The Giant Behemoth
The biggest thing since creation!
Year of Release: 1959
Genre: Science Fiction/Horror
Rated: Not Rated
Running Time: 80 minutes (1:20)
Director: Douglas Hickox, Eugene Lourie
Gene Evans ... Steve Karnes
Andre Morell ... Prof. James Bickford
John Turner ... John
Leigh Madison ... Jean Trevethan
Jack MacGowran ... Dr. Sampson, the Paleontologist
Alarming levels of radiation have infused the water, plants and skies, and a radiated paleosaurus rises from the ocean depths. In its path: London. In its arsenal: a strength to topple buildings, a stride that flattens cars, a flesh-searing radioactive ray and a ticked-off attitude. Left in ruins on land, humankind takes the fight to the beast's undersea realm, where a two-man submarine crew must ensure the torpedo they fire is dead on. The first chance is all anyone gets with The Giant Behemoth.
The Giant Behemoth, remindin' us that a sandbag perimeter can be an effective deterrent against water damage, but provides little protection from the 100 ton Jurassic predator it happens to be drippin' off of.
Speakin' of prehistoric menaces though - if the Vatican calls I'm not here. Cripes almighty I never thought I'd hafta say that again, but I'm here to tell ya - the religious intolerance in this country is gettin' completely outta hand, an I may just hafta do somethin' about it if I can get my hands on some beer money an a coupla dozen rolls of Charmin Ultra Soft. The reason I'm so hacked off this week is cause Billy Hilliard had his heart set on enterin' the annual "Walkin' in a Winter Holy Land" Biblical snowman competition at the church, an let's just say my artistic vision was not received in the spirit I'd hoped. Now if you've never been to one of these things lemme just say - the people who participate in this event have surprisingly limited imaginations when you consider how readily they've accepted Noah's ability to accurately sex dung beetles, an so consequently we had a whole lotta snowman Jesuses, Abrahams, an Saint Peters - although I would like to give a little credit to the guy who made the John the Baptist figure complete with a frozen Betsy Wetsy in a Baptismal kiddie pool. Damn me to New Jersey for sayin' it if you want to, but these people could bore the methamphetamine wing of a rehab center to death, an so I prolly don't hafta explain why Billy an me went a different route with our sculpture.
"What is the meaning of this?!" - that was Reverend Dollarhide, who'd apparently become an art critic in his spare time.
"What? He's a religious figure, an kind of an important one from what I remember," I explained, admirin' the 7' tall frosty figure of Beelzebub we'd painstakingly crafted.
"Besides, you stand in the pulpit every Sunday tryin' to scare everybody straight; I *thought* you'd like it," I lied.
"No Godly individual would EH-VAH defile the church with the likes of this... this abomination! Therefore I must conclude that Say-tan lives and THA-RIVES within the hearts and minds of you two lost sheep!" he declared.
"Ya know, you're awful judgemental for a guy who sponsors a graven image buildin' competition on God's front lawn every year," I retorted.
"We are HON-AH-ING our heavenly benefactors! YOU disgrace them with sacrilegious mockery!" he growled. This was obviously goin' nowhere, so I decided to take my case directly to the people at that point.
"Friends, let me ask you a question: would you agree that the Bible is the greatest story ever told," I asked, to which unanimous choruses of: "Of course!", "Hell yeah!", an "Durn tootin' it is!" erupted from the crowd.
"It sure's heck is! But a story is only as good as its villain, friends, an I think we can all agree that the beast who got us kicked outta paradise, founded Hell, an made a deal with Tom Brady guaranteein' at least eight Super Bowl appearances is truly an imposing and frightenin' adversary, even for His Almightyness, wouldn't you say?"
Dollarhide was startin' to lose 'em an he knew it, so he dialed back the rhetoric temporarily an went for the low hangin' fruit, so to speak.
"My son, if it is wholly your intention to remind these good people of the evils that lurk within the hearts of man, and not to offend, as you claim - why then does your rendering have such large... ahem, genitalia?" he queried.
