The Giant Behemoth


1h 19m 1959
The Giant Behemoth

Brief Synopsis

A radioactive dinosaur plots a deadly path to London.

Film Details

Also Known As
The Behemoth
Genre
Sci-Fi
Release Date
Mar 1959
Premiere Information
not available
Production Company
Artistes Alliance, Ltd.
Distribution Company
Allied Artists Pictures Corp.
Country
Great Britain and United States
Location
Boreham Wood, England, Great Britain; Elstree, England, Great Britain; Elstree,England; Elstree, England, Great Britain; Elstree, England, Great Britain; London,Great Britain; Boreham Wood, Great Britain; Essex, Great Britain; Cornwall, Great Britain

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 19m
Sound
Mono
Color
Black and White
Film Length
7,169ft

Synopsis

In London, American marine biologist Steve Karnes speaks at conference on atomic weaponry where he details his theory that the particles from numerous atomic explosions around the world have contaminated the oceans with potentially disastrous effects. Soon after in a small fishing village in Cornwall, fisherman Tom Trefethen and his daughter Jean reach the cove after a day's fishing. When Tom does not arrive home later for dinner, Jean goes to the nearby pub in search of him. Fellow seaman John offers to help Jean locate her father and they return to the beach, where they find Tom covered with ghastly burns. Before dying, Tom mutters that he was attacked from the sea by a behemoth. After the funeral, John seeks to comfort Jean and as the couple walk by the cove, they are startled to come upon thousands of dead fish strewn along the beach. John then spots a strange white mound wedged behind a rock but when he reaches to touch it, he is severely burned. A few days later in London, Steve overhears a news report indicating that fishing has ceased in Cornwall after the discovery of the dead fish. Alarmed, Steve cancels his return trip home and contacts physicist Prof. Bickford, who relates the more serious details of Tom's death and an additional reported sighting of a sea creature. Bickford allows Steve to accompany him to Cornwall to investigate, where the men discover most of the dead fish have been washed out to sea, or burned by the townspeople. After they speak with a fisherman who describes witnessing a glowing light over the water, John takes them to the doctor who examined Tom's body. The doctor describes unusual burns but admits he did not feel it necessary to conduct a post mortem. The doctor observes that Tom's burns match those on John's hand and offers to examine him. Later, John takes the men down to the beach. Steve is puzzled by the absence of radiation readings in the area, but requests samples of fish from all along the British coast. Back in London, Steve conducts tests on the fish and is startled when one particular specimen contains a glowing, white object inside it. The fish is also revealed to be thoroughly contaminated by radiation. Although Bickford notes that the fish was picked up off the Essex coast, miles away from Cornwall, and expresses doubt that it is related to Tom's death, Steve insists on investigating further. With Bickford's assistance, Steve hires a boat to patrol the waters off Essex. Despite a thorough search, Steve finds no indication of radiation. As Steve and the pilot begin their return journey, however, the radiation detector abruptly reacts and through the fog Steve sees a strange, unidentifiable shape rise up out of the water, then move with astonishing speed. Bickford summons Steve to the remains of a steam ship on an Essex beach. At the site, Steve concurs the ship has suffered extreme radiation damage, but the scientists are puzzled by the complete absence of survivors. In London, Bickford and Steve then meet with an admiral from the Royal Navy to discuss the unusual destruction of the ship. Steve reveals that the white mass on the contaminated fish has been determined to be the stomach lining of an unidentified sea creature and suggests it could be responsible for the ship's destruction. When Bickford agrees, the admiral orders that all international navies be placed on alert. Soon after, Bickford and Steve receive a report about the destruction of an entire farming village outside London-on-the-Thames and also receive a startling photo of a giant footprint. Based on the footprint type, the men take the photo to Britain's most esteemed paleontologist, Dr. Sampson, who immediately identifies it as belonging to a prehistoric plesiosaurus, which had electrical properties similar to that of an eel. When Sampson learns that the creature was seen on the Essex coast, he suggests it is heading toward the fresh water of the Thames River in order to prepare to die. Excited by the possibility of coming in contact with an oversized, long-extinct creature, Sampson insists on joining the investigation. Steve and Bickford return to the admiral to explain how the creature's natural electrical capacities allow it to project the radiation that has contaminated it. With the assistance of the military, Sampson tracks the creature by helicopter, but is attacked and destroyed by the beast. London is then thrown into a panic when the beast turns up in the Thames and destroys a ferry, killing several passengers. As the army oversees the evacuation of families all along the Thames, a plan is drawn up to destroy the creature. Steve and Bickford warn that should it be blown up, the radiated body parts could contaminate the entire city. Steve suggests that speeding up the creature's own radiation poisoning by arming a torpedo with a warhead of pure radium would allow them to bury the carcass safely. While the delicate and powerful radium torpedo is being assembled, the creature goes on a rampage, coming inland and attacking various locations. When the creature stomps on London Bridge, it collapses, plunging the beast back into the river. Steve boards the submarine sent to eliminate the creature and after a tense chase, the torpedo is successfully launched, killing the sea creature. After docking back at port, Steve joins a relieved Bickford in time for the men to hear a report of several hundred dead fish washing up on the shores of America.

