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Behemoth, the Sea Monster

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Warner Home Video has released Eugene Lourie's The Giant Behemoth (1958) on DVD as part of its "Cult Camp Classic" series. The movie is welcome, one of the better giant monster films of its decade and perhaps the best one made in England. And to answer one question that fans have, for this release -- unlike its VHS version -- Warner Home Video has issued the proper, full-length version of the movie (for the VHS edition, the company used the British cut of the movie, which ran only 72 minutes instead of the ...
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Warner Home Video has released Eugene Lourie's The Giant Behemoth (1958) on DVD as part of its "Cult Camp Classic" series. The movie is welcome, one of the better giant monster films of its decade and perhaps the best one made in England. And to answer one question that fans have, for this release -- unlike its VHS version -- Warner Home Video has issued the proper, full-length version of the movie (for the VHS edition, the company used the British cut of the movie, which ran only 72 minutes instead of the complete 80 minutes, missing a scene in which the monster attacks a ferry boat; that scene is on the DVD). Of course, just to make matters more confusing, Warner Bros. has listed the 80 minute movie as running 90 minutes on the DVD box (depend upon it, it's 80 minutes -- we checked, carefully). And if Warner Home Video had left it at that, they would have been doing well by the movie and the audience that buys this disc. But what they've actually done with it on DVD is so questionable that one can only ponder the decision-making process behind it. This reviewer has heard more than his share of commentary tracks, going back to the mid-1980's on laserdisc (as well as having done two dozen of them himself), but has never encountered a bigger waste of time and effort than the one on The Giant Behemoth. Dennis Muren and Phil Tippett are top special effects experts, and may know their particular fields of as well as anyone in the business, but they mostly come off as a pair of dolts in dealing with The Giant Behemoth -- they both knew one of the people involved in the special effects, who has since passed on, but apparently never got around to asking him very specific questions about the picture; the result is that they actually know about as little about the movie at hand as it would be possible to know and still have a reason to appear in this capacity on this disc; and take even one step away from the matter of special effects, and they know a lot less than most of us watching. Even the leading man, American actor Gene Evans (who was a star in the early movies of Samuel Fuller), is referred to as "this guy" whom they may recognize from "other movies." When they're talking about special effects work in general they're okay, but as soon as they turn their attention to this movie, it raises the other problem with their contribution -- they don't like The Giant Behemoth. So when they focus on it they're mostly either stumbling around with suppositions about people and production decisions, or they spend their time bad-mouthing the movie, like an unfunny (and ultimately tedious and annoying) parody of Mystery Science Theater 3000, so much so that one finally wonders what they're doing here at all, especially as neither one could be troubled even to open a book (or glance at the opening credit copyright notice) and check the year of release for the film; and they know so little about the movies that they profess to like in this genre, that the conversation is embarrassing. Indeed, if this were an on-stage discussion for which this reviewer had paid admission, he would have felt cheated -- too many times the pair "think" someone did this, or sort of know about someone's career; they also reveal their own lack of maturity by mocking the serious plot attributes of the movie. Had it not been for the need to review the disc, this critic would have shut off their commentary after the first 25 minutes, and there was little gain to be sticking with it to the end. They may be Muren and Tippett, but this reviewer was wondering if they were aiming to compete with Beavis and Butt-head -- and nothing they had to say was interesting enough to make it worth determining which was which. It was also just a bit insulting that someone at Warner Home Video assumed that this viewer or anyone else buying this disc would care to hear their 80 minute exercise in dumbed-down stupidity, laced with snide professional observations. The commentary has less than no value, if that's possible. The disc itself is nicely made, other than the contribution of the two idiot savants, with an excellent transfer of the movie, in the proper non-anamorphic letterboxed (1.85-to-1) aspect ratio, and a generous 21 chapters. The audio is a bit low but the volume pumps up nicely, and this reviewer was able to hear elements of Edwin Astley's score that had always eluded him in earlier presentations. And there's a theatrical trailer as well, accessible through a menu that's fairly easy to use -- but only fairly easy; in order to switch off the commentary (which most may well want to do after trying it), one must reload the disc and not access it; there is no "on/off" option, as this reviewer found out after deciding to give the commentary another try, and finding it just as obnoxious the second time.
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Special Features

Commentary by veteran special effects creators Dennis Muren and Phil Tippett; Theatrical trailer; Subtitles: English & Français; (Main feature. Bonus material/trailer may not be subtitled).
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Editorial Reviews

All Movie Guide - Bruce Eder
The production history of Behemoth, The Sea Monster (better known in America as The Giant Behemoth) is, in some ways, more interesting than the movie itself -- though the film does have many enjoyable elements. Watching the final cut of the movie, it's easy to admire the work of animator Willis O'Brien and his associate Pete Peterson, and what they achieved in terms of dinosaur effects on a perilously low budget (a fact of which we are reminded by the ferry-boat sinking sequence, done by different animators, who clearly lacked O'Brien's and Peterson's skills). And the acting and directing are first-rate for a property such as this, with excellent central performances by Gene Evans and Andre Morell. Moreover, aspects of this story are especially grisly -- watching victims get fried (flashed to negative on the film and the burned down where they stand), or wandering through the streets stricken, their skin melted from lethal radiation doses, was pretty chilling for a science fiction film in 1959. But originally, Behemoth, The Sea Monster was to have been a more challenging and subtle horror/sci-fi effort, more along the lines of Hammer Films' Quatermass movies and that same studio's X The Unknown. For starters, the original story by Allen Adler was set in New York, and the mystery started on that side of the Atlantic and in the Hudson River, before the setting (and most of the production) was transposed to England. But the monster was also to have been a disembodied radioactive force, almost impossible to see and to track, except by its victims. It was only decided relatively late in production that the movie would have to show an on-screen monster, and that the monster would be a dinosaur. Thus, what had started out as a fairly novel idea for a science fiction film ended up as very much a descendant of The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms (1953) (which, ironically enough, was also directed by Eugene Lourie), as well as Godzilla, King Of The Monsters, something never really intended by its writers. Willis O'Brien was called in to deliver the monster on a pitifully small budget (about $5000 by some accounts), under a sub-contract from Jack Rabin, which gave the renowned special effects wizard behind King Kong some last moments of glory in a career going back to silent days. It's still worth seeing, but it would be equally interesting to see the original idea explored in modern terms and effects. (Note: In the US VHS tape release by Warner Home Video, the producers accidentally used the censored UK edition of the movie, which left out the attack on the ferry boat).
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Product Details