Billy looked like he was gonna be sick, but I handled the situation with the utmost grace an sensitivity: "I'm glad you asked that Reverend, you see, it's simple really - the way I figure it you'd better have a pretty massive set of balls if you're gonna challenge His Godness for spiritual supremacy," I explained.
I was *this* close to closin' the books on this one; Dollarhide'd painted 'imself into an inescapable corner, folks were pickin' up what I was puttin' down, an it was really startin' to look like we were a shoo-in for that first prize neon TV antenna welded into the shape of the crucifixion scene, when all the sudden little Claudia Buchinsky walked up to our abominable snowman, grabbed 'im right by the snowballs, an started gigglin' hysterically.
I knew we were goners right then an there, an Dollarhide capitalized on this development instantly when he shrieked: "You see brothers and sisters! The EE-VIL phallus of damnation has seduced another innocent before your very eyes! We must destroy this monument to sin in the name of Jay-sus before its corrupting influence spreads any further!"
Axes appeared outta nowhere as God-fearin' peons went to work choppin' ole brimstone britches down to size, but in a bizarre, poetic justice-laden twist, the chunkheads managed to fell our mammoth Mammon right on toppa Dollarhide who'd turned away from the actual hacking to direct some kinda cheesy communal cleansing ritual. That ain't even the creepy part though, no sir - the thing that really weirded everybody out was when some yahoo buried his crowbar into the gnarly set of icicles we'd attached to the tip of Satan's pitchfork, breakin' 'em free from the sculpture's torso an showerin' 'em down on Dollarhide where he was staked to the ground... right through his palms.
Needless to say Billy an me didn't stick around to examine the theological implications behind this little incident an slunk back to the Topaz in the confusion, but I wanna be clear about this: just because I don't like the man doesn't mean I'm happy he's over at Chickawalka General right now with stigmata wounds an a buncha pushy bald guys shovin' microphones into his face askin' for the date of the rapture. Dollarhide is in my thoughts just like everybody else's, which is actually what got me to thinkin' about this flick from 1959 starrin' a cranky old reptile from the late Cretaceous. This one's kind of a breath of fresh air, cause with all due respect to Godzilla, there's only so many times you can watch Tokyo get smashed into erector set shrapnel before it begins losin' its luster. Fortunately for us the top brass at Warner Bros. became aware of this problem an put their heads together to come up with a way to breathe new life into the monster movie, an after extensive collaboration an countless brain stormin' sessions they finally found the solution - destroy London instead. It was a gutsy call, but I think that by the time the credits roll you'll agree it paid off, and as a thank you for those countless hours spent deliberatin' in the studio's situation room, I'd like to share a few of the cinematic revelations this change of venue gave birth to. First, nobody wants to be the one to tell the admiral radar don't work underwater. Second, as official causes of death go: "dinosaur tantrum" makes for a sure-fire conversation starter in the afterlife. An third, exilin' everyone capable of handlin' prehistoric monsters to another continent can come back to bite you.
The movie begins with this bleedin' heart environmental biologist (Dr. Karnes) tryin' to convince a classroom fulla highly respected men that ever since we turned Japan into the world's biggest hickory smoker radiation's been seepin' into every corner of the ecosystem, an that if we're not careful we may regret our actions someday after we've all grown dorsal fins an sprouted eyeballs in our armpits. Elsewhere, an old fisherman (Tom) an his daughter (Jean) are pullin' their boat up to the British shoreline, only when Jean heads for the house to fry up their catch this bad gamma-jama of a sea monster surfaces in the old man's fission hole an bakes 'im with sonic UFO waves until he looks like the inside of the microwave after a Hot Pocket blew up in there. Course by the time Jean finds 'im he's already headed for the big bait shop in the sky, but just before he croaks he tells 'er he was flash fried by a cryptozoological carcinogen the size of an office building. Next thing we're at Tom's funeral where the priest tells this really inappropriate Bible story about a fire-breathin' critter hasslin' Job til the caterer's barbecued pork platter starts remindin' Jean of 'er dad an she hasta go for a walk on the beach with one of his drinkin' buddies (John) where they discover about a zillion dead fish an a weird pulsatin' glob of Oreo filling an decide to get the heck outta there before they get trampled by the inevitable stampede of lesbians an stray cats. Then Karnes an most of Bristol catch wind of what's goin' on an he an this stuffy old Brit (Bickford) decide to go investigate, an even though they don't find diddly squat Karnes thinks there's somethin' to the kryptonite kelpie the locals claim to've seen, so Karnes an Bickford take a coupla dead flounders in to the Center for Pisces Control an slice 'em up into sushi rolls an smoosh 'em flat with this leaf pressin' kit til they find a piece that glows like a set of Motel 6 sheets under a blacklight. By this point Karnes's gettin' just a teensy bit obsessed, so he hires a crusty old sea captain to help 'im find his great blight whale an pretty quick the ship's geiger counter starts makin' this noise like a fishin' rod that's lettin' out way too much line until the Schlock Ness monster ditches 'em to go party at Gorgo's place.
