Reviewed by JONATHAN LEWIS:         

THE GIANT BEHEMOTH. Allied Artists Pictures, 1959. Gene Evans, André Morell, John Turner, Leigh Madison, Jack MacGowran, Maurice Kaufmann, Henri Vidon. Directors: Douglas Hickox & Eugène Lourié.

   The Giant Behemoth is an America-British science fiction/horror film starring Gene Evans (who appeared in several Samuel Fuller films and in Richard Fleischer’s Armored Car Robbery, which I reviewed here) and André Morrell (Quatermass and the Pit).

   The two actors portray scientists tasked with stopping a giant radioactive dinosaur from reeking havoc on England. Think Godzilla transported to Cornwall and London and you’ll have a pretty good idea what this film is all about.

   That’s not to say it’s simply a throwaway creature feature with amateurish acting and even worse special effects. It’s not. Ukrainian-born director Eugène Lourié, who had worked as a production/set designer for such directors as Jean Renoir, Max Ophüls, and Samuel Fuller, clearly put care into the project. Indeed, while no cinematic masterpiece or a classic worthy of academic scholarship, The Giant Behemoth is actually a solid 1950s sci-fi film, one that showcases the fact that worries about the effects of atomic testing were hardly limited to Japan.

   The plot is about as straightforward as you would expect. Dead radioactive fish wash up on the Cornwall beach and American marine biologist Steve Karnes (Evans) is on the case. He partners up with British scientist, Professor James Bickford (Morell) to figure out what is going on.

   It turns out there’s a giant Paleosaurus on the loose. Oh, and it’s radioactive too. (And why wouldn’t it be?) The two men work with the British military to stop the behemoth, but not before the growling giant lizard stomps around London a bit, wrecking a power station and picking up a car and dumping it in the Thames.

   The film can definitely feel dated at times. It takes suspension of disbelief to fully appreciate the film for what it is, namely a better than average monster movie. The movie neither goes for cheap thrills, nor demonstrates implicit contempt for its audience. Slow moving at times, The Giant Behemoth admirably avoids the stilted, laughably amateurish acting that plagued too many of the creature features of that era. Both Evans and Morell appear to take their roles seriously. The story’s not much, but then again it doesn’t need to be.

   By far, the weakest aspect of the film is that it’s so obviously a knockoff or, if one is feeling charitable, an homage, to Godzilla. And as in the original Japanese version, we don’t see much of the creature for the first thirty minutes or so. It’s in the ocean somewhere doing whatever dying radioactive dinosaurs do. We’re supposedly just waiting in suspense for the guy to show up. Problem is: in The Giant Behemoth, the oversized angry dinosaur takes a bit too long to appear on the screen in its full glory.

   The movie does, however, succeed in having some great moments. While the special effects are, in many ways, completely antiquated, there are a couple of scenes in which the dinosaur is lurking about London that just look just fabulous in crisp black and white. I’ll take those over most lavish and expensive computer graphics any day.

   I wouldn’t call The Giant Behemoth a great film by any stretch of the imagination. But, provided you know what you’re getting yourself into, that doesn’t stop it from being a surprisingly enjoyable one.