January 22, 2019

THE GIANT BEHEMOTH: The Beast So Nice They Named It Twice

Isn't a 'behemoth' already a giant?
Starring Gene Evans, Andre Morell, John Turner, Leigh Madison, Jack MacGowran. Directed by Eugene Lourie. (1959/80 min).


Review by Josey, the Sudden Cat😼

The Giant Behemoth is notable for being one of the last movies to prominently feature special effects by stop-motion pioneer Willis O'Brien, whose skills had been more-or-less surpassed by his former apprentice, Ray Harryhausen. As such, the film holds a certain amount of historical interest.

Though mostly a British production, The Giant Behemoth is typical of the sci-fi-horror that thrived in American drive-ins throughout the 1950s. This time, the titular beast is a radioactive dinosaur that rises from the ocean depths to stomp all over London. Conveniently on-hand is Steve Karnes (Gene Evans, taking a break from all those westerns), an American scientist who happens to be in town to lecture his peers about the effect of nuclear testing on sea animals (talk about your powerful visual aids).

Well, that's one way to catch a cab.
While similar in plot to The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms (by the same director, no less), The Giant Behemoth is hampered by an obviously lower budget. The characters and obligatory exposition leading up to the reptile rampage are merely perfunctory. Par for the course, the fun begins once the creature emerges from the Thames to toss around cars, kick over buildings and irradiate the neighbors. The monster is more amusing than malevolent, but he's plenty destructive and his grudge against London, which comprises most of the final act, helps elevate what would otherwise be a routine monster movie.

As post-nuclear nightmares go, The Giant Behemoth is hardly a milestone, nor does it rise above the fray to really stand out among others of its ilk. But despite the familiar story and budget-conscious production values, Willis O'Brien's charming critter creations are always entertaining (though this one is a far cry from his King Kong glory days).

AUDIO COMMENTARY - By FX Artists Dennis Muren & Phil Tippet

No comments: