Friday, 2 February 2018

The Giant Behemoth (1958)

An entertaining sc-fi film hampered by cheap special effects and a lack of originality

Director/Screenplay – Eugene Lourie.
Produced - Ted Lloyd, David Diamond.
Story - Robert Abel
Screenplay - Daniel James
Edited by Lee Doig
Cinematography – Ken Hodges.
Music – Edwin Astley.
Special Effects – Irving Block, Louis De Witt, Willis O’Brien, Pete Petterson & Jack Rabin.
Makeup – Jimmy Evans.
Art Direction – Harry White.
Production Company – Artists Alliance.
Distributed by Allied Artists
Running time - 80 minutes


Andre Morell as Professor James Bickford
Gene Evans as Dr Steve Karnes
Leigh Madison as Jean Trevatharn
John Tumer as John
Jack MacGowran as Dr Sampson the Palaeontologist
Maurice Kaufmann as Mini Submarine Officer
Henri Vidon as Tom Trevethan
Leonard Sachs as Scientist

Dead fish washing up on the Cornwall coast?
Radioactive fish?
Locals suffering from radiation burns?
Reports of a monster?
A dinosaur revived by atomic radiation?
A behemoth heading towards London, destroying all in its path?


Read on to find out more…..

“SEE the Beast that shakes the Earth!
LIVE in a world gone mad!
WATCH the chaos of a smashed civilization!
FLEE from the mightiest fright on the screen!
NOTHING so Big as Behemoth!”

The Coming of the Behemoth

A parish priest battles his way
Through a sweat-soaked nightmare;
His soul wavers above North Atlantic waves
Until blasted by God’s dire warning:
“Behold now the Behemoth, which I made with thee!”
But try as he might to shut out the light
And block out words that fill him with fright:
“As with Job, none of thee can hope to control
Behemoth nor escape my divine wrath!”
Cascading flashes of suns sear into retinas;
Insistent claps of thunder pound on ear-drums;
Skin bubbles, blisters and peels from his body
In a blast-furnace maelstrom that scatters his remains
In a cremation he would never have wished for.
Then from out of multiple mushroom clouds
He abruptly emerges from the nightmare vision
Proclaiming a coming calamity closing in on the world.

Spoilers follow below…..



At the London scientific symposium on atomic weaponry held last Monday, visiting American marine biologist, Professor Steve Karnes began his lecture with a film presentation featuring a series of nuclear blasts followed by footage of men in lead-lined radiation suits taking readings amongst the resulting damage.

The professor stated that since the invention of atomic bombs, over 150 have been tested. In addition, there has been a substantial amount of radioactive material that has been buried at sea. There is therefore, cause for concern as to how the radiation is being transferred up the food chain.

Professor Karnes warned his colleagues in the audience that the particles from the many atomic tests that have been conducted have indeed contaminated the world’s oceans and that this fact has the potential for disaster.

He concluded his lecture with the following warning: “Gentlemen, we are witnessing a biological chain reaction; a geometrical progression of deadly menace!”



On Monday _____tragedy struck on a quiet stretch of beach in Cornwall. A young girl, Jean Treventhan and her father Tom had just come ashore to begin sorting their catch. Jean’s father then sent his daughter to their house with one of the fish to cook.

As time passed, Tom’s daughter became worried that her father had not returned home.

According to Jean, “I decided to head off to the local pub to find father. At the pub I met my friend John and some of his drinking pals. I asked John if he had seen father, but he told me that except for the morning, he had not seen him all day.”

When asked what she decided to do next, Jean replied, “John offered to go with me to search the beach. It wasn’t too long before we stumbled upon the badly burned body of my poor father. He just had enough life left in him to say to us that whatever caused his injuries had come ‘From the sea … burning like fire.’”

When pressed about exactly what her father might have been referring to, Jean quoted her father as saying “Behemoth!”

This baffling incident has left us with more questions than answers. Had Jean’s father indeed seen something strange in the water? What could have caused such terrible injuries? We are at this point in time left wondering what has happened and if this could ever happen again.


At Tom’s funeral, a certain priest reads the story of the Behemoth from the story of Job in the Bible. After the service, Jean not wishing to go home yet, goes on a walk with John.

Later on, from a cliff top vantage point, they spot a large number of dead fish that have washed up onto the shore. Moving closer to investigate, they discover an unidentifiable pulsating mass. John touches the weird substance with his hand, causing his hand to become badly burned.

