Plot: London has survived global warfare and internal turmoil, but it is about to face a challenge on a much larger scale. Thanks to high levels of radiation in the water, air, and plants, mutations have started to surface. Most have proven to be quite harmless, but some are more dangerous. The threat that London faces is a most lethal mutation, known as a Thunder Lizard, a huge reptile like something from the era of dinosaurs. In addition to the raw power that comes from such immense size, this creature also boasts a sick radiation ray, which leaves pure destruction behind. In order to battle this monster, mankind will have face it head on, but is there a chance to defeat this powerful, rampaging beast?
Entertainment Value: The Giant Behemoth might not be the flashiest or most memorable monster movie out there, but I think it is a fun watch and of course, Willis O’Brien’s handiwork doesn’t hurt the appeal. The story is familiar for the genre, as mankind’s careless conduct has led to problems as usual, this time the radiation that has seeped into all aspects of life. The science might not be accurate in this one, but it does seem a little more believable than most b movies of this type, even if it does lead to the same result of a mutated beast on the loose. The movie might not be quite as bananas as some of its peers, but it delivers on the monster front and of course, the low budget roots ensure ample b movie vibes are present. I think given the obvious thin resources at hand, The Giant Behemoth is able to work some b movie wonders, especially in the special effects arena. Willis O’Brien crafted the behemoth in a garage, but it looks quite cool and is easily the movie’s main draw. So while not as wild & wooly as some as some monster movies from this era, The Giant Behemoth covers the b movie bases and is still a fun watch.
Of course, the real star of The Giant Behemoth is, well…the giant behemoth and the creature is given a good amount of attention. I appreciated the set pieces that let the behemoth wreck some structures and unleash a little chaos, certainly the highlights of the movie for me. The monster’s human costars aren’t quite as memorable perhaps, but the performances fit right with the b movie atmosphere, sometimes over the top and other times, quite wooden. Gene Evans has a central role and is likely the most memorable presence, as it seems like an odd role for him, given that the character is a humanist. Evans makes it work however, showing he can be a violent soldier or a kind scientist, throwing himself into whatever roles he’s handed. His performance isn’t going to dazzle those with a critical eye, but he is a capable lead here and his effort falls in line with the b movie tone. The cast also includes Leigh Madison, Andre Morell, John Turner, and Jack MacGowran.
The Disc: Warner Archive has unleashed The Giant Behemoth on Blu-ray and given it a new scan, which yields an impressive presentation. The detail level is much higher than I expected, with superb fine detail and overall depth, to the point the wonderful behemoth is exposed a little more than before. The softness in some of the special effects scenes help hide those flaws for the most part and that is intentional, so the rest of the movie looks sharp and quite crisp. The contrast is even handed and consistent, making it easy to replace the old DVDs with this new, enhanced version. On the extras side, we have an audio commentary with special effects wizards Dennis Muren and Phil Tippett, who have some fun poking at the movie’s lesser points. The track has a lot of silence, but fans of the special effects side of things should appreciate some of the exchanges. The actual behemoth model was part of Muren’s personal collection and of course, O’Brien was an inspiration to countless effects men that followed. The film’s trailer is also here.