I’m not sure the British are really suited for giant monster movies. No offense to the Brits, but watching a bunch of folks stand around and keep the stiff upper lip while radioactive monsters from the deep attack London isn’t too much fun. Behemoth might be unique in the giant monster genre in that respect–it’s more interesting before the giant monster shows up. Once the monster shows up, the film slows down to a crawl–the last ten minutes are grueling. Before, during the investigation, Behemoth at least entertains and the director, Eugène Lourié, has some good composition in the British seaside town and particularly during exposition scenes.
Besides starring Gene Evans, more on him in a second, Behemoth has the distinction of being a complete rip-off of the original Godzilla. I didn’t think the British ripped it off until Gorgo, a few years later, but I stand corrected. Behemoth, the monster, comes from the sea, is a dinosaur, has been effected by radiation, and has fire-breath. Even the fishermen angle resembles Godzilla (Godzilla, however, got that aspect of the story from an actual incident). Behemoth doesn’t follow Godzilla’s story structure, nor does it stick with the one it has in the beginning, following two or three characters, characters who disappear as the monster starts showing up.
Gene Evans was a favorite of Sam Fuller and seeing him play a marine biologist would be fun enough, but seeing him play a marine biologist who’s sure of a giant radioactive monster is even better. André Morell plays Evans’s British counterpart–and, if one wants to read enough into a scene, his lover–and Morell gives Behemoth a certain bit of credibility, but it might just be the accent.
I watched Behemoth because it’s one of King Kong special effects producer Willis H. O’Brien’s last films. The stop-motion work isn’t too good, however, and the best special effects in Behemoth are a couple of the rear screen projection shots. They perfectly mix the foreground and background. Maybe it’s the black and white. The film doesn’t handle the special effects well in its structure either. After it ended, I realized Evans never even sees the monster. At least it’s got me curious again about O’Brien’s work, because it certainly hasn’t gotten me wanting to see anymore of Lourié’s.
Directed by Eugène Lourié; screenplay by Lourie and Daniel James, from a story by Robert Abel and Alan J. Adler; directors of photography, Desmond Davis and Ken Hodges; edited by Lee Doig; music by Edwin Astley; production designer, Lourie; produced by David Diamond and Ted Lloyd; released by Eros Films Ltd.
Starring Gene Evans (Steve Karnes), André Morell (Professor James Bickford), John Turner (John), Leigh Madison (Jean Trevethan) and Jack MacGowran (Dr. Sampson).