Photo Collections

The Giant Behemoth - Lobby Cards
Here are several lobby cards from The Giant Behemoth (1959), featuring stop-motion animation by Willis O'Brien. Lobby Cards were 11" x 14" posters that came in sets of 8. As the name implies, they were most often displayed in movie theater lobbies, to advertise current or coming attractions.

Film Details

Also Known As
The Behemoth
Genre
Sci-Fi
Release Date
Mar 1959
Premiere Information
not available
Production Company
Artistes Alliance, Ltd.
Distribution Company
Allied Artists Pictures Corp.
Country
Great Britain and United States
Location
Boreham Wood, England, Great Britain; Elstree, England, Great Britain; Elstree,England; Elstree, England, Great Britain; Elstree, England, Great Britain; London,Great Britain; Boreham Wood, Great Britain; Essex, Great Britain; Cornwall, Great Britain

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 19m
Sound
Mono
Color
Black and White
Film Length
7,169ft

Articles

The Giant Behemoth


The Giant Behemoth's initial working title was simply "The Behemoth," and it was released at various times and in different countries under the titles The Giant Paleosaurus and Behemoth the Sea Monster with the tag-line "The Biggest Thing Since Creation!" The 1959 American-British co-production - because a movie this big apparently needs two countries to make it - was originally meant to be a story about a huge amorphous blob of radiation, consistent with the many sci-fi films of the period that played on fears of nuclear power.

Director Eugène Lourié previously made The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms (1953), a successful atomic monster movie (story by Ray Bradbury, effects by Ray Harryhausen) that inspired a generation of similar destructive characters, from Godzilla (1954) to Mothra (1961) to the giant ants of Them! (1954). Because of his earlier success, Lourié was offered any number of sci-fi scripts; "All of them unbelievably bad," he said. He finally agreed to this story, but the British producers insisted the threat be a physical creature, not simply a radioactive mass. Lourié was unsatisfied with the drafts handed to him, so he hired Daniel James, the writer of The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms, to work with him on a new draft, reluctantly shaping it into a virtual duplication of the earlier picture, creating a story about a prehistoric monster disturbed by the dumping of radioactive waste in the ocean.

The creature, retaining some of the original blob's atomic power, first terrorizes the English coast, then heads toward London, where military forces are powerless to stop it with conventional weaponry for fear of unleashing dangerous levels of radiation throughout the country. Lourié later said he intended the script to be simply "a pro forma document to be used only to sign the producers' contract." He expected it to be developed and changed drastically once work began in England but there were never any rewrites. So he was not happy with this copy of his earlier work, although he did concede that a physical beast was much better visually than mere radiation would have been. "Essentially The Beast and The Giant Behemoth were both cheap pictures anyhow," he said, adding with a chuckle, "The difference was, one was cheap in dollars and the other cheap in English pounds."

Because of the blacklist, James had to be credited as Daniel Hyatt, a pseudonym he used at other times, when he was not foregoing credit altogether. He wrote only one more screenplay after The Giant Behemoth, for yet another Lourié monster picture, Gorgo (1961). James' credit on this film was restored by the Writers Guild of America in 1998.

The live-action scenes were filmed in England, including London. Stop-motion animated model effects were done in a studio in Los Angeles and integrated later with the British live-action footage. The animation took place under the supervision of master technician Willis O'Brien, who had perfected the technique on King Kong (1933). O'Brien had also been the chief technician on The Last Days of Pompeii (1935) and in charge of the animated effects for Mighty Joe Young (1949), although most of the actual work had been done by a young Ray Harryhausen. Here, too, O'Brien's assistant Pete Peterson did most of the hands-on task, a remarkable feat considering he was suffering from multiple sclerosis at the time. After Behemoth, O'Brien's credits include The Lost World (1960), the remake of a film he had worked on in 1925, and a few bits of effects at the climax of It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World (1963).

