Michael Delahoyde, PhD

Professor of English

The Giant Behemoth

THE GIANT BEHEMOTH (1959)


PreCommentary: Allied Artists wanted a real monster instead of the planned blobof energy which would have been invisible essentially. WillisO’Brien and assistant Pete Peterson made a kind of bronto-plesiosaurus,called here a “paleosaurus”; Harryhausen was involvedtoo. The British title for this film is somewhat less redundant:Behemoth, The Sea Monster.

Notes: Allied Artists. 79 minutes.
Steven Karnes: Gene Evans
Professor James Bickford: Andre Morell
Ian Duncan: John Turner
Jean MacDougall: Leigh Madison
Dr. Sampson: Jack MacGowran
Sub Commander: Maurice Kaufmann
Thomas MacDougall: Henry Vidon
Interrupting Scientist: Leonard Sachs

Producer: David Diamond
Director: Eugene Lourie (cf. The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms, Gorgo)
Screenplay: Eugene Lourie
Story: Robert Abel and Allen Adler
Special Effects: Willis O’Brien, Pete Peterson, Jack Rabin, Irving Block, Louis DeWitt
Art Director: Harry White
Music: Edwin Astley


Summary: Booming-God voice begins: “And the Lord said, ‘Behold . .. the behemoth!'” We see the sea, then atomic footage fromBikini. Steve Karnes is giving a lecture at an Atomic Conferenceand notes that there have been 143 such test explosions whichhave affected the plankton, then fish, then birds, in a “biologicalchain reaction” of radiation. Some snort away the notionof panic, but Professor James Bickford agrees.

Cornwall fisherman Tom and his daughter Jeandock. She goes off to make dinner; he sees something glowingfrom the sea and screams. Jean goes to the pub where she learnsher father has not been seen, and ropes John into helping hersearch. They find the old man dying on the beach: “Fromthe sea, burning like fire.” “What was it?” “Behemoth!” He dies, fried. At his funeral, the preacher quotes the “behemoth”passage from the Book of Job. From there, Jean and John walkto the beach which is now covered with “thousands upon thousands”of dead fish. John sees something throbbing and glowing and burnshis hand.

TV reports on the dead fish, laughing aboutLoch Ness monsters and alcoholic delusions. But Karnes notes”the same symptoms as Hiroshima” when discussing thedead fisherman with Bickford. The two head for Cornwall and meetdisgruntled fishermen. John leads them to the local doctor whocompares the lesions to those on John’s hand. But a scan of thebeach turns up nothing.

Karnes dissects fish in a lab with his ownpocketknife, which, after sending flayed fish to be tested forradioactivity, he puts back in his pocket. He washes his handscursorily, wipes them on a towel, and carelessly replaces thetowel for subsequent people to use.

Plate 14 glows radioactively. Karnes takesa boat ride and catches a glimmer of the creature he has suspectedexists. Another boat has been wrecked. A gun-toting farmer andhis son are charred. A picture of a footprint is brought to arather wacky paleontologist, who declares it that of a “paleosaurus”probably heading for the Thames to die in the shallows where itwas born. The creature would be “electric, like an eel.”

Should we block the Thames? No! says the military. A helicopter with the paleontologist aboard sights the creatureand blows up. GB (Giant Behemoth) capsizes a ferry. So we decidewe need a submarine and a radium-tipped torpedo since blowingup the creature would leave radioactive effluvia all over London.

GB comes ashore and prompts people to run downstreets. Cars get crushed; broken power lines and lightning leadto fires; and GB busts through a bridge (much like the final scenein 1925’s The Lost World). Karnes in the submarine targetsthe animal and the torpedo hits inside the mouth of the swimmingcreature, blowing it up (but in a good way apparently).

Karnes and Bickford, grim but triumphant, climbinto a car. The radio reports that dead fish are washing ashoreall along the Atlantic coast of the United States. The End.


Commentary: Apocalypse now, Winky. Although we can manifest the evil ina monster and shoot it in the mouth again, this film effectivelyand prophetically addresses the poisoning of the world in thelatter half of the twentieth century. I eat low on the food chain,but my respiration is shot and I expect cancer in about 12-15years tops. The earth is a toilet now, and that burning sensationat the back of your throat is not some silly quirk or high pollencounts today or anything else organic.