The Giant Behemoth

The Giant Behemoth (a.k.a. Behemoth, the Sea Monster and The Behemoth) is a 1959 American-British black-and-white science fiction giant monster film distributed by Allied Artists Pictures. The film was produced by Ted Lloyd, directed by Eugène Lourié, and stars Gene Evans and André Morell. The screenplay was written by blacklisted author Daniel James (under the name "Daniel Hyatt") with director Lourié.

The Giant Behemoth
(Behemoth, the Sea Monster)
Theatrical release poster
Directed byEugène Lourié
Douglas Hickox[1]
Produced byTed Lloyd
Screenplay byDaniel James
Eugene Lourie
Story byRobert Abel
Allen Adler
StarringGene Evans
André Morell
Music byEdwin Astley
CinematographyKen Hodges
Edited byLee Doig
Artistes Alliance, Ltd.
Distributed byAllied Artists
Release date
  • March 3, 1959 (1959-03-03) (U.S.)
Running time
71 minutes

Originally a story about an amorphous blob of radiation, the script was changed at the distributor's insistence to a pastiche of The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms (1953), though elements of the original concept remain in the early parts of the film and in the "nuclear-breathing" power of the titular monster.


Scientist Steve Karnes delivers a speech to a British scientific society, led by Professor James Bickford, about the dangers to marine life posed by nuclear testing. Before Karnes can return to the United States, a real-life example of his concern materializes when a fisherman in Looe, Cornwall is killed on the beach, and his dying word is "behemoth". Later, thousands of dead fish are washed ashore.

Karnes and Bickford travel to Cornwall to investigate the fisherman's death and, although his injuries seem to include radiation burns, they find no evidence of radiation on the beach. Then, Karnes goes to inspect a passenger ship found wrecked and badly damaged, with the loss of all on board. Back in London, the two scientists discover that samples of the dead fish contain large amounts of radioactive contamination. Karnes begins to suspect that the "behemoth" that the fisherman described seeing is some kind of large marine mammal that has mutated as a result of being contaminated by nuclear testing.

The next attack is on a farm near the coast in Essex. A photo of the area reveals a huge footprint and paleontologist Dr. Sampson identifies the creature as a Paleosaurus, an aquatic dinosaur that emits an electric pulse, like an electric eel. Karnes believes that the dinosaur is saturated by radiation, which is transmitted by the electric pulse, resulting in the burns seen on the fisherman and other victims. The radiation is also slowly killing the dinosaur. According to Dr. Samson, the dying creature will leave the ocean depths to head upstream, seeking out the shallow waters where it was born, but death by radiation may not come soon enough to prevent the creature from wreaking havoc on London along the way.

Karnes and Bickford try to persuade authorities to close the River Thames, but the military officer believes that their radar tracking systems will be enough to detect the behemoth and prevent it from getting near the city. Unfortunately, the dinosaur appears to be invisible to radar. Dr. Sampson and some other scientists spot it from a Royal Navy helicopter, but the radar equipment tracking the helicopter sees no sign of the beast, which destroys the helicopter when it gets too close. Soon, the behemoth surfaces in the Thames and capsizes the Woolwich Ferry.

Rising from the river, the creature rampages through the city, flattening cars and destroying buildings. Bickford and Karnes advise the military that the best way to kill the beast will be to administer a dose of radium, hoping to accelerate the radiation sickness that is already slowly killing it. While they prepare the dose, the behemoth continues its rampage, eventually plummeting through London Bridge back into the Thames.

Karnes and Bickford set their plan into action. A mini-sub with Karnes carries a torpedo filled with radium into the Thames in pursuit of the monster. During an initial pass, the behemoth takes a bite out of the mini-sub, but Karnes convinces the submarine captain to have another go. This time, they succeed in firing the torpedo into the monster's mouth, and the behemoth roars in pain. Observers in helicopters later confirm the monster's demise.

As Karnes and Bickford climb into a car to leave the area, they hear a radio report of dead fish washing up on the eastern shores of the United States.



The live-action scenes for The Giant Behemoth were filmed entirely in Great Britain, including London. The stop-motion animation special effects by Willis O'Brien were shot in a Los Angeles studio, where they were also optically integrated with the live-action footage.

In an odd connection between O'Brien and his most famous creation, stock screams that were used in King Kong can be heard in the scenes where the creature attacks the ferry and when it invades London.[2]

In the book Video Movie Guide 2002, mention of the stop-action animation was made, but with the proviso that "the film monster wasn't bad but Willis O'Brien was clearly working with a low budget".[3]

The original 71m 07s version, as The Giant Behemoth, was initially given a X certificate by the British Board of Film Censors on 9 January 1959, before a version cut to 69m 07s, as Behemoth the Sea Monster, was given an A certificate four days later.[4]


American film critic Andrew Wickliffe considered the lead up to the appearance of the monster to be more interesting than the rampage that follows, writing, "I'm not sure the British are really suited for giant monster movies. No offense to the Brits, but watching a bunch of folks stand around and keep the stiff upper lip while radioactive monsters from the deep attack London isn't too much fun".[5]

Regarding a later release of the film in a package with other science fiction features, film reviewer Glenn Erickson observed that The Giant Behemoth was derivative, speculating that "... director Eugène Lourié apparently instructed writers Robert Abel and Alan Adler to repackage his original The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms, copying whole scenes and situations. The structure and script are almost a verbatim clone, right down to the dotty paleontologist".[6]



  1. BEHEMOTH THE SEA MONSTER Monthly Film Bulletin; London Vol. 26, Iss. 300, (Jan 1, 1959): 157.
  2. Nixon, Rob. "The Giant Behemoth (1959)" (article) Retrieved: January 30, 2015.
  3. Martin, Mick and Potter, Marsha (2001) Video Movie Guide 2002. New York: Ballantine Books. p. 430. ISBN 978-0-3454-2100-5
  4. Wickliffe, Andrew (May 29, 2006) "Behemoth, The Sea Monster (1959), Eugène Lourié". The Stop Button. Retrieved: January 30, 2015.
  5. Erickson, Glenn (June 9, 2007) "Cult Camp Classics Volume 1: Sci-Fi Thrillers, Attack of the 50 Foot Woman, The Giant Behemoth, Queen of Outer Space." DVD Savant, Retrieved: January 30, 2015.


  • Warren, Bill. Keep Watching the Skies! Science Fiction Movies of the Fifties, 21st Century Edition. 2009. Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland & Company, (First Editions Vol. 1, 1982, Vol. 2, 1986). ISBN 0-89950-032-3.
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