Lourié was disappointed in The Giant Behemoth, and thought the monster model was poorly executed. He was particularly dismayed that O'Brien wasn't allowed to oversee all the effects work; instead, the producers decided to contract much of that out, leaving O'Brien and Lourié little or no control over the result. Because of budget restraints, one shot of the monster smashing a car is used at least three times. Some stock sound of screams used in King Kong were imported into this film in the scenes where the creature attacks the ferry and when it invades London.

The film's score is by Edwin Astley, whose daughter Karen was married to musician Pete Townsend of The Who from 1968 to 2000. Astley's most memorable work is the distinctive theme music for the British TV series The Saint.

Russian-born Eugène Lourié went to Paris at 16 to study painting and stage design, and began working for various ballet companies. He first made his significant reputation as an art director and production designer collaborating with Jean Renoir on such noted films as Grand Illusion (1937), La Bete Humaine (1938), and The Rules of the Game (1939). He also was art director for Charles Chaplin's Limelight (1952) before changing career paths to direct with giant-monster movies his specialty. He also continued as an art director as well, working on such films as Samuel Fuller's Shock Corridor (1963) and The Naked Kiss (1964) and the TV series Kung Fu. His last film before retirement was Clint Eastwood's Bronco Billy (1980).

Although prints ofThe Giant Behemoth in the U.S. did not list him in the credits, Douglas Hickox is credited as co-director with Lourié in the UK release. This was Hickox's directorial debut after several years of second-unit work. He went on to direct the Joe Orton adaptation Entertaining Mr. Sloane (1970) and the John Wayne London-based police drama Brannigan (1975).

Directors: Eugène Lourié, Douglas Hickox
Producers: David Diamond, Ted Lloyd
Screenplay: Eugène Lourié, Daniel James; story by Robert Abel and Alan J. Adler
Cinematography: Desmond Davis, Ken Hodges
Editing: Lee Doig
Art Direction: Harry White
Original Music: Edwin Astley
Cast: Gene Evans (Steve Karnes), André Morell (Professor Bickford), John Turner (John), Leigh Madison (Jean Trevethan), Jack MacGowran (Dr. Sampson).
BW-80m.

