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  • Composed by Jerry Goldsmith
  • Varèse Sarabande / 1989 / 40m

While cinemagoers awaited James Cameron’s The Abyss back in 1989, fans of seeing humans battling mysterious underwater foes in the depths of the ocean had a little fillip in the form of George Pan Cosmatos’s Leviathan.  And, frankly, who isn’t such a fan?  This one stars Peter Weller and sees him and his crew unwittingly unleash said foes against themselves when they salvage a watertight safe from a submerged Russian vessel.  Nobody much liked the film, most people likening it to an underwater – and worse – version of Alien.

The collaboration between Cosmatos and composer Jerry Goldsmith is unlikely to go down with Fellini/Rota or Hitchcock/Herrmann, but the composer did write some very enjoyable music for the three (terrible) Cosmatos films he scored; this was the third, after The Cassandra Crossing and Rambo 2.  True to form, it’s highly entertaining, rising well above anything else the film manages to muster (it’s a shame that Goldsmith so often found himself working on films not worthy of him, but it never fails to impress me just how well he generally scored them).

Jerry Goldsmith

Jerry Goldsmith

The score opens with a fairly subdued version of its main theme in “Underwater Camp”, where the orchestra is joined by Goldsmith’s synth gimmick du jour, which in this case is some electronic whale song.  It actually works very well, adding an appropriately creepy vibe whenever it’s heard – it had the potential to go very wrong, but didn’t.  “Decompression” is an exciting piece of action music, typical of the composer’s late 80s/early 90s style, pounding away to produce undoubted thrills.

More typical of the score is the lengthy third cue, “Discovery”, which is dark and murky, impressively atmospheric thanks to the textures Goldsmith creates both from his orchestra and his keyboards.  There is a brief diversion into warmer territory with an amorous version of the main theme heard on electric piano in “One of Us”, which sounds a little dated but is still highly pleasant.  Things quickly return to normal in “The Body Within”, the composer initially offering some chills as part of the action, not unlike in Outland a few years before, though the second half of the piece isn’t as interesting.

“Escape Bubbles” begins a fine sequence of action cues, the whale song synths returning alongside some strident work from the horns and the percussion section of the Italian orchestra; the piece also contains an heroic version of the versatile main theme.  It’s a wonderful piece, concluding with a surprisingly optimistic, full-bodied arrangement of the main theme, but even better is the one that follows, “Can We Fix It?”, unsettling electronics gradually giving way to the orchestra – it’s an outstanding piece of action music, vintage Goldsmith.  The brief “Situation Under Control” is calmer (a subtle version of the main theme against more whale song); then “It’s Growing” introduces an ever-growing feeling of dread.  “Too Hot” offers one final blast of action, breathlessly exciting as always.

The album concludes with the wonderful “A Lot Better”, an extension of the optimistic treatment of the main theme heard earlier in “Escape Bubbles”; it’s not quite in keeping with the feeling of the rest of the score, but it’s a terrific piece in its own right and I’m sure would be on many people’s Goldsmith playlists if they were familiar with it.  Leviathan is one of many excellent scores Jerry Goldsmith wrote for films that are long-forgotten, which is I’m sure the only reason this music isn’t more famous than it is.  There are hints of The Swarm and Outland at times in his score (which is far more serious than the one he wrote a decade later for the similarly-themed Deep Rising, that one a more tongue-in-cheek affair which is also underrated).  This is a very satisfying album which deserves to be better-known.

Rating: **** | |

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