Wednesday, August 13, 2008

THE GIANT BEHEMOTH - Edwin Astley - "Behold Now The Behemoth" (1959)

The original title of this film is "Behemoth The Sea Monster," but I never heard that title before tonight, so I'm just going to call it what we have always known it as, "The Giant Behemoth!" This movie was directed by the English Mr. BIG, and small time genius Eugène Lourié, whose other giant credits include "Gorgo" and "The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms."

A number of 50's horror films started off with nuclear explosions causing some kind of unnatural catastrophe, so is it any wonder that 60's kids would later revolt against the system, become hippies and end up wanting peace, love, and understanding? They were raised with nuclear disaster and it's biggest and scariest consequences, and then sold George Jetson as the future! Tune in, turn on, drop out, doesn't take a lot of thought now, does it?

It got so bad, they didn't even have a problem with a kid getting killed by the beast! This devil has no soul!!

The music for "The Giant Behemoth" was composed by Edwin Astley, who also composed the music for such movies as "Devil Girl From Mars", "Womaneater", and the totally unrelated comedy from 1961, "A Matter Of WHO", which I think is especially ironic since he was the father-in-law of The WHO's Pete Townsend!!!!!

Personally, this theme is like many others, pompous and overbearingly orchestrated, but is saved by a couple of dramatic flair ups, and some over the top and deliberately kitsch narration at the start!! "And the Lord said, behold now the Behemoth!!" Here they might look at first like they are dancing but actually, a really extra bad case of bad breath is taking it's toll!

The superior skills of special effects masters Willis O'Brien and Jack Rabin get a lot of credit for the cool look of this monster!!

Just like on "Highway 61", "if you see me coming, you better run!"

It must have been Eugène Lourié's idea to have a nuclear weenie roast as a means of ridding the world of the monster!

X1 was in mothballs and X3 through X7 were headed for the arctic, and they never did find out what happened to X13, so they had to break out old X2 which had seen better days!!! Have no fear, despite the odds, the world was saved once again!!!


Greg Goodsell said...

BEHEMOTH is right!

Daniel said...

It is really a pity that one can't simply read a short, intelligent commentary on this film. It is a good film, with many qualities that one did not often find in the late 1950s sci-fi thrillers.

While it is true that the brilliant art director-turned director Eugene Lourie was sort of rushed into the production by producers anxious to capitalize on the success of earlier efforts, he was too skilled and too thoughtful a man to just grind it out without any concern for his audience.

The script is more than competent, nicely building its suspense sequences and offering some good actors a chance to do some serious work. Andre Morell, an actor of distinction, gives a particularly fine performance. He was a skilled, disciplined artiste who was incapable of giving a bad performance whether it be for a small little film like this or a David Lean epic like BRIDGE ON THE RIVER KWAI. Gene Evans, normally given small villain roles in B westerns, here proves that he could be a sensitive actor if given good material and good direction.

Contrary to the remarks by the reviewer above Edwin Astley's score is first rate, one of the high points of late 50s monster flicks. He was a very good composer who did many solid scores, like this one and, a few years later, Hammer's PHANTOM OF THE OPERA.

The special effects of Jack Rabin comprised only one short section of the film, the ferry boat sequence, where the monster is a sort of puppet on a stick - and are not terribly well done. The nice special effects were the stop motion sequences by O'Brien and Peterson. They are just as effective today as they were years ago.

The cinematography of Ken Hodges is also of a high calibre, more than commendable considering the stringent budget. The real good cameramen were able to do well no matter how small the budget.

All in all, I cannot recommend this film highly enough. It has great atmosphere, a nice style and is very entertaining. And the economies can be easily forgiven. Those tempted to sit at their computers and sneer at pictures like this would do well to ask themselves if they could do as good a job under the same circumstances as Lourie and his team.

Eegah!! and Tabonga! said...

Daniel, my friend, you are in severe need of a shot of rhythm and blues, and a sense of humour!

James Corry said...

Daniel, even though it's been over two years since you wrote your original comments (I just now have found this site) I cannot agree with you more!! "Behemoth" is a much underrated's dark and brooding atmosphere easily trumps Lourie's earlier effort "Beast From 20,000 Fathoms" in my opinion.....

sfxguy said...

The Behemoth is a sci fi gem to the last frame and probably the scariest dinosaur flick ever made. The noir lighting and crisp acting and score was comparable to the classic Outer Limits.

Ever notice when they try to remake these supposed 'cheap' classics with million dollar budgets they are usually hapless attempts to capture lighting in a bottle that fall right on their face.

These films are pop art classics that need to be preserved in a sci fi museum if possible.

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