by Rob Nixon
The Giant Behemoth

The Giant Behemoth

The Giant Behemoth's initial working title was simply "The Behemoth," and it was released at various times and in different countries under the titles The Giant Paleosaurus and Behemoth the Sea Monster with the tag-line "The Biggest Thing Since Creation!" The 1959 American-British co-production - because a movie this big apparently needs two countries to make it - was originally meant to be a story about a huge amorphous blob of radiation, consistent with the many sci-fi films of the period that played on fears of nuclear power. Director Eugène Lourié previously made The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms (1953), a successful atomic monster movie (story by Ray Bradbury, effects by Ray Harryhausen) that inspired a generation of similar destructive characters, from Godzilla (1954) to Mothra (1961) to the giant ants of Them! (1954). Because of his earlier success, Lourié was offered any number of sci-fi scripts; "All of them unbelievably bad," he said. He finally agreed to this story, but the British producers insisted the threat be a physical creature, not simply a radioactive mass. Lourié was unsatisfied with the drafts handed to him, so he hired Daniel James, the writer of The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms, to work with him on a new draft, reluctantly shaping it into a virtual duplication of the earlier picture, creating a story about a prehistoric monster disturbed by the dumping of radioactive waste in the ocean. The creature, retaining some of the original blob's atomic power, first terrorizes the English coast, then heads toward London, where military forces are powerless to stop it with conventional weaponry for fear of unleashing dangerous levels of radiation throughout the country. Lourié later said he intended the script to be simply "a pro forma document to be used only to sign the producers' contract." He expected it to be developed and changed drastically once work began in England but there were never any rewrites. So he was not happy with this copy of his earlier work, although he did concede that a physical beast was much better visually than mere radiation would have been. "Essentially The Beast and The Giant Behemoth were both cheap pictures anyhow," he said, adding with a chuckle, "The difference was, one was cheap in dollars and the other cheap in English pounds." Because of the blacklist, James had to be credited as Daniel Hyatt, a pseudonym he used at other times, when he was not foregoing credit altogether. He wrote only one more screenplay after The Giant Behemoth, for yet another Lourié monster picture, Gorgo (1961). James' credit on this film was restored by the Writers Guild of America in 1998. The live-action scenes were filmed in England, including London. Stop-motion animated model effects were done in a studio in Los Angeles and integrated later with the British live-action footage. The animation took place under the supervision of master technician Willis O'Brien, who had perfected the technique on King Kong (1933). O'Brien had also been the chief technician on The Last Days of Pompeii (1935) and in charge of the animated effects for Mighty Joe Young (1949), although most of the actual work had been done by a young Ray Harryhausen. Here, too, O'Brien's assistant Pete Peterson did most of the hands-on task, a remarkable feat considering he was suffering from multiple sclerosis at the time. After Behemoth, O'Brien's credits include The Lost World (1960), the remake of a film he had worked on in 1925, and a few bits of effects at the climax of It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World (1963). Lourié was disappointed in The Giant Behemoth, and thought the monster model was poorly executed. He was particularly dismayed that O'Brien wasn't allowed to oversee all the effects work; instead, the producers decided to contract much of that out, leaving O'Brien and Lourié little or no control over the result. Because of budget restraints, one shot of the monster smashing a car is used at least three times. Some stock sound of screams used in King Kong were imported into this film in the scenes where the creature attacks the ferry and when it invades London. The film's score is by Edwin Astley, whose daughter Karen was married to musician Pete Townsend of The Who from 1968 to 2000. Astley's most memorable work is the distinctive theme music for the British TV series The Saint. Russian-born Eugène Lourié went to Paris at 16 to study painting and stage design, and began working for various ballet companies. He first made his significant reputation as an art director and production designer collaborating with Jean Renoir on such noted films as Grand Illusion (1937), La Bete Humaine (1938), and The Rules of the Game (1939). He also was art director for Charles Chaplin's Limelight (1952) before changing career paths to direct with giant-monster movies his specialty. He also continued as an art director as well, working on such films as Samuel Fuller's Shock Corridor (1963) and The Naked Kiss (1964) and the TV series Kung Fu. His last film before retirement was Clint Eastwood's Bronco Billy (1980). Although prints ofThe Giant Behemoth in the U.S. did not list him in the credits, Douglas Hickox is credited as co-director with Lourié in the UK release. This was Hickox's directorial debut after several years of second-unit work. He went on to direct the Joe Orton adaptation Entertaining Mr. Sloane (1970) and the John Wayne London-based police drama Brannigan (1975). Directors: Eugène Lourié, Douglas Hickox Producers: David Diamond, Ted Lloyd Screenplay: Eugène Lourié, Daniel James; story by Robert Abel and Alan J. Adler Cinematography: Desmond Davis, Ken Hodges Editing: Lee Doig Art Direction: Harry White Original Music: Edwin Astley Cast: Gene Evans (Steve Karnes), André Morell (Professor Bickford), John Turner (John), Leigh Madison (Jean Trevethan), Jack MacGowran (Dr. Sampson). BW-80m. by Rob Nixon

Cult Camp Classics 1: Sci-Fi Thrillers - A Triple Dose of Lunacy on DVD


Warner DVD may have solved the problem with releasing less-than-stellar studio movies coveted by vocal fans: Group them in smart disc sets just big enough to be both affordable and profitable. The new branded line Cult Camp Classics shows every indication of being a raging success, mainly because it gives the die-hard film fans what they want: quality transfers of fun titles with an extra or two to sweeten the pot. Seeing a title like Attack of the 50 Foot Woman on a store shelf might make one's girlfriend roll her eyes, but packaging it with The Giant Behemoth and Queen of Outer Space sounds like an instant party. This Volume 1 Sci-Fi set is the first of four interesting groupings in simultaneous release: Women in Peril, Terrorized Travelers and Historical Epics.

Attack of the 50 Foot Woman is remembered as a hopeless groaner, a late fifties schlock epic from the wonder men who brought you The Brain from Planet Arous and Teenage Monster. The creative Nathan Juran directs, working under the name Nathan Hertz: he apparently did that as a way of working non-Union, as well as avoiding future association with the picture. The special effects are pitiful sub- Bert I. Gordon mattes and superimpositions, with the actors frequently talking about unseen 'incredible' things happening off-screen, but Juran's direction is a model of no-budget elegance (yep!) and the actors keep the silly drama cooking no matter how ludicrous the dialogue: "Now you pulled a boner tonight and you know it." "What do you want me to do, put salt on her tail?"