Professor Karnes’ Diary Entry

While at my hotel waiting for a confirmation of a flight out. I noticed a report on the TV concerning some strange events in Cornwall. They seem to be somewhat similar to what I once observed at Bikini Atoll. I then quickly contacted my British colleague, Professor Bickford for a meeting. 

Professor Karnes’ Diary Entry

Met with Bickford who filled me in on the rest of the story surrounding the strange events at Cornwall. What was left out of the mainstream national media reports was the death of the old fisherman and the peculiar radiation-like burns on his body. Seems like a whiff of the old national security suppression of truth in the supposed interests of avoiding wide-spread panic kind of non-sense! More often than not a good whack in the face with a fistful of truth is exactly what people need!

My first instinct was to dash down to Cornwall to investigate but Bickford informed me that a Royal Commission had already been established. He then invited me to travel with him to the site of the strange events on a kind of fact-finding mission.

Professor Karnes’ Diary Entry

Arrived in town to be greeted by a surly and aggressive bunch of local fishermen. They absolutely refused to go out in their boats and wanted the government to do much more than just perform tests. They told us that dead fish had been found all over the ocean and that their boats had not been out for 5 days! Understandably they are worried about how they are supposed to feed their families.

Unfortunately, there are no samples for us to analyse and the only unusual thing that has been seen are strange lights beneath the water.

One of the locals by the name of John took Bickford and me to meet the town doctor, who informed us that the old dead fishermen was covered with 2nd and 3rd degree burns, and that to his way of thinking it could have been the result of an allergic reaction to a jellyfish sting.

The doctor then drew our attention to John who took us to see the doctor. He also had a similar burn on his hand. After examining the wound, we recommended John be taken up to London for proper treatment.

Professor Karnes’ Summary Notes:
  • Results of examination of cove & beach site location of dead fish and strange substance: No residual radiation.
  • Sample testing of coastal seawater: No evidence to explain radiation burns or reported presence of strange creature as being a causal factor.
  • X-ray photography of fish for presence of residual radiation accumulation in bone structure: One fish sample displays glowing mass inside similar to substance that burned Cornwall local man’s hand.
  • Conclusion: Evidence suggests that further investigation is warranted.

The Cornish Guardian
Wrecked Freighter Mystery! 

Reports have been received concerning the wreck of a freighter sailing under the name, Valkiria that ran aground after suffering substantial damage in a collision with an unknown submerged object.

According to reports, the force of the impact can be gauged by the fact that the ship’s quarter inch thick steel plating had been crushed. In addition, the bodies of the crew display evidence of horrific injuries.

Coincidentally, it has also been reported that a visiting American scientist by the name of Steve Karnes hired a boat at Plymouth in order to try and identify the location where contaminated fish had been caught.

An unidentified member of the fishing vessel, the Molly T stated that after the boat had come to a stop, a radiation counter on board began to sound an alarm. Suddenly, according to the eye-witness, the captain spotted something in the ocean. Professor Karnes also reportedly spotted a strange-looking creature diving under the waves. The Molly T then gave chase but the creature quickly out-distanced its pursuers until the signal was eventually lost.

Significantly, after this incident Proferssor Karnes proceeded on to the site where the Valkiria had been washed up and abandoned in order to inspect the wreckage.

Thus far no-one has been able or willing to shed light on how the running aground of the Valkiria and mysterious activities of an American scientist in the waters off Plymouth might be connected.


BBC Television News Report

……..and a report has just come through to us concerning a most unusual and tragic event on a remote farm in Dover.

A farmer, his wife and their son along with the family dog have apparently been killed but the police are unable to ascertain by whom or why.

The manner of the family’s death appears to be quite unusual in that it has been reported that they had been killed by some type of radiation burning.

The evidence suggests that the family had been sitting down to dinner but were alerted to something that needed investigating. It appears that when the farmer and his son went out to investigate they came face to face with whatever killed them.

There is also an unconfirmed report that footprints of an immense size have been located at the scene of the tragedy.

If and when more is known about this incident, we’ll inform you in our next bulletin…….


Professor Karnes’ Diary Entry

Since I’ve been back in London, a theory is beginning to take shape in my mind about what might have been behind the wrecking of the Valkiria. Evidence of cells of the stomach lining of an unknown creature taken from the fish at the lab seem to confirm my firm belief in the existence of a huge marine creature that was responsible for the attack on the freighter and the death of the old fisherman.

Professor Karnes’ Diary Entry

Looks like my theory about a huge marine creature might be right after all. I’ve learned about the incident at the farm in Dover and I have obtained aerial photographs of what appears to be massive footprints from the area that are each large enough to contain several cars!

