Year – 1989
Decade – 1980s
Cinematographer – Alex Thomson (imdb link)
Director – George P. Cosmatos (imdb link)
Aspect Ratio – 2.39
Distributor – MGM
Genre – Sci-Fi; Horror
Lenses – J-D-C Scope anamorphic lenses
Format – 35mm
Film Stock – Agfa XT
Categories – Click on any category to see similar frames from other films
POV Shots; Reflections; Shafts of Light; Lens Flares; Unusual Camera Perspectives; Color – Blue; Creatures; Set Design;
A team of deep sea silver miners stumbles upon a derelict Russian craft with predictable consequences for anyone who’s seen Alien or The Thing.
Leviathan was one of three underwater-set studio flicks released in the span of six short months in 1989, top-lined by James Cameron’s The Abyss. It’s basically a direct lift of creature feature tropes transplanted from the void of space to the murky expanse of the ocean, but it benefits from an usually generous B-movie budget of $24 million as well as a solid cast (Peter Weller, Richard Crenna, Hector Elizondo, Daniel Stern) and below-the-line pedigree (Oscar nominees in cinematographer Alex Thomson, composer Jerry Goldsmith, and effects guru Stan Winston).
Leviathan’s underwater sequences were shot dry-for-wet at Cinecittà Studios in Rome. The above-water finale was lensed in an infinity pool in Malta, located on the coast so that at the right camera angle the water of the pool lined up with the ocean to create the illusion of a distant horizon.
Practical Creature Effects
“What we ended up with is what I call “monster stew.”……It was everything – teeth, tentacles, fins, arms, heads, eyes. It was just all there. There were scales, skin, wrinkles. It was like, “What isn’t in this creature?” – Shannon Shea, part of the effects crew from Stan Winston Studios
Wet-For-Dry Underwater Sequences
For the underwater sequences, the cameras were overcranked to render the actors’ movements in slight slow motion, which made sync dialogue unusable during those takes. To counter that problem, the microphones in the miners’ suits were designed to obscure the actors’ mouths so that the desired dialogue could be looped in during post.
Here’s Tom Woodruff Jr. of Stan Winston Studios on how the show created its silty underwater look…
”They would burn these flares that we could do when we were in the studios in Italy because their health codes were slightly less than healthy, you just had to wear a mask. But you would get this sentiment floating, this ash drifting, that would look like sediment floating in the water.”
The mining crew gathers around to sift through the artifacts discovered on the titular Russian vessel.