The Loch Ness Horror (1981)

The_Loch_Ness_Horror_(1981)‘How does the Loch Ness Monster get it on?’ 

Two divers find Nessie beneath the waters of Loch Ness. She eats one, but the other escapes with her egg. Naturally not chuffed, the Monster goes on the rampage, whilst serious military types stand around and chat about a German plane that crashed in the loch during the Second World War.

Director Larry Buchanan has a long history in the world of bad film. He’d already given the world 60’s classics such as ‘Mars Needs Women’ (1967) and ’Zontar, The Thing From Venus’ (1964) before he fetched up on the bonnie, bonnie shores of Loch Ness (heroically played here by Lake Tahoe in California). You have to admire his persistence, if nothing else. And he had improved as a filmmaker over the years. Not much, but a little. Here his ambition exceeds his grasp (again!) as he attempts to mix a ‘monster on the loose’ with a military cover up, a rogue scientist who steals Nessie’s egg, and a romance between American oceanographer Barry Buchanan (yes, son of Larry!) and local girl Miki McKenzie, the daughter of kilt-sporting crusty old relic Jack Stewart (Doc Livingston).

Buchanan evokes Scotland with the sort of subtle touches that would probably have got him lynched if he’d ever made it to the Highlands. For a start, the opening credits roll to the inevitable sound of bagpipes, and, if that’s not bad enough, students cycle around the shore singing ‘Loch Lomond’ and pass a sign that mis-spells our aquatic star as ’Nessy’. Livingston get drunk on 100% proof and sings a song about some ‘wee lassie’ or other. That’s a girl, not a small dog, for anyone unfamiliar with the idiom. And that brings us neatly to the accents. These are like the tide, they come and go, but special mention must go to Livingston for rolling his ‘r’s with a ferocity that’s quite scary, and heroine McKenzie who is quite often completely incomprehensible.

Plot-wise things are a bit of a mismatched stew as well; with the government conspiracy revolviing around a crashed Luftwaffe bomber from the second world war that was on a secret mission, Nessie chasing after her egg, and a couple of teen campers going out for a midnight boat ride. In the end, there’s a lot of chat and not much action, even at the explosive climax, which falls completely flat. There are some compensations though; Livingston has a magic telescope which is able to look down on a crashing plane and can pick out the face of a man in a boat across the Loch without needing to be pointed or have its focus adjusted. And we get the top scientist who – inevitably – is also a qualified medical doctor. It’s amazing how many of them are.

The_Loch_Ness_Horror_(1981)

He realised that he should have stuck to lions…

But what of the monster? That’s what you really want to hear about, isn’t it? Well, it’s not particularly well done, but I have seen worse. lt’s just totally unconvincing, rather than ridiculous. Its head and upper body move through the forest as if it’s floating (or on wheels perhaps?) and it appears less than lively in an attack on an army roadblock when it kills a man by resting its head on his shoulder for a very long time.

This actually played in theatres in the U.S., probably getting bookings on its title alone. Buchanan didn’t make many more films; in fact this was the last of his science fiction/fantasy pictures; his career ending with some dubious documentary work.

Nessie has been poorly served by cinema. But at least she could see her way around underwater on this occasion, especially considering the amount of mud in Loch Ness actually allows for only about 5 feet of visibility. It’s a serious flaw in Lake Tahoe’s performance and undermines the entire credibility of the film. The director should have had a word.

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