Bickford and I took the photographs to a palaeontologist from the British Museum by the name of Sampson and it was he who identified the creature responsible as being a Paleosaurus. He believes that the creature is between 150 and 200 feet in length!

Sampson’s head nearly fell off when we informed him that the footprint in the photograph is not a fossil but something actually living. Based on the information we gave him, Sampson believes that the creature is moving into the Thames, most likely to seek out some place suitable to die. “That's where their skeletons have been found - some irresistible instinct to die in the shallows that gave them birth.”

Just before we departed, Sampson gave us a rather ominous warning about the creature being electric as is the case in some eels. As for its radioactive properties, Sampson could offer no explanation.

Professor Karnes’ Summary Notes:
Nature of Anomalous Creature:

  • “Behemoth” identified as Paleosaurus, aquatic sauropod dinosaur.
  • Creature previously believed to be extinct for 130 million years.
  • Atomic testing and burial of atomic waste at sea. 
  • Radioactive contamination of creature’s ecosystem.
  • Transferal of radiation up the food chain. 
  • Paleosaurus creature being top of food chain
  • Confirmation of my theory of a biological chain reaction occurring. 

Professor Karnes’ Diary Entry

After our visit to professor Sampson, Bickford and I headed off to the Admiralty to try and convince them to close the estuary. The Admiralty refused our pleas and instead demonstrated the wide radar tracking system that controls all traffic in the Thames and trumpeted their faith in its infallibility.

Professor Karnes’ Diary Entry

It turned out that professor Sampson had arranged a helicopter to try and spot the creature. We soon received a radioed report of their sighting a luminous shape moving under and through the water. As Sampson’s copter gave chase watch station on the ground reported that they could see only the helicopter! Suddenly all contact with the helicopter was lost. It seems that poor Sampson and the crew were killed due to the helicopter having exploded mid-air. At least we have some idea as to the probable location of the creature.

"Extra! Extra! Monster attacks London!"

BBC Television News Report

Bartholomew Winterbottom: We interrupt this program for an urgent breaking news story. We go now to our reporter David Gumball who is at present reporting from Woolwich.

Gumball: Pandemonium has broken out here, Bartholomew. The Greenwich car ferry has just sunk! What was supposed to have been a routine and quiet journey on the Thames has turned into a nightmare with the loss of the ferry and with over 80 people missing or dead!

Eye-witnesses claim to have seen a giant prehistoric creature rearing out of the water and then attacking and sinking the ferry.

I can confirm that police have closed off the river to all traffic, civilians have been evacuated from river front homes and that the Military have begun deploying units along the river to engage the creature if it should re-emerge.

Bartholomew Winterbottom:
Thank you David. This is most shocking and unbelievable news. We will bring you updates on the situation when there are further developments……


Excerpt from radio interview with Professor I.M. Snyde

……although we shouldn’t be surprised considering what the world had to face just a few years ago with the Godzilla and Rodan creatures in Japan as well as the terrifying events in America involving the Rhedosaurus. Perhaps we became smug and complacent over time just being content with having our heads buried in the sand. It’s all too easy for us to dismiss such occurrences as being little more than “fiddlesticks!” And so now we find that history is repeating itself and it’s all coming back to sink its teeth into our collective posteriors…….

Professor Karnes’ Diary Entry

The conference meeting with the Admiralty sure got my colleague, Bickford’s dander up! The military guys were all for using bombs and explosives to destroy the creature. Bickford objected on the grounds of it being a dangerous move since explosives would result in spreading radioactive material all over London. Bickford pointed out to them that “a million radioactive particles blown into every corner of London” would mean that “the whole city would be poisoned for God knows how many years!” He then went on to explain that the creature is already dying from the intense radiation inside its body and that the process could be accelerated if they can inject a lump of radium into the creature. It was eventually decided to use a mini sub with a modified torpedo to accomplish this task.

BBC Television News Report

David Gumball
: (Sound of chaos and scenes of pandemonium)

We are now in close proximity to Tower Bridge and as you can see some kind of an enormous creature is making its way ashore………people are fleeing in panic……no-one is safe……civilians and military alike succumbing to what seems like a form of radiation…..(Loss of picture)

Bartholomew Winterbottom: David? Are you there, David? David? Are you there? I’m sorry, but we seem to have lost our broadcast of the horrific scenes that have taken place around Tower Bridge.

David? Are you there, David? David? Are you there?