  • Release Date: 6/26/2007
  • UPC: 085391145080
  • Original Release: 1959
  • Rating:

  • Source: Warner Home Video
  • Region Code: 1
  • Time: 1:30:00
  • Format: DVD

Cast & Crew

Performance Credits
John Turner Ian Duncan
Leigh Madison Jeanie Trevethan
Jack MacGowran Dr. Sampson
Henry Vidon Tom MacDougall
Neal Arden Announcer
Gene Evans Steve Kames
Andre Morell Professor James Bickford
Maurice Kaufmann Submarine Officer
Leonard Sachs Scientist
Technical Credits
Douglas Hickox Director
Eugène Lourié Director, Screenwriter
Ted Astley Score Composer
Edwin T. Astley Score Composer
Irving A. Block Special Effects
Desmond Davis Cinematographer
Louis de Witt Special Effects
David Diamond Producer
Lee Doig Editor
Jimmy Evans Makeup
Daniel Hyatt Screenwriter
Willis O'Brien Special Effects
Jack R. Rabin Special Effects
Harry White Art Director
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Scene Index

Disc #1 -- The Giant Behemoth
1. Credits [1:19]
2. Biological Chain Reaction [3:43]
3. "Behemoth!" [4:53]
4. Dead Fish and Stuff [2:28]
5. Same as Hiroshima [3:50]
6. Isn't Very Pretty [4:23]
7. Something Came Out [3:20]
8. Built-In X-Ray [5:57]
9. In His Sights [3:18]
10. Unidentified Species [4:25]
11. Burning Sensation [1:34]
12. Paleosaurus [4:37]
13. Gone in a Flash [4:59]
14. Ferry Disaster [3:40]
15. Evacuations [4:20]
16. Radium Warhead [2:43]
17. Ashore in London [7:01]
18. Night Terror [4:30]
19. Two-Man Submarine [4:06]
20. Fire! [3:11]
21. Report From America [1:17]
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Disc #1 -- The Giant Behemoth
   Play Movie
      Commentary by Dennis Muren and Phil Tippett
      Theatrical Trailer
      English (For the Hearing Impaired)
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 2.5
( 2 )
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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 1, 2010

    Quirky but worth the price

    I had thought this was the version I viewed when I was about seven years old but it was not. Maybe it was a condensed version but nevertheless, I enjoyed it. The part I thought would be there was when some people went down into the ocean in a diving bell looking for the monster and then the guy said " It's unbelievable." Otherwise I believe it is the same flick I saw when young. I did enjoy the sea views and if one finds it boring, that is just because they didn't observe this film as in that era of time. If you're an older sci-fi buff, you'll most likely feel the same way as this writer. Some modern sci-fi flicks are not all that appealing and so, to each his own......

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 1, 2010

    A reviewer

    t has to be said up front that THE GIANT BEHEMOTH is BO-RING! It's often more fondly remembered as a better picture than what it was. It's too long for the material, it takes too long to get to the BEHEMOTH, and once we finally get to it - it disappoints. It's too stiff, too flat and too little too late (with effects repeated again and again to pad out the time) for the film when it finally arrives. Not to say it doesn't have its moments, but they are fleeting at best (and sloppy at worst - check out the bottom left hand corner of your screen when the BEHEMOTH tips the ferry over in the Thames, the neck of BEHEMOTH comes up too far, exposing the naked metal structure underneath). THE GIANT BEHEMOTH is simply a "CSI/MONSTER procedural" film that opens with a strange occurance and then spends the rest of the film searching for, and following the clues to something which is no mystery to anyone who saw the poster, and paid for a ticket. It's a GIANT BEHEMOTH!, we see it, why can't they, and when are they going to get to it? But, having said that, it is interesting to watch what amounts to a mystery of finding, in essence, an 800 pound gorilla in a locked room from a trail of bananas. But, it's not enough to save the picture. Commentary is included with Dennis Muren and Phil Tippett (effects men both) and while they admire the effort given to creating THE GIANT BEHEMOTH, they are not afraid to slouch back into their seats and question every choice made in making this picture. From it's slow and plodding pace, to their novel take on this film being about the "chain of command" (pushing paperwork and theories upwards to those who have the power to issue orders and (finally) take action. They rightly joke that the only authority not represented in the film is the Queen herself, whose blessing it seems was not sought when it came to radioactive monsters). Being not only effects men, but writers and directors as well, it is funny to listen to them point out all the tricks the creators of THE GIANT BEHEMOTH used to pad the film to make its running time - great stuff, and a fun commentary. Overall, should you own a copy of THE GIANT BEHEMOTH? If you're a fan (be it mild or die hard) then, yes, your collection would not be complete (and this is coming from someone who dares to own a copy of MONSTER FROM GREEN HELL which is BO-RING! times two). Despite its flaws and plodding pace, there is some love there, and worth the space on your shelf. Also, for DOCTOR WHO fans... there is one TARDIS in THE GIANT BEHEMOTH, see if you can spot it.

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