Along with Gorgo, The Giant Behemoth qualifies as the British Godzilla or The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms (The Beast for short); that is, the dinosaur awakened from a million-years slumber by atomic testing/radiation. All three movies spun from the same director, Eugene Lourie.
There’s definitely a pattern to this sort of movie: a remote setting incubates the monster, there’s a series of attacks on isolated spots, and then, along with the scientist(s), the military, the ‘girl’ (she can be a scientist too), locals, etc., the beast inevitably heads for the nearest big city. Destruction and panic ensue, until the intrepid group of experts put their heads together and comes up with some lashed-up weapon to kill the thing.
The implicit threat to the world at large is defeated, although in some plots, the thing might have a return ticket. Like it or not, this outline is the only sensible plot for this sort of movie. The genius comes in just how each step of this process unfolds. Behemoth stars Gene Evans, Andre Morrell, Jack MacGowan, Leigh Madison, Henri Vidon, and John Turner.
Corwall isn’t quite as remote as, let’s say, the Arctic Circle or a Pacific island, nonetheless, we get fishermen there; those unlucky folks always seem to get infested with or in the way of giant monsters. In this case though, it’s not clear where or which of the hundred plus atomic explosions alluded to by Steve Karnes (Evans) is the trigger for yon Behemoth.
The result of the fishing village stuff is a very long intro; old guy gets irradiated by the Behemoth, but not a heck of a lot happens for awhile. Dissecting fish doesn’t register very high on the sci-fi screen for me; nor do meetings of scientists, including Professor Bickford (Morrell), with officials. I did kind of like the paleontologist Dr. Sampson (MacGowran), he’s amusing, maybe unintentionally, as he looks and acts like a British Maynard Krebs (Bob Denver’s beatnik role from the contemporaneous TV show Dobie Gillis).
“With a thing like this every hour counts!” You’re right, Karnes, so get on with it. Back in Cornwall, we find out that the dead fish looked like…dead fish! That’s a good one, Mr. Local Guy. Unfortunately, John (Vidon) and Lee (Madison) completely fade out of the picture once the action moves back to London. Like The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms that made his mark in New York City, this critter wants to return to its ancestral location, conveniently situated along the Thames, that is, London. Another great line is the grandma listening with her family to a radio broadcast of the imminent danger “oh, fiddlesticks!” No monster is going to upset that house.
From here on, it seems we’ve lost our budget and/or creativity. The ferry attack is very awkward, with a toy boat, toy cars, and no people. The Behemoth, very much like his cousin The Beast, steps on toy cars, repeatedly. At least that’s more or less a side note in Beast, but in Behemoth almost all credibility is lost, as there’s the same bunch of people running by the same cars (I wish the monster had crushed the renowned establishment of Braithewaite & Dean since we’ve been treated to window-shopping there enough times to run up a tab). In The Beast, when the monster picks up the car with the guy inside, we see the car tipping precariously from the guy’s point of view. Here the car rocks slightly, then all we see is a toy car lifted up dumped in a basin. Then, this clown waits for the monster, when he could’ve at least tried to escape.
The very protracted radium-tipped torpedo attack is similar in theory to the rifle grenade radioactive isotope weapon that killed The Beast. But the ‘execution’ of it is nothing at all like the literal roller coaster ride that finishes off that The Beast. In that movie, the denouement is a fitting climax to many powerful scenes; in Behemoth, it’s just something that needs to get done, the sooner the better.
For one thing, how does Karnes suddenly qualify to crew a submarine? Why is the Thames look like a completely blank bit of nothing? (no rocks, fish, plants, debris, etc.) And the monster is pretty much a rubber toy underwater. How does it move? Is the torpedo really so accurate that they can shoot it into its open mouth?
Of the director’s three giant monster movies, The Beast is the best, Gorgo isn’t far behind, but the Behemoth is fairly disappointing. Actually, just as the Corwall scenes get interesting, the movie loses momentum; the opposite of the heightened tension in both Gorgo and The Beast as the monster approaches the city. Like the nondescript outline of the creature projected on the water’s surface, The Giant Behemoth flattens out.
Farmermouse wants a ferry ride with all those folks, and says there’s six cool Triumph motorcycles aboard. 6/10.