrina," and I'm sure he's doing something this year, bringing him into the Zeros. Do we have a name for this decade yet? Somebody let me know, care of TNT at 1010 Techwood Drive, Atlanta, Georgia, 30318. Or e-mail me at You can also e-mail through the website at Anyway, for me, Richard Crenna is the ONLY guy you end up liking in this movie. Or I guess him and Ernie Hudson. Everybody else seems amazingly stupid. Okay, let's do the commercials and get on with it. The "Alien" monster scared the bejezus out of me, but this thing is just ANNOYING.

[fading] Filmed on the famous Stage 5 at Cinecitta Studios in Rome. "Quo Vadis." "Ben Hur." "Cleopatra." And ... "Leviathan."

"LEVIATHAN" Commercial Break #6
This movie's driving me crazy. What's the deal with the door that's closing, so Ernie Hudson has to hold it open with his brute strength so everybody can get away? Did they mention an automatic door before now? They keep running down halls and running through doors, but you don't know where any of the halls are, or the doors, or where they're running TO, or where the monster is. It's a pretty interesting monster -- all these different body parts mutated together, including Daniel Stern's face -- and it keeps coming back, like Jason. Like a combination of Freddy Krueger and a giant octopus. Okay, time for the SURPRISING conclusion of "Leviathan," after the ads.

[fading] They're gonna do the "Alien" countdown thing. What I'm wondering is, why was there no lawsuit against this screenplay? Is it just me, or did they just watch "Alien" 200 times and then copy everything they saw? Lawsuits work in mysterious ways in Hollywood. A big hit like "Alien" comes out, twenty guys claim the studio ripped off the script THEY wrote, and they spend three years in court trying to pinpoint the five minutes it sat on the producer's desk. Meanwhile, all the low-budget houses are ripping off "Alien" 800 different ways -- no one cares. Can you imagine the meeting when they sold "Leviathan"?
"It's 'Alien' underwater."
"Sounds good. What happens?"
"Same thing that happens in 'Alien.'"
"Okay. How much do you need?"
"Well, 'Alien' was 20 million."
"Fine, 20 million."
"What about inflation?"

Wait a minute! Did they just kill off Ernie Hudson AFTER THE MOVIE WAS OVER? They killed him off with a gratuitous shark attack, straight out of Jaws. Why didn't they just wait till they got back home and have him get run over by a TRUCK?

All right, for those of you who were TOTALLY confused by that movie, for those of you who have headaches now from trying to figure it out, I'm gonna sum up the whole deal. It's the same as "Alien," EXCEPT that this time the giant wormy stomach-eating slimehead gooey-gut DNA mutants were created by the Russians. The Russkies were down on the ocean floor trying to breed a half-man, half-fish, things got a little out of control, they forgot to watch the 1961 Japanese classic "Octama" or they would have known what can go wrong, and then -- whoops! -- their ship ends up on the bottom of the ocean full of skeletons and stingrays the size of Cadillacs. Here come the Americans -- dum de dum de dum de dum -- who find the ship, and what are they interested in? The VODKA, of course. But it was the vodka the Russians were using to drug the Russkie guinea pigs. So pretty soon you got an undersea mining city full of zombie Americans that keep sprouting new limbs and teeth in the palm of their hands. Everybody starts looking like a giant crocodile that just got bulldozed and soaked with Aunt Jemima pancake mix and then beat on for half an hour with a bag of ball bearings. And every time they ask for help, the evil Meg Foster back on dry land, representing The Company, tells em another LIE. How do we know she's lying? Because they do extreme closeups of her glazed-over cobalt-blue eyes. Does that about sum it up? I hope so, because we are DONE with that turkey.

That's it for me, Joe Bob Briggs, reminding you that if marriage were outlawed, only outlaws would have in-laws.
You guys know what lies on the bottom of the ocean and twitches? A nervous wreck.
Joe Bob Briggs, reminding you that the drive-in will never die.

[fading] What kind of coffee did they serve on the Titanic? Sanka. What kind of lettuce? Iceberg.
What's the difference between a Greek widow and a dead catfish? One stinks and has a moustache, and the other is a dead catfish.
What do you call a boomerang that doesn't work? A stick.

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Joe Bob also really liked the underwater movie The Neptune Factor

Last seen on MonsterVision on April 29, 2000 at 12:30 am, Rating: TV-14-DLV
Host segment transcript 2000 Turner Network Television. A Time Warner Company. All Rights Reserved