Guest writer DAVID GELMINI picks his five favourite giant monster movies from the UK…
Japan is usually the first country that comes to mind when it comes to giant monster movies. Which is why you might be surprised to know that a number of films about gigantic beasts have actually come from the United Kingdom.
That’s right, our little island may be best known for its hauntings, but we’ve also released some damn fine giant monster films.
1. Queen Kong (1976)
This one is more of a national embarrassment than a national treasure, but it’s still weird enough to be worth talking about. As it’s name suggests, this is basically a parody of King Kong with the gender of both the titular giant ape and the main human character reversed. So instead of a male gorilla holding a woman as he climbs the Empire State Building, we now have a female gorilla holding a man as she climbs Big Ben.
Originally set to be released in 1976, Queen Kong was never released theatrically in the UK due to legal action taken by Dino De Laurentiis, the producer of the King Kong remake released the same year. It’s now available on DVD, so if trashy B-movie monsters are your thing, give it a go.
2. Konga (1961)
Known for appearing in legions of Hammer films and as Alfred the butler in the original Batman movies, one of Michael Gough’s early roles was as botanist Charles Decker in the 1961 giant ape movie Konga (no prizes for guessing where the inspiration for that name came from).
Decker develops a growth serum which causes his pet chimpanzee to grow to a gigantic size (and also apparently turns it into a gorilla, in this hugely entertaining picture from director John Lemont. Spider-Man co-creator also worked on a comic book adaptation of the film.
3. Behemoth, the Sea Monster (1959)
Also known as The Giant Behemoth, this 1959 classic was directed by Eugène Lourié, who would go on to become a legend in the giant monster genre. Clearly inspired by Godzilla, the film had a similar environmental message, with nuclear testing awakening an ancient plesiosaur-like creature, which proceeds to come ashore and wreak havoc.
Whilst Behemoth, the Sea Monster appears to be out of print on DVD, you can catch this classic on Amazon Video.
4. Gorgo (1961)
After the modest success of Behemoth, the Sea Monster, Eugène Lourié was given a significantly larger budget for his next feature, 1961’s Gorgo. And here the Godzilla influences were all the more prominent, with the titular giant reptile looking so similar to her aforementioned counterpart that it’s a surprise that Toho didn’t decide to call their lawyers.
In the film, a group of fishermen capture a baby dinosaur and display it in a circus in London, only for mummy to come to the rescue. Which is too bad for the people of London, because mummy happens to be over two hundred feet tall.
Gorgo remains arguably the most well known British giant monster film to date, so be sure to either catch it on DVD or import the US Blu-ray.
5. The Dinosaur Project (2012)
The list wouldn’t be complete without at least one found footage entry. You could argue that the discovered film subgenre has had its day (and you’d be right), but we did get some half decent found footage movies after the success of films like The Blair Witch Project and Cloverfield led studios to cram them down our throats.
One of the better ones was Director Sid Bennett’s The Dinosaur Project, in which a documentary crew travel to Congo to investigate rumours of dinosaurs living in the area, only for things to go south when they find that not only are the prehistoric reptiles alive and kicking, but they’re also very, very hungry.
If you’re not sick to death of found footage movies, this is really is one of the best the genre has to offer.
DAVID GELMINI is a young film graduate with a keen interest in anything related to horror and the supernatural.
British & Irish Horror Film Reviews Listing
Both Behemoth, the Sea Monster and Gorgo are available in the Renown Pictures Monster box set along with such Brit classics as the Womaneater (1958) and The Strange World of Planet X (1958) and US movies The Killer Shrews (1959) The Giant Gila Monster (1959), The Crater Lake Monster (1977) Beast from Haunted Cave (1959) and The Monster from Green Hell (1957). All for £20, not bad for nine films.