'Statuesque' Allison Hayes (The Unearthly) is Nancy Archer, a spoiled heiress living in a desert palace furnished with cheap junk and ratty carpets. Contact with a bald giant wearing a tunic off the 'Medieval' rack at Western Costume turns her into the colossal babe promised by the title, seen on the sexy poster (used on Warner's cover) and memorialized in a song by The Tubes: "All she did / To get her kicks / Was step on all the men." What we see most of the time is a floppy, pasty-white giant hand prop; Allison finally appears in a queen-sized canvas bikini, crudely matted into scenes or tearing balsa-wood rafters off of buildings.

An overheated love triangle brings the picture to life. Worthless hubby Harry (William Hudson) shacks up with toothy gold digger Honey Parker (Yvette Vickers) and gets his comeuppance when wifey Nancy comes to town. A baffled sheriff and goofy deputy keep the 'clueless lawmen' scenes interesting, and the movie is short and sweet. Revival screenings usually generate enough laughter to bring the house down. Marquette, Juran and writer Mark Hanna surely engineered the film as an intentionally funny, tongue-in-cheek background diversion for make-out sessions at the drive-in.

With Attack of the 50 Foot Woman Warners breaks into the fertile fringe of the Allied Artists library, which should in theory have many attractive titles to offer, even with the erosion of independent titles back to careless rights holders and Public-Domain limbo. The B&W transfer is attractive and happily formatted enhanced widescreen, flattering Juran's clean compositions. Friendly Tom Weaver interviews actress Yvette Vickers on a feature-length commentary. Vickers has become one of the fave 50s fantasy girls for the cult monster movie set.

The Giant Behemoth is an English co-production that apparently started as something akin to a Quatermass picture, about an invisible radioactive blob or the like. When the producer demanded a garden variety monster, director Eugene Lourie 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 (this time amusing actor Jack MacGowran of The Fearless Vampire Killers) excited to be chasing down a living paleosaurus. Sam Fuller's "Sgt. Rock" Gene Evans joins forces with the unflappable Quatermass TV actor (among 101 other impressive roles) Andre Morell to head a low-key scientific pursuit of a radioactive monster that's killing fish and roasting unlucky fishermen with its radioactivity.

A great many indifferent effects including a mismatched, static monster hand puppet (see footnote #1), finally give way to a couple of good minutes of animation by Pete Peterson, directed by the great Willis O'Brien. Camera tilts and clever foreground props are used to make the Behemoth appropriately Giant, and expressive night lighting helps to hide the fact that the model dino isn't particularly dynamic. When the Behemoth 'projects' radioactivity, Jack Rabin superimposes optical effects used the previous year on Kronos to represent the waves of deadly energy.

The Giant Behemoth may be a fairly generic monster movie but in its time we sought it out for these stop-motion animation sequences. On TV we'd see what time the show came on and tune in about 70 minutes later to catch "the good stuff." I'm glad that it's included in this first set. The transfer is fine, even though it shows every flub and flaw in the original elements, including the many shots repeated or optically repositioned.

The commentary is by effects masters Dennis Muren and Phil Tippet, and it's not very much fun. They offer enthusiastic observations about the stop-motion monster: "Look, there are unwanted glass reflections all over this shot." One of them (Muren?) also recounts how he came into personal possession of the animation models for the film. Otherwise, their comments are annoyingly condescending and ignorant. They complain about every aspect of the film except the few animated scenes. They can't be bothered with any of the film's good actors, dissing the great Jack MacGowran as a hammy jerk. They harp on the film's measured pace and often admired documentary style as incompetent. One would never think that films like The Giant Behemoth were what inspired them to enter the movie business.

The inclusion of Queen of Outer Space makes this Sci-Fi set a full Allied Artists show. Color and CinemaScope distinguish the picture but it's strictly a Camp offering. Never really an out-and-out spoof and lacking both in wit and purpose, the picture recycles props and costumes from the rental racks and repeats the flat Formica and painted plastic look of AA's earlier World Without End. The subject matter scrapes the bottom of creativity for 50s junk Sci-Fi. A crew of American bachelors crash-lands on Venus, there to meet up with a race of Amazon lovelies.