David Gumball: Yes….Yes…..the creature has continued with its relentless rampage and is now situated on the bridge….wait! (Sound of cracking, crumbling and crashing). What you are witnessing is the bridge structure collapsing and it’s causing the creature to fall back into the Thames!!!!

BBC Television News Report: Post Crisis

David Gumball: I have with me one of the heroes who saved London from what many are dubbing, “The giant Behemoth!” Mini-Submarine Officer, Werner von Schmidt, What does it feel like to be a hero?

Mini-Submarine Officer
: Nine, nine…I mean no, no! It’s Smith! As for being a hero? There were so many involved in putting together and executing a plan to rid the world of this menace.

David Gumball: Please tell us a bit about how the plan was executed.

Mini-Submarine Officer: Ya….Yes! When the Behemoth re-entered the Thames, we maneuvered our mini-sub in for the kill. As we pursued our quarry, the Behemoth suddenly turned on us and tried to destroy the before our torpedo containing radium could be fired.

Luckily we managed to extricate ourselves from this perilous situation, release the torpedo and score a direct hit on the creature.

David Gumball
: Thank you, Herr Schmidt. In most of our viewers’ minds, you and all those involved are indeed heroes.

Mini-Submarine Officer: Smith….It’s Smith!


Radio News Report Excerpt:

…..huge numbers of dead fish have washed ashore on the east coast of America………

Points of Interest

Director Eugene Lourie made his directorial debut with The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms (1953), a sci-fi film that ushered in the era of the atomic monster movie featuring resurrected dinosaurs or giant bugs unleashed on the world by means of atomic radiation. 

The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms, was followed by two other Eugene Lourie monster films: the movie featured here, The Giant Behemoth (1958/9) and Gorgo (1961), as well as the science-fiction film, The Colossus of New York (1958).

The live-action scenes were filmed in Great Britain, including London while the model-animation special effects were shot in a Los Angeles studio, where they were optically integrated with live-action footage.

The Giant Behemoth is basically a rehashing of The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms with only the location moving from the USA to the UK and with The Thames substituting for Coney Island. 

Even the Behemoth’s ability to emit its radioactivity is a kind of reworking of Godzilla’s atomic breath emissions. We are also reminded of Godzilla when the Paleosaurus forces its way through high-tension electrical towers and power lines.

The original script for the film involved an invisible radioactive ocean-dwelling monster but the film’s backers turned the script down, citing the fact that they didn't like the idea of an invisible monster.

Although the acting performances are quite capable the actual characters are fairly bland and one-dimensional.

Jack MacGowran who played Sampson also appeared in The Quiet Man and Lord Jim and appeared as the alcoholic director, Burke Dennings in The Exorcist (1973). MacGowran died while making that film.

Instead of resorting to the cheaper option of using optically enlarged bugs/lizards, Lourie made use of Willis O’Brien, the creator of King Kong (1933) for the stop motion animation work on the film. Unfortunately, budgetary constraints and Willis O’Brien’s age and health problems meant that the final result was not of the best possible standard.

It was refreshing to see scientists in a film like Karnes and Bickford conduct their investigation in a more or less realistic-looking forensic and scientific manner: collecting eye-witness testimony, examining scenes of interest, taking water samples and wildlife specimens, as well as consulting experts.

Of course, these days there’d be plenty of social media finger-wagging from entertainment and other media elites at the lack of a role for a strong woman in this film. There are no women beating up men and acting supposedly just like men as is the fashion in films these days. There isn’t so much as a hint of a budding stereotypical romance! All I can say is thank God there is no particular traditional 1950s style / subplot or more a modern era gender formula being thrust at us in this film.

Finally, one might point to the feeling that Karnes’ speech at the start of the film is a bit too hectoring, lecturing and preachy. It did after all express the Cold War fear of atomic radiation and its consequences. However, the idea that the Paleosaurus has become radioactive due to the progressive concentration of toxins at each level up through the food chain has been and is still unfortunately being played out in real life! Atomic radiation, pesticides, air and water pollution are still real threats, but these Behemoth’s are all too often smugly and cynically ignored as the pursuit of profit and power takes precedence and the despoilers of our planet are rewarded with tax cuts and the lifting of regulations. Acid rain, DDT, Three Mile Island, Chernobyl, Fukushima, Exxon Valdez, Fracking, Global Warming, plastics and PCB ocean water contamination–gradually fade into distant memories as we ride high in the stock market and are to made feel great again until…..huge numbers of dead fish wash ashore……….

©Chris Christopoulos 2018

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