Wednesday, September 12, 2007

THE GIANT BEHEMOTH

Poor Eugene Lourie. A talented Art Director, he finally got his chance to helm his own motion picture with 1953‘s THE BEAST FROM 20,000 FATHOMS, a rousing B-movie creature feature that benefited heavily from Ray Harryhausen’s innovative stop-motion effects. Unfortunately for the neophyte director, the film was so successful that Lourie was about as typecast as it is possible to get: he only directed three more features and two of those were virtual remakes of BEAST.

The first of these was THE GIANT BEHEMOTH (1958), which takes the basic plot of BEAST – a prehistoric monster rising from the sea and rampaging through a modern metropolis – and transplants it from New York to London. In this case, it’s a radioactive bronto with a bad attitude that trashes Londontown before being taken out by a mini-sub in the Thames. Gene Evans (DONOVAN’S BRAIN) is the American scientist who leads the British into battle against the behemoth, which is brought to life on screen by pioneering stop-motion animator Willis O’Brien (KING KONG). Unfortunately, O’Brien was getting pretty old, and the budget was small, so the effects are occasionally shoddy, but the creature is still pretty impressive; nicely designed and scary.

(Lourie followed THE GIANT BEHEMOTH with 1961‘s GORGO – which is available on DVD from VCI – which had an almost identical plot.)

Recently released by Warner Brothers as part of their recent "Cult Camp Classics" line, THE GIANT BEHEMOTH has been given a solid 1.66:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer culled from a decent print. There’s a little damage and speckling, and some effects shots are grainy – but they always were.

The disc includes the original theatrical trailer and a commentary track by modern day FX artists Dennis Muren and Phil Tippett. I found the commentary to be pretty awful, myself. Muren and Tippett didn’t sound like they prepared for it at all. They had virtually nothing to reveal about the making of the film or the people who made it, and I found many of their more snarky comments to be disrespectful and even insulting to O’Brien, who, after all, was one of the true pioneers of the field in which they earn their livings.

For fans of 50’s creature features, it’s worth picking up. I’d skip the commentary, though.

BUY: The Giant Behemoth