As in the earlier Cat-Women of the Moon and Abbott and Costello Go To Mars, the girlie-girls struggle to maintain their poise while prancing about in high heels and mini-skirts; one Venusian (Lisa Davis) wears Altaira's costume from Forbidden Planet, the be-jeweled one Robby whips up for her. The script is just rubbish, with the space jocks making inane small talk about their voluptuous captors while the girls point ray guns at them and say things like "Botchino!" The Babe Factor was actually better in World Without End, with the Vargas- inspired sexy costumes.

Zsa Zsa Gabor is front and center wearing the picture's only really pretty gowns, posing and preening and sleepwalking through her role with an incongruous smile on her face. Reviewers have always made fun of Gabor's Hungarian accent but watching her stiff, untouchable manner is both amusing and stultifying. We can imagine John Huston killing himself to get a decent performance from her in Moulin Rouge.

That's all there is to Queen of Outer Space; the story isn't worth an episode of Space Patrol and some of the sets are just pathetic. Zsa Zsa is the whole show, and the enjoyment factor is entirely dependent on having friends around to help jeer and make off-color remarks. It's from a story by Ben Hecht, probably something he dashed off in two hours.   (see footnote #2).

Nevertheless, the hotly desired Queen of Outer Space is the definition of 'Camp' and a good choice to launch the Sci-Fi Cult box. The excellent transfer restores color not seen since the show was new, even if the full width of the CinemaScope screen doesn't add much to the film's luster. What does perk up the proceedings is an engaging commentary track, with Tom Weaver this time serving as host to Laurie Mitchell, the real 'Queen' in the plot. Zsa Zsa didn't have to worry about sharing the screen with a younger beauty, as Mitchell at all times wears a mask or performs under an ugly, disfigured makeup job. Ms. Mitchell (Some Like It Hot, Missile to the Moon) offers her comments and memories as Weaver goes over what is known about the making of the film. At one point he interrupts the proceedings to present his special guest with a new decorative 'Venusian' mask, to take with her to fan convention signings.

For more information about , visit Warner Video. To order Cult Camp Classics I, go to TCM Shopping.

by Glenn Erickson

Footnote #1. I've heard that Mr. Kellison told the Cascade Studios gang of effects men that the hand puppet was built rigged with clever string-activated toggles that made the mouth open and close, etc. But the producer broke it while chasing his secretary around the office, and that's why it doesn't move. The story sounds fishy, but it's too cute not to repeat.

Also, have no fear, The Giant Behemoth is full length and includes the Thames ferry scene accidentally omitted from an old VHS release.

Footnote #2. Two notes on Queen of Outer Space: Back at UCLA, the brand-new film archive was presented with nine 35mm Color & CinemaScope prints of the title, I think by Ben Hecht's widow when she cleaned out her garage. Such a haul was considered useful to the archive because the extra copies could be traded with other archives. The only problem was that every print had faded to two tones of purplish-pink. UCLA serialized the film during student-film screenings week one quarter; even in ten-minute doses we all grew plenty sick of it, really fast.

Queen of Outer Space is also the source of one of Randy Cook's more printable jokes from back in the UCLA dorms: At one point Zsa Zsa shows her captives a pitiful boxy thing that she calls 'The Beta Disintegrator' or some-such thing. Randy offered that there should be two more similar structures, to allow Zsa could explain them as well. The second one could be some other kind of Beta machine. The third controls the other two -- it's the Master Beta machine!

