The Loch Ness Horror

Director: Larry Buchanan          
Sandy Kenyon, Miki McKenzie, Barry Buchanan

Larry Buchanan. It's somewhat surprising that he is as well known as he is in the cult movie world, when you consider the fact that (as of this writing) almost all of his movies are very difficult to find. In fact, before watching The Loch Ness Horror, I had only been able to see four of the other twenty-seven movies he has directed - Mars Needs Women, It's Alive, Goodbye Norma Jean, and Mistress Of The Apes. While I didn't necessarily think up to this point that I could be considered any kind of expert on Buchanan, I still had a pretty confident idea of his abilities as a director. True, if someone were to ask me to briefly sum up Buchanan, I probably wouldn't be able to. But that's not because Buchanan is an avant-garde type like Bu˝uel or Lynch, even though his works also often go far and beyond what normal directors do. The closest I can describe Buchanan in as few words as possible is this: If Albert Pyun and Andy Sidaris somehow were able to have a kid together, the kid would likely have the same skill level of filmmaking as Buchanan. The kid would inherit Pyun's taste for generally stupid and unbelievable premises, along with characters in these premises doing things in an equally stupid and unbelievable manner. From Sidaris, he would inherit an ability to present everything (even prime exploitation material) in the dullest and most boring way possible, as well as an ability to make production values look like those from a home movie. One Buchanan is enough, so I pray both that Pyun and Sidaris are not gay, and that they never walk by a nuclear power plant on their way to a motel room.

So as you can probably imagine, I was not looking forward to this Larry Buchanan roundtable. I ultimately decided on reviewing The Loch Ness Horror not just because I didn't want to subject myself to When Chief Brody said "We need a bigger boat," he didn't know how lucky he waswatching any of those four Buchanan movies again, but that I figured I might have partial immunity against bad giant aquatic monster movies after seeing The Crater Lake Monster. But even then I figured I had a tough road ahead of me when the opening credits proudly proclaimed the movie was "A Clan Buchanan production." Yes, the subsequent credits revealed that a Buchanan wasn't just involved in the directing and writing (Larry, of course), but there were two Buchanans listed in the acting credits, and a third Buchanan joining Larry yet again with the producing. (There are also two other Buchanans listed in the end credits.) Despite this, I gritted my teeth and continued to watch. We open on a lake around sundown. We subsequently get several different shots of the lake from various points around the shore to confirm that yes, this is indeed a lake we're looking at. We cut to a lodge near the shore, at the same time we are told "1940 in the Scottish highlands". Inside, we meet Jack Stewart (Doc Livingston). We know he's Scottish and not a tourist, because he's dressed like the typical 20th century Scotsman -  kilt, tartan sash, the whole kit 'n' caboodle.

Jack hears an engine roar, and heads upstairs to his trusty telescope. Looking through it, he spots a German airplane - probably footage stolen from a better movie (Where Eagles Dare?), because not only is this airplane footage without the slight blurriness of the footage that's been playing up to this point, but because the high mountains (much taller than the famed Ben Nevis) behind the airplane are completely covered with snow. Right after the plane turns and seems to be flying into the waters of the lake for no apparent reason, Jack suddenly points the telescope to the lake - and sees the Loch Ness Monster! It growls. He looks. It growls a little more. He keeps looking. Then Nessie slowly sinks beneath the surface of the lake. Fade out. Huh? Not exactly a teaser of an opening, and as it turns out, what we learn in this opening isn't anything that we learn subsequently after the movie jumps ahead four decades. Things have certainly changed after all this time, including for Loch Ness; it seems that the economy of the area must be very good, at the very least much better than anywhere else on the British Isles. That's because here and other points of the movie we keep seeing expensive sailboats cruising on the lake in the background. Given the almost unexplainable disgust of many people in this corner of the world towards anyone who is rich or successful, you might think that this is the "horror" of the movie - but this is Buchanan we are talking about, so we shouldn't expect anything sophisticated.

Instead of an examination of high-class society, or a further myth-breaker of the stereotype of penny-pinching Scots, the movie instead is your standard monster movie. More exactly, it's an attempt to be standard despite being saddled with a budget "How would you like a Scottish colon inspection, laddie?"and a mentality falling far below what is considered standard for each. American researcher Spencer (Barry Buchanan) has traveled to Scotland with the latest sonar technology, and together with Scottish professor George Sanderson (Kenyon, Knots Landing) the two men have started an intensive search for the Loch Ness Monster. The two men decide to pay a visit to long time lake resident Jack Stewart and his daughter Kate (McKenzie), despite the fact that Sanderson cautions Spencer that for some unexplained reason Kate "doesn't like Yanks" - which of course tells us instantly how things will be between Spencer and Kate at the end of the movie. Spencer and Sanderson get the help they need to start their search, but unknown to them, a rival expedition lead by the mysterious professor Pratt (Stuart Lancaster, veteran of Russ Meyer and other Buchanan movies) has already gained a great lead. His two idiot divers not only spot Nessie, but snatch a mysterious giant egg from the bottom of the lake and bring it back triumphantly. You guessed it - this means we not only might have discovered what inspired the movie Crocodile, but we will have to relive the pain received from seeing yet again a giant creature trying to get back its egg.

