The Abyss (1989)

USA, 1989
134m (Germany), 140m, 164m (special edition)
colour, 2.35:1
Dolby SR, English

An American science fiction film directed by James Cameron. In 1993, the film was issued on laserdisc in an extended “special edition” version which reinstated much footage that Cameron had cut from his theatrical version.

Plot Summary

An underwater mining vessel, the DeepCore, is stranded when a storm blows up and severs them from their mother ship on the surface. As the USA and Soviet Union teeter on the brink of nuclear war above them, the crew of the DeepCore discover that they are not alone – something is waiting for them in the abyss…


Directed by: James Cameron
Twentieth Century Fox. A Gale Anne Hurd production. A James Cameron film/GJP
Produced by: Gale Anne Hurd
Written by: James Cameron
Director of Photography: Mikael Salomon
Edited by: Joel Goodman
Music by: Alan Silvestri
Sound Recording: Bob Renga
Costume Designer: Deborah Everton
Make Up: Kathryn Miles Kelly
Hair: Emanuel Millar
Visual Effects: Dreamquest Images; Industrial Light and Magic; Fantasy II Film Effects; Steve Johnson XFX; Ocean Images; Video Image; Walter Conti Productions; Wonderworks; Design Setters Corp
Production Designer: Leslie Dilley

Ed Harris (Bud Brigman)
Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio (Lindsey Brigman)
Michael Biehn (Lt Hiram Coffey)
Leo Burmester (Catfish De Vries)
Todd Graff (Alan “Hippy” Carnes)
John Bedford Lloyd (Jammer Willis)
J.C. Quinn (“Sonny” Dawson)
Kimberly Scott (Lisa “One Night” Standing)
Capt. Kidd Brewer Jr (Lew Finler)
George Robert Klek (Wilhite)
Christopher Murphy (Schoenick)
Adam Nelson (Ensign Monk)
Richard Warlock (Dwight Perry)
Jimmie Ray Weeks (Leland McBride)
J. Kenneth Campbell (DeMarco)
Ken Jenkins (Gerard Kirkhill)
Chris Elliott (Bendix)
Peter Ratray (Captain)
Michael Beach (Barnes)
Brad Sullivan (executive)

Alternative Titles

El abismo – Venezuelan title
O Abismo – Portugese title
Abyss – Abgrund des Todes – German title
Abyss – French/Italian/Spanish title
Avgrunden – Swedish title
Dypet – Norwegian title
A mélység titka – Hungarian title
Otchlan – Polish title
Propast – Czechoslovakian title

See also
DeepStar Six (1989)
Leviathan (1989)
Lords of the Deep (1989)
The Rift (1990)
Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991)
Under Pressure: The Making of The Abyss (1993)

Production Notes

In the USA James Cameron supervised an airline version which ran for 118 minutes. Airline’s have a rule about showing vehicles in distress during their in-flight movies, so Cameron had to remove the entire opening sequence in which the submarine crashes. This version also turned up on US TV.

In the UK the theatrical and video cuts removed a scene in which a rat is seen struggling after being held under the breathing fluid. The scene was seen once, during Channel 4’s first screening, but was missing from subsequent screenings.


Cinefantastique July 1989 pp.4-5, 60 – production notes
Cinemascope January 1990 – review
Dark Star no.6 – review
Fantasy Zone January 1990 – review
Flickers ‘n’ Frames no.8 p.7 – review
Interzone no.33 (January/February 90) p.32 – review (by Nick Lowe)
Interzone no.75, Sep 93) p.36 – review (by Nick Lowe)
Gorezone no.15 p.26 – review
Premiere July 1989 p.97 – review
Sight & Sound September 1992 p.67 – review
Starburst no.136 pp.17-20 – illustrated review
Strange Adventures no.28 p.15 – review
Total Film no.159 (October 2009) p.78 – illustrated article (In His Own Words: James Cameron)

The A-Z of Science Fiction and Fantasy Films by Howard Maxford pp.10-11 – review, credits
Creature Features Movie Guide Strikes Again by John Stanley p.11 – review, credits
Elliot’s Guide to Home Entertainment p.2 – review, credits, UK video data
The Encyclopedia of Fantastic Film p.2 – review, credits
Encyclopedia of Science Fiction Films from 1897 to the Present by C.J. Henderson pp.2-3 – credits, synopsis
The Films of the Eighties by Robert A. Nowlan and Gwendolyn Wright Nowlan p.2 – credits, synopsis, review
Hoffman’s Guide to SF, Horror and Fantasy Movies 1991-1992 p.15 – review, credits
Horror and Science Fiction Films IV by Donald C. Willis p.2 – credits
Jules Verne on Film by Thomas C. Renzi pp.149-150 – note
Psychotronic Video Guide pp.1-2 – review, credits
The Stop-motion Filmography by Neil Pettigrew pp.29-30 – credits, review
Variety Science-Fiction Movies by Julian Brown (ed.) p.8  – illustrated credits, review
Video Source Book 13th Edition (1992) Volume 1 p.8 – credits, US video data