Senin, 15 November 2010

Douglas Hickox & Eugène Lourié - Behemoth the Sea Monster aka The Giant Behemoth (1959)


"Having spent the six years that passed between the release of The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms and that of Behemoth, The Sea Monster watching dinosaurs, ants, octopuses, spiders, crabs, grasshoppers, praying mantises, scorpions and even human beings rampaging through cities as a result of the reckless use of atomic power, it is not surprising that viewers found Eugene Lourie's small-scale follow-up to his seminal monster movie to be rather cliched. And indeed, it really cannot be claimed that Behemoth breaks new ground. For the most part, the film follows the familiar pattern of strange occurrences, unexplained deaths in isolated communities, scientists trying to get someone to listen to them, and finally the emergence of the eponymous beast and the destruction of whichever city it is whose number has come up.

What differs about Behemoth, and is the reason I nurse a certain fondness for it beyond its rather limited virtues, is that much of its science is unusually level-headed. The script by Lourie concentrates not upon the use of the atomic bomb per se, but upon the possible biological consequences of an accumulation of radioactivity. Steve Karnes' opening speech, while over-emphatic, at least demonstrates an understanding of the actual processes of environmental contamination, while a subtle note of authenticity is added by having Karnes based in La Jolla, one of the world's premier marine research communities. (Rather less authentic are the high school level physics equations drawn on the blackboard in the lecture theatre!)

As well, the steps taken by Karnes and Bickford as they try to discover the reasons for the mass fish deaths are perfectly logical. The testing of the collected fish specimens by autoradiography (or the radioautogram, as they call it here) may not exactly make for riveting viewing, but the scenes have a simple practicality about them that holds a real charm for someone all too frequently pained by the embarrassing stupidity of cinematic science. But, let's face it, science isn't what most of us are here to see. How does the titular creature stack up against his numerous late-fifties competition?

Well, to be honest, he isn't one of the screen's great monsters. Despite being the work of Willis O'Brien, Behemoth's overall design is too smooth and his movements too jerky. Possibly recognising this, the filmmakers wisely shot a high proportion of the monster's scenes in the dark, both disguising his design flaws and creating a real sense of atmosphere. Behemoth';s inevitable encounter with power lines is notable in this respect; and indeed, the film's overall use of light and shadow is one of its better qualities. Although the monster is not especially well animated, his depiction is helped by the fact that he is given a distinct personality, proving himself a vindictive beastie by deliberately knocking over a wall when he sees people hiding against it, and choosing an occupied car to pick up and toss into the water. Thus, although I wouldn't rank him in the top echelon of monsters, I'd have to call Behemoth an honourable runner-up..." - And You Call Yourself a Scientist!

 Giant Behemoth.avi


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