One of the more fondly remembered and ubiquitous of all 1950s monster pictures (it was all over TV when I was a kid), The Giant Behemoth rises again thanks to our friends at Warner Archive; it joins Queen of Outer Space, The Cyclops, World Without End and From Hell It Came in HD glory. The Allied Artists vault must contain great source material from which to work: all of the Blu-rays Warner has released so far have been stunning, and Behemoth is no exception.
A nuclear explosion (what else?) frees a prehistorical reptile from the depths, and he’s not only electric (like an eel!) but radioactive (like a watch!) and is therefore, in a simple scientific principle we can all understand, capable of radiating energy that burns anyone near it to a fine granular crisp. The military and much of the science world is slow to sign on, but once Behemoth the Sea Monster climbs out of the Thames and hits the streets of London, well, even the most doubtful of Thomases flees for his or her life. Can NOTHING stop the beast who’s not necessarily from 20,000 fathoms?
This is one of those movies that I get picked on for liking so much. It’s just such a dark, somber picture with a great monster and earnest cast that I’ve always been able to suspend disbelief when the same monstrous foot comes down on the same monstrous car three times with the same lady hiding in the doorway in the background each time. Yes, I’m aware that the special effects are rudimentary and that the attack-on-the-ferry scene (which was the movie’s highlight the first time I saw it on TV, when I was 7 or so) is as close to embarrassing as special effects can get (Cut to monster! Cut to people standing on ferry! Cut to monster! Cut to toy ferry being tipped over! Cut to Monster! Cut to people jumping from ferry into water! Cut to commercial!) but I don’t care, and never have. Director Lourié had given us Beast from 20,000 Fathoms and would give us Gorgo; Willis “King Kong” O’Brien contributed to the special effects, and I sure hope that whatever the film’s budget was squeezed out for him helped him pay part of that month’s rent. Gene Evans and André Morell are our stoic heroes, and Jack MacGowran, who’s very, very fondly remembered as a wacky scientist in the classic The Avengers episode “The Winged Avenger” pretty much plays the same character here. We’re surprised he doesn’t invent anti-gravity boots to walk up the side of Behemoth.
Ill-fated Dr. MacGowran: “You know, all my life I hoped this would happen. Ever since childhood I expected it. I knew these creatures were alive somewhere, but I had no proof, scientific proof, and I had to keep it to myself, or my colleagues would have all laughed at me.”
Picture and sound are up to Warner’s fine standard for its releases, and the B&W cinematography by Ken Hodges is stunning. Extras include English subtitles, the original trailer, and simply awful commentary in which two guys think they’re there to belittle the movie.
Bottom line: If Warner Archive offers a sci-fi or horror movie on Blu-ray, snap it up. Every one has been a gem.