Cult Camp Classics 1: Sci-Fi Thrillers - A Triple Dose of Lunacy on DVD

Warner DVD may have solved the problem with releasing less-than-stellar studio movies coveted by vocal fans: Group them in smart disc sets just big enough to be both affordable and profitable. The new branded line Cult Camp Classics shows every indication of being a raging success, mainly because it gives the die-hard film fans what they want: quality transfers of fun titles with an extra or two to sweeten the pot. Seeing a title like Attack of the 50 Foot Woman on a store shelf might make one's girlfriend roll her eyes, but packaging it with The Giant Behemoth and Queen of Outer Space sounds like an instant party. This Volume 1 Sci-Fi set is the first of four interesting groupings in simultaneous release: Women in Peril, Terrorized Travelers and Historical Epics. Attack of the 50 Foot Woman is remembered as a hopeless groaner, a late fifties schlock epic from the wonder men who brought you The Brain from Planet Arous and Teenage Monster. The creative Nathan Juran directs, working under the name Nathan Hertz: he apparently did that as a way of working non-Union, as well as avoiding future association with the picture. The special effects are pitiful sub- Bert I. Gordon mattes and superimpositions, with the actors frequently talking about unseen 'incredible' things happening off-screen, but Juran's direction is a model of no-budget elegance (yep!) and the actors keep the silly drama cooking no matter how ludicrous the dialogue: "Now you pulled a boner tonight and you know it." "What do you want me to do, put salt on her tail?" 'Statuesque' Allison Hayes (The Unearthly) is Nancy Archer, a spoiled heiress living in a desert palace furnished with cheap junk and ratty carpets. Contact with a bald giant wearing a tunic off the 'Medieval' rack at Western Costume turns her into the colossal babe promised by the title, seen on the sexy poster (used on Warner's cover) and memorialized in a song by The Tubes: "All she did / To get her kicks / Was step on all the men." What we see most of the time is a floppy, pasty-white giant hand prop; Allison finally appears in a queen-sized canvas bikini, crudely matted into scenes or tearing balsa-wood rafters off of buildings. An overheated love triangle brings the picture to life. Worthless hubby Harry (William Hudson) shacks up with toothy gold digger Honey Parker (Yvette Vickers) and gets his comeuppance when wifey Nancy comes to town. A baffled sheriff and goofy deputy keep the 'clueless lawmen' scenes interesting, and the movie is short and sweet. Revival screenings usually generate enough laughter to bring the house down. Marquette, Juran and writer Mark Hanna surely engineered the film as an intentionally funny, tongue-in-cheek background diversion for make-out sessions at the drive-in. With Attack of the 50 Foot Woman Warners breaks into the fertile fringe of the Allied Artists library, which should in theory have many attractive titles to offer, even with the erosion of independent titles back to careless rights holders and Public-Domain limbo. The B&W transfer is attractive and happily formatted enhanced widescreen, flattering Juran's clean compositions. Friendly Tom Weaver interviews actress Yvette Vickers on a feature-length commentary. Vickers has become one of the fave 50s fantasy girls for the cult monster movie set. The Giant Behemoth is an English co-production that apparently started as something akin to a Quatermass picture, about an invisible radioactive blob or the like. When the producer demanded a garden variety monster, director Eugene Lourie 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 (this time amusing actor Jack MacGowran of The Fearless Vampire Killers) excited to be chasing down a living paleosaurus. Sam Fuller's "Sgt. Rock" Gene Evans joins forces with the unflappable Quatermass TV actor (among 101 other impressive roles) Andre Morell to head a low-key scientific pursuit of a radioactive monster that's killing fish and roasting unlucky fishermen with its radioactivity. A great many indifferent effects including a mismatched, static monster hand puppet (see footnote #1), finally give way to a couple of good minutes of animation by Pete Peterson, directed by the great Willis O'Brien. Camera tilts and clever foreground props are used to make the Behemoth appropriately Giant, and expressive night lighting helps to hide the fact that the model dino isn't particularly dynamic. When the Behemoth 'projects' radioactivity, Jack Rabin superimposes optical effects used the previous year on Kronos to represent the waves of deadly energy. The Giant Behemoth may be a fairly generic monster movie but in its time we sought it out for these stop-motion animation sequences. On TV we'd see what time the show came on and tune in about 70 minutes later to catch "the good stuff." I'm glad that it's included in this first set. The transfer is fine, even though it shows every flub and flaw in the original elements, including the many shots repeated or optically repositioned. The commentary is by effects masters Dennis Muren and Phil Tippet, and it's not very much fun. They offer enthusiastic observations about the stop-motion monster: "Look, there are unwanted glass reflections all over this shot." One of them (Muren?) also recounts how he came into personal possession of the animation models for the film. Otherwise, their comments are annoyingly condescending and ignorant. They complain about every aspect of the film except the few animated scenes. They can't be bothered with any of the film's good