Then Karnes an Bickford catch the 12:15 to London to tell the Admiral of the Royal Fleet about the Leviathang while it stomps around the beach turnin' nosy villagers into Sawney Beans an Weenies an leavin' footprints the size of Wembley Stadium. Karnes an Bickford would like to avoid a repeat of this, so they go chat with this starry-eyed hobbit (Sampson) who tells 'em how he's always dreamed of livin' in The Land of the Lost an how ole Fraudzilla seems to generate electricity like an eel; so basically if they're plannin' to kill 'im they'd better step on it before Bernie Sanders sends a team of renewable energy mercenaries to capture it an hook it up to the U.S. power grid. Naturally Sampson wants to get a look at the monster before the navy turn it into a super-sized fish 'n chips basket, only it turns out all you can see from a helicopter is a what looks like the chalk outline at the scene of Barney's assassination an he tries givin' its location to the admiral cept nobody back at HQ can find it on radar cause it's some kinda stealth serpent developed by the Russians. Or cause somebody in the purchasing department accidentally ordered radar instead of sonar an just hoped nobody'd find out about it, I'm not real clear on this. Anyway, after that Denver gets P.O.'d about the chopperazzi invadin' his privacy an he nukes Sampson into the ozone layer an capsizes a ferry boat an pretty much turns everybody on board into key limey pie. Then Karnes goes to talk to a buncha military guys to explain that they can't just blow all their problems into One Million PCs cause it'd splatter radioactive goop all over Buckingham Palace an make the Queen so mad that she might chase 'em around with a hatpin. Karnes figures the only way to take care of Glowshi is to fire a torpedo fulla radium into 'im to kick his chemotherapy into overdrive so he bites the dust before the Make-A-Wish foundation shows up to buy 'im a ticket to Disneyland. Course, while all this is goin' on Tyrannosaurus Wrecks is doin' the Bossa Nova all over downtown London an dissolvin' the army into gooey conceptual art sketches before makin' a hasty an unexpected Brexit when London Bridge falls down beneath the weight of his colossal Cretacean can. Spoze I prolly oughta stop here so all the septuagenarians who missed this one in theaters don't go writin' their congressmen about spoilers an what not, so if you wanna find out who rules Britannia, you'll just hafta go rootin' through the bins at Lunk's Trunks of Fantastic Junk to find a copy like God intended.
Alrighty, so London gives Tokyo a breather and takes one for the team this time as the newly minted and redundantly named Giant Behemoth does the monster mash all over the pub scene. Don't get too excited though, cause unfortunately the Behemoth has too much respect for British architecture to destroy anything we might actually recognize, like Big Ben or Buckingham Palace. I guess he technically brings the London Bridge down, but that's really more a situation where the structure's recommended weight limit was exceeded. I kinda prefer Gorgo myself, cause Gorgo's on a mission an she really lets London have it, whereas the Behemoth is essentially just one big, pissed off environmental subplot. Of course, the true inspiration was The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms, which alleged co-director Eugene Lourie (some people claim he solo directed The Giant Behemoth despite his name not even appearing as a co-director in the credits of the American version) had previously directed six years before. Interestingly, Beast featured the stop-motion effects of Ray Harryhausen, while Behemoth's effects were largely completed by Willis O'Brien who pioneered the technique with flicks like The Lost World and King Kong, before later becaming Harryhausen's mentor. So it's kinda fun to compare the talents of the two greatest stop-motion effects guys of all time as each worked to bring the same director's vision to life... if you've got a lotta time on your hands. My only real complaint about the flick is basically that it was made in 1959, and while I could try claiming the movie's pacing is too slow to consistently hold the audience's attention, the fact is that almost all films were paced this way at that time. Admittedly, British flicks (at least ones not made by Hammer) of the era were stuffier than most, but for its time The Giant Behemoth is well within the expected excitement parameters - I just personally find those parameters to be a bit coma inducing. I suppose you could say there's some bad movie science where it concerns the military tryin' to find the monster with radar (this may even have simply been a script error or something, but it's still pretty funny), and the scene where the guys at mission control are talking about how the museum curator won't be able to see much "in this fog," before immediately cutting to a helicopter in a cloudless sky on a perfectly clear day is also a bit unfortunate, but for the most part the flick's pretty competent.