Actually, while there is certainly a lot of pain to be received from watching The Loch Ness Horror, only a little of it comes from the whole mama-reptile-wants-her-egg-back shenanigans. It's not because this part is any better made that the rest of the movie. It's because the movie simply doesn't devote that much time to the egg kidnapping. As it actually turns out, one of the two idiot divers is killed by Nessie even before they exit the lake, and the second one is killed off in the next scene he's in after handing the egg over to Pratt. Then both the egg and the professor are completely forgotten about by the movie for well over half an hour. Then when he does suddenly appear again, he only has one other brief scene before he's killed off as well. Then the egg is more or less forgotten about until nearly the end of the movie, and the eventual dealing with it is seriously lacking in satisfaction for the audience. In fact, when you think about it, there is nothing about this egg that makes any real difference in the movie; the movie would work just as, uh, "well" if the egg and Pratt and his henchmen were directly struck out of the script with no additional tinkering. The only thing about this whole egg thing that gave me the slightest interest was in wondering how everyone who saw the egg immediately knew it was an egg just by looking at it; to be honest, it looked more like a gigantic grey raisin to me.

About halfway through the movie, I started to think of another strange thing about the movie. For a movie entitled The Loch Ness Horror, there really aren't that many appearances by the title creature. Even stranger is that while Spencer, Sanderson, and the two Stewart clan members Shame on you for what you immediately thought upon seeing this still!constantly appear throughout, their whole searching-for-Nessie thing comes across as being one of the later listings on their mental "things to do" list. Sometimes they seem to completely forget just why they are there. And while Nessie does eventually make itself and its vicious behavior visible to various witnesses, believe it or not there is no alarm raised. The military does eventually get involved in all these going-ons, but it not because of Nessie. Instead, they are concerned with executing a cover-up for the German airplane sunk at the bottom of the lake in order to avoid a potentially embarrassing political scandal. It turns out that Nessie does happen to tie in with the military's plans, but only because of a coincidence - not because the military was even thinking of Nessie. It's utterly amazing how the screenplay treats Nessie as an afterthought of some kind. There's one part where two college kids sneak off to have sex, paddling right across the lake (!) in a cheap rubber raft. Does Nessie attack them before they get to shore? No - they get to shore, and there is a lengthy sequence when they are attacked by an axe-wielding crazed hermit, and they have to fight him off. It's only after this, when they start rowing back, when Nessie finally attacks them.

The movie seems desperate to keep Nessie out of sight for as long as possible, and since this is a Buchanan movie, you can probably guess why. To be fair, the first appearances of Nessie aren't too bad.... mainly because they are seen at a distance, and at night. In its first appearance, we actually see its head and long neck rise out of the lake with nothing but a big expanse of water around it - which couldn't have been easy to do. And we actually see vapor coming out of its mouth, a nice touch, until the special effects guy ruin the illusion by having too much vapor appear in one of Nessie's exhales. Still, at least it's more convincing after the cold night turns into a warm day, and Nessie is still exhaling big clouds of vapor. Especially so, since in these daytime sequences we finally get up close and personal to Nessie, and it ain't a pretty sight. Poor old Nessie has a head that not only strongly resembles a gigantic inflatable beach toy that has been wrapped with green garbage bags, but has two little sprouts on the top of his head, like you often find on cartoon sea serpents. Nessie seems to have a body, but you only see its hump in a couple of shots when it's in the water. Otherwise, the most you ever see of Nessie is its head and neck, and it's always evident that these particular shots of Nessie were accomplished simply by pushing a pole inside the neck, and positioning the head and neck in whatever angle needed for a particular scene.

I'm not even sure if there was even a wire added to provide jaw movement to Nessie. From what I remember, any jaw movement seemed more likely to come Cecil has a black sheep in his familyas a result of the whole Nessie prop being moved. When Nessie sinks its teeth into something, it more seems like it is carefully dropping its open jaw on that thing instead of biting down on it. There's a particularly funny moment of this later in the movie, when Nessie has its unmoving mouth on Lancaster's arm and shoulder for an impossibly long time while he screams, bleeds, scream, bleeds, screams, bleeds... you get the idea.  Other Nessie attacks provide even more laughs, like the silly scene where it drags away a sleeping bag containing a man who screams, screams, screams, screams... you get the idea. (It's even funnier when you realize the man could easily have slipped out of the bag and run away.) As it turns out, the human actors don't really come across that more seriously than Nessie. There's a great amount of dopey dialogue they have to speak, like with Spencer asking Kate questions like, "Do you ever wear a dress?" or "How about shorts?" Most hilarious are the incredibly bad accents the actors playing Scots try to put into their voices. McKenzie puts on an accent so incredibly thick that sometimes you can't understand what she's saying. Livingstone, on the other hand, clearly seems to know the movie is a big joke, so he puts some fun in his accent. He wildly exaggerates a Scottish accent, rolling his "R"s so that a simple word like "preserved" comes out as "prrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrreserved".

It's strange, but the laughable monster, the bad acting, the bad and sexist dialogue, and the amazingly low production values make The Loch Ness Horror a very close reproduction to many of those lovably bad 1950s big-monster movies. Though again, this is Buchanan we are talking about, so I am very doubtful that this was intended in the first place. The campy material on display here happens to be what makes this Buchanan effort much different from his others - that it results in a number of unintended laughs. I wouldn't say that there is enough to make it a genuine so-bad-it's-good movie, mind you - it still has some of the Buchanan trademarks, like clunky pacing and what often seems like a conscious determination to bore you to tears. But I must admit the discomfort that I felt was far less than what I had experienced in the past with Buchanan. So if you can live a life without ever seeing the works of Buchanan, then that's what I'd recommend you to do. However, if circumstances ever dictate that you must watch one of his movies, then The Loch Ness Horror would be the least deadly poison to choose.

I hate you, Larry Buchanan
 And You Call Yourself A Scientist!  Curse Of The Swamp Creature
 B-Notes  Mars Needs Women
 The Bad Movie Report  The Naked Witch
 Braineater  Zontar: The Thing From Venus
 Jabootu's Bad Movie Dimension  It's Alive
 Stomp Tokyo  Mistress Of The Apes
 Teleport City  Creature Of Destruction

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See also: A*P*E, The Crater Lake Monster, Dinosaur Island