actors, dissing the great Jack MacGowran as a hammy jerk. They harp on the film's measured pace and often admired documentary style as incompetent. One would never think that films like The Giant Behemoth were what inspired them to enter the movie business. The inclusion of Queen of Outer Space makes this Sci-Fi set a full Allied Artists show. Color and CinemaScope distinguish the picture but it's strictly a Camp offering. Never really an out-and-out spoof and lacking both in wit and purpose, the picture recycles props and costumes from the rental racks and repeats the flat Formica and painted plastic look of AA's earlier World Without End. The subject matter scrapes the bottom of creativity for 50s junk Sci-Fi. A crew of American bachelors crash-lands on Venus, there to meet up with a race of Amazon lovelies. As in the earlier Cat-Women of the Moon and Abbott and Costello Go To Mars, the girlie-girls struggle to maintain their poise while prancing about in high heels and mini-skirts; one Venusian (Lisa Davis) wears Altaira's costume from Forbidden Planet, the be-jeweled one Robby whips up for her. The script is just rubbish, with the space jocks making inane small talk about their voluptuous captors while the girls point ray guns at them and say things like "Botchino!" The Babe Factor was actually better in World Without End, with the Vargas- inspired sexy costumes. Zsa Zsa Gabor is front and center wearing the picture's only really pretty gowns, posing and preening and sleepwalking through her role with an incongruous smile on her face. Reviewers have always made fun of Gabor's Hungarian accent but watching her stiff, untouchable manner is both amusing and stultifying. We can imagine John Huston killing himself to get a decent performance from her in Moulin Rouge. That's all there is to Queen of Outer Space; the story isn't worth an episode of Space Patrol and some of the sets are just pathetic. Zsa Zsa is the whole show, and the enjoyment factor is entirely dependent on having friends around to help jeer and make off-color remarks. It's from a story by Ben Hecht, probably something he dashed off in two hours.   (see footnote #2). Nevertheless, the hotly desired Queen of Outer Space is the definition of 'Camp' and a good choice to launch the Sci-Fi Cult box. The excellent transfer restores color not seen since the show was new, even if the full width of the CinemaScope screen doesn't add much to the film's luster. What does perk up the proceedings is an engaging commentary track, with Tom Weaver this time serving as host to Laurie Mitchell, the real 'Queen' in the plot. Zsa Zsa didn't have to worry about sharing the screen with a younger beauty, as Mitchell at all times wears a mask or performs under an ugly, disfigured makeup job. Ms. Mitchell (Some Like It Hot, Missile to the Moon) offers her comments and memories as Weaver goes over what is known about the making of the film. At one point he interrupts the proceedings to present his special guest with a new decorative 'Venusian' mask, to take with her to fan convention signings. For more information about , visit Warner Video. To order Cult Camp Classics I, go to TCM Shopping. by Glenn Erickson Footnote #1. I've heard that Mr. Kellison told the Cascade Studios gang of effects men that the hand puppet was built rigged with clever string-activated toggles that made the mouth open and close, etc. But the producer broke it while chasing his secretary around the office, and that's why it doesn't move. The story sounds fishy, but it's too cute not to repeat. Also, have no fear, The Giant Behemoth is full length and includes the Thames ferry scene accidentally omitted from an old VHS release. Footnote #2. Two notes on Queen of Outer Space: Back at UCLA, the brand-new film archive was presented with nine 35mm Color & CinemaScope prints of the title, I think by Ben Hecht's widow when she cleaned out her garage. Such a haul was considered useful to the archive because the extra copies could be traded with other archives. The only problem was that every print had faded to two tones of purplish-pink. UCLA serialized the film during student-film screenings week one quarter; even in ten-minute doses we all grew plenty sick of it, really fast.Queen of Outer Space is also the source of one of Randy Cook's more printable jokes from back in the UCLA dorms: At one point Zsa Zsa shows her captives a pitiful boxy thing that she calls 'The Beta Disintegrator' or some-such thing. Randy offered that there should be two more similar structures, to allow Zsa could explain them as well. The second one could be some other kind of Beta machine. The third controls the other two -- it's the Master Beta machine!

Quotes

Trivia

Notes

The working title of the film was The Behemoth. An April 1958 Hollywood Reporter news item indicated that Eros Films would be producing the film. Although several reviews and the production sheet list "Tom" and "Jean's" last name as "MacDougall," they are called "Tom and Jean Trefethen" in the film. The film was shot on location in Cornwall, Essex and London, England. Although Eugene Lourie was given sole writing credit when the film was initially released, the film was co-written by blacklisted writer Daniel James, whose credit was officially restored by the WGA in July 1998.

Miscellaneous Notes

Released in United States 1959

Released in United States March 1975

Released in United States 1959

Released in United States March 1975 (Shown at FILMEX: Los Angeles International Film Exposition (Science Fiction Movie Marathon - Selection of Trailers) March 13-26, 1975.)