In any event, lets take a closer look and find out if this walkin' nuclear warhead still has what it takes to make an impact. The plot is textbook atomic monster stuff, and despite the obvious scientific impossibility of such a thing happening I really don't have a problem with the whole "radiation spawns freak of nature" premise that's been going strong for roughly 70 years now. It's pretty much the same story as The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms, only here it's radiation rather than a prehistoric disease that threatens the survival of mankind, and at the end of the day there's really not much to say about it - they've repeated the lie enough times that we all believe it, and we're okay with that. The acting, while perfectly competent, is painfully dull - we're talkin' Perry Mason goes to England here. I dunno if it's a British thing or a 1950s thing, but apparently you just didn't show emotion in those days for fear of being branded a sissy or somethin'. Giant monster roamin' around in the ocean just off the coastline? Well, I say, that's no reason to abandon the rules of decorum, old chap. Gene Evans, the only American actor in the flick, displays the occasional flash of emotion every ten minutes or so, only to have everyone else in the movie look at him like he's just thrown his own scat at the wall or something, it's completely bizarre. Regardless, everyone in the film comes across as being very-well schooled in the theatrical arts and there's nary a deficient performance throughout the entire movie, but good grief are these folks boring.
Here's who matters and why: Gene Evans (Donovan's Brain, Devil Times Five), Andre Morell (The Lord of the Rings 1978, The Mummy's Shroud, The Plague of the Zombies, The Shadow fo the Cat, The Hound of the Baskervilles 1959), John Turner (The Black Torment), Jack MacGowran (The Fearless Vampire Killers, Night Creatures, The Exorcist), Maurice Kaufmann (Gorgo, Die! Die! My Darling!, The Vault of Horror, Fright 1971, The Abominable Dr. Phibes, Psycho-Circus, The Quatermass Xperiment), Henri Vidon (Blood of the Vampire, The Snorkel), Leonard Sachs (Doctor Who the Time War, Scream of Fear, Konga, The Gamma People), Chris Adcock (Eye of the Devil, Psycho-Circus, Invasion of the Triffids, Village of the Damned 1960, Enemy from Space), Jack Armstrong (An American Werewolf in London, The Elephant Man, The Vault of Horror, Frankenstein Must Be Destroyed, Theatre of Death, Frankenstein Created Woman, The Skull, Village of the Damned 1960), Paul Beradi (The Skull, Satellite in the Sky), Ernest Blyth (The Rocky Horror Picture Show, Dracula A.D. 1972, The Skull, Invasion of the Triffids, The Hands of Orlac, The Snorkel, The Revenge of Frankenstein), Chick Fowles (The Elephant Man, Daleks' Invasion Earth 2150 A.D., Dr. Strangelove, Horrors of the Black Museum), Neil Hallett (Virgin Witch, X the Unknown), Aidan Harrington (Morons from Outer Space, Superman 1978, Blood Beast from Outer Space, The Day the Earth Caught Fire, Village of the Damned 1960, Corridors of Blood), George Holdcroft (The Elephant Man, Frankenstein and the Monster from Hell, The Plague of the Zombies, Dr. Strangelove, The Flesh and the Fiends), Alastair Hunter (Five Million Years to Earth, Enemy from Space, Satellite in the Sky, Castle Sinister), Patrick Jordan (Lifeforce, Madhouse 1974), Lloyd Lamble (And Now the Screaming Starts, Curse of the Demon, Enemy from Space), Howard Lang (Frankenstein Created Woman, The Curse of the Werewolf, Gorgo, Corridors of Blood), Fred Machon (Theatre of Death, Dr. Strangelove), John Mandeville (Theatre of Death), Andre Maranne (Morons from Outer Space, The Terrornauts, Maniac 1963), Derren Nesbitt (Invasion UFO, Burke and Hare 1972), Charles Price (Island of Terror, The