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  Giant Behemoth, The The Big Issue
Year: 1959
Director: Eugene Lourié, Douglas Hickox
Stars: Gene Evans, André Morell, John Turner, Leigh Madison, Jack MacGowran, Maurice Kaufmann, Henri Vidon, Leonard Sachs
Genre: Horror, Science FictionBuy from Amazon
Rating:  5 (from 1 vote)
Review: Professor Steve Karnes (Gene Evans) is giving a lecture to this elite group of world leaders to warn them of the effects that nuclear weapons testing is having, and highlights research that tells the radiation levels may not be consistent, but they have increased significantly in those regions where the bombs have been set off, and that has got into the food chain. He is dismissed by those in attendance who do not regard the problem as too pressing, but on the coast of Cornwall, a fisherman is on a beach there with his daughter Jean (Leigh Madison) when he spots something out to sea. What could it be? It's very large and before he gets the chance to assess it he is struck by a beam of light that overwhelms him, knocking the man to the ground. Could it be that Karnes' predictions are coming true?

Before you say anything, obviously that title is ridiculous, they might as well have called this The Massive Colossus or The Enormous Titan, or even The Large Bigness, but what you have to understand is the American distributors thought their potential audience were idiots, therefore would not know what a behemoth was and furthermore would not care about the tautology. It makes more sense when you know that the original, British title was Behemoth the Sea Monster, which is better, though even that has problems since if you were talking ancient terms for gigantic creatures Leviathan was the sea monster, not Behemoth. Now that’s out of the way, what was the movie like? Well, it was like The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms, no coincidence when co-director Eugene Lourié had worked on both.

In fact, it wasn't supposed to have been a giant dinosaur thriller at all, it was going to be a giant blob movie which were doing fairly well at the time, but the only way they could secure funding was to basically rip off Lourié's previous film, only set in the south of Britain. All the better to smash up London landmarks, naturally, something the co-director would return to again with Gorgo, a man in a monster suit epic much indebted to Godzilla which had taken the Beast from... formula and run with it to create a worldwide success, so it was all very interconnected, this giant monster movie business. The radiation the Behemoth emits was more a coincidence with the big, green Japanese threat, which had a habit of breathing atomic fire, but it did make this look seriously derivative; however, at the time there were people genuinely scared of the results.

It’s more difficult to credit now, of course, as stop motion animation may still be around but not often used for creature effects in horror and science fiction movies. This one was notable for giving Willis O'Brien of King Kong fame one of his final jobs in the industry, and he might have wished for a better end to his career, but though he was only an overseer his presence has generated interest in The Giant Behemoth ever since, such was the influence of the huge gorilla he animated all by himself all those years ago. In truth, although the puppet was not too bad, it wasn't the slickest you would ever see, though that has its charm as well as it cuts a swathe through the London population, slaughtering innocents, destroying property and generally behaving very badly. The script lent very heavily on science to back up its plot, and if some of that sounded vaguely credible there was a point where you thought, well, you're just making stuff up now, aren't you? Oddly, the romantic leads (Madison and John Turner) were utterly forgotten about part of the way in, leaving Evans and André Morell to bear the burden of the picture (and the Behemoth), which they did with appropriate gravitas. Not the best of its kind, then, nor the worst. Music by Edwin Astley.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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