GIANT BEHEMOTH, THE (director/writer: Eugene Lourie; screenwriters: story by Robert Abel & Alan J. Adler/Daniel James (credited as Daniel Hyatt); cinematographers: Desmond Davis/Ken Hodges; editor: Lee Doig; music: Edwin Astley; cast: Gene Evans (Steve Karnes), Andre Morell (Professor Bickford), John Turner (John), Leigh Madison (Jean Trevethan), Henri Vidon (Tom Trevethan), Jack MacGowran (Dr. Sampson); Runtime: 80; MPAA Rating: NR; producers: David Diamond/Ted Lloyd; Warner; 1959-UK/USA)
“There are fine special effects courtesy of Willis O’Brien, the King Kong creator, otherwise the distended melodramatics bring this dry pic about the radioactive giant prehistoric dinosaur’s attack on London to an underwhelming halt.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
A low-budget black and white film directed in a pedestrian way by former art director, the Russian-born, Eugene Lourie (“The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms”/”Gorgo”/”The Colossus of New York). It’s based on a story byRobert Abel & Alan J. Adler, the screenplay is by Lourie and blacklisted writer Daniel James. There are fine special effects courtesy of the 72-year-old visual arts director Willis O’Brien, the King Kong creator, otherwise the distended melodramatics bring this dry pic about the radioactive giant prehistoric dinosaur’s attack on London to an underwhelming halt. The featured monster was created through stop motion animation, O’Brien’s signature way of filming monsters.
Outspoken critic of atomic weaponry, the American marine biologist Steve Karnes (Gene Evans), speaks at a conference in London sponsored by the Atomic Energy Commission, headed by Professor Bickford (Andre Morell), and argues that the radioactive particles from atomic testing have contaminated the oceans. Before returning home, Karnes learns from a TV news report that in a small fishing village in Cornwall, fisherman Tom Trefethan (Henri Vidon) died a horrible death from severe burns that caused a spotting of the skin–the same way the victims of Hiroshima appeared. Karnes investigating with Bickford in Cornwall, find out from the victim’s daughter (Leigh Madison) that dad last saw a glowing giant behemoth come out of the water. Back in their London lab, the scientists discover that the dead fish washed up on the beach are contaminated with radiation. The scientists are convinced that a mysterious sea creature is behind several incidents that killed several people and destroyed a steamship and a ferry. Upon further investigation out at sea, Karnes locates the giant sea monster from afar through binoculars and believes he’s going to attack London. When a footprint of the monster is uncovered on land, a photo of it is shown to Britain’s most noted paleontologist, Dr. Sampson (Jack MacGowran), who identifies it as belonging to a prehistoric plesiosaurus, which had electrical properties similar to that of an eel. The scientists warn the Royal Navy that killing it with a bomb would cause a greater problem because it would spread the radiation around the world, as the monster’s parts would splinter off. To kill it so it remains intact in one piece, Karnes suggests using a torpedo to shoot into it a warhead with enough radium so the monster dies from that and remains intact.
It’s rubbish, but I have a soft spot for such monster flicks that at least try to offer some thrills without embarrassing itself with too much pseudo science. I also have a soft spot for the gruff Gene Evans, usually a killing machine in army war flicks, trying to get over here as a humanitarian scientist.
REVIEWED ON 4/5/2012 GRADE: C+
Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”
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