Day the Earth Caught Fire, The Quatermass Xperiment), Ernie Rice (Dr. Jekyll & Sister Hyde, Eye of the Devil, Island of Terror, Rasputin: The Mad Monk, The Reptile, The Plague of the Zombies, The Kiss of the Vampire, Invasion of the Triffids, Gorgo, Circus of Horrors), Pat Ryan (Devil Doll), Ian Selby (The Elephant Man, Dr. Terror's House of Horrors, Devil Doll), Guy Standeven (Lifeforce, Morons from Outer Space, Return of the Jedi, The Elephant Man, The Quatermass Conclusion, Superman 1978, The Omen, All the Colors of the Dark, The Abominable Dr. Phibes, Island of Terror, The Day the Earth Caught Fire, The Quatermass Xperiment), Philip Stewart (Dracula has Risen from the Grave, The Hands of Orlac), Joe Wadham (Scream and Scream Again, Invasion of the Triffids, The Day the Earth Caught Fire, Konga, Cat Girl).
Pretty impressive list there, it's almost a shame that I'm gonna hafta dox the normies, so if you're interested in knowin' who fled the glory of The Giant Behemoth to rub elbows with people who lift their pinkies when they drink tea, they are as follows: Andre Morell (Sextus in Ben-Hur, Abu-Talib in The Message, Colonel Green in The Bridge on the River Kwai), Jack MacGowran (Pierre in A Shot in the Dark), Howard Lang (Captain Baines on The Onedin Line).
Not surprisingly, the special effects are usually the make-or-break component of these movies, and unfortunately the Behemoth is not one of O'Brien's better creations. The creature design is fine, and essentially resembles a plesiosaur with legs instead of flippers, but the animation is stiff and unnatural even by stop-motion standards, with the legs moving in such a way that the torso is unaffected. They also had a physical head and neck for the critter that they used during the forced perspective shots surrounded by miniatures and backdrops, and it's not especially convincing either - it's hard to say exactly what went wrong, but based upon what appears in the movie I'd guess that the problems stemmed more from a lack of time than a lack of money. The effects aren't terrible or anything, but they're just not as polished as most of what we've come to expect from Willis O'Brien, which is a bummer. The shooting locations are a bit drab due to the use of black and white film, although many of them would have been boring even in color, as the flick crowds a lot of people into fairly small sets with some regularity (in particular, the lecture hall, the radar control room, and the science lab). Still, it's not all bad - the shoreline where the first victim gets fried is nice, and they stuck some stock footage of Big Ben and the Palace of Westminster in there so what the heck - just try not to focus too much on the "choppy seas in the tub" footage and you're golden. The soundtrack is remarkably undistinguished, although to be fair that's not at all unusual for most films from the '50s. With the exception of Science Fiction movies, 1950s soundtracks are so generic and uninspiring that it's easy to imagine swapping them around from one movie to the next without anyone noticing or without any of the film's quality being compromised, and The Giant Behemoth's is no exception. Don't get me wrong, the compositions aren't bad or unpleasant to hear - they just add absolutely nothing to the movie in the way of atmosphere and generally exist simply because by that time it was expected a flick have a musical score. Overall, I found this one pretty boring for a little over half the runtime, and the lackluster special effects, coupled with the go-nowhere soundtrack make it a minor failure even on a technical level. That said, it's nowhere near abject failure, so if you enjoy giant monster flicks and are able to withstand the pacing issues, don't let my hangups stop you from checkin' it out.