After years of waiting, in the wee small hours of this morning I finally managed to watch Larry Buchanan's rib-tickling monster obscurity The Loch Ness Horror. Let's just call it todays birthday present to myself!
Born in Texas in 1923, Buchanan found his way into the film industry in the early fifties and over the next few decades would carve out a niche for himself as a director, writer and producer of various low budget sci-fi/horror shockers such as Zontar: The Thing From Venus, Curse Of The Swamp Creature and The Naked Witch.
Whilst predictably derided in most critical circles, Buchanan's ropey efforts have however succeeded in amassing a degree of adulation amongst trash cinema aficionado's.
Made in 1981 The Loch Ness Horror remains one of the surprisingly precious few films in the horror genre to ever tackle the subject of "Nessie", the mysterious monster reputed to be lurking in the murky depths of Scotland's Loch Ness. In typical fashion Buchanan would shoot The Loch Ness Horror cheaply with Lake Tahoe, California doubling up for Loch Ness.
Following its minimal release The Loch Ness Horror would drift into a life of obscurity and poor availability on video, becoming a sought after rarity amongst bad movie connoisseur's. Meanwhile Buchanan, his heyday long behind him, would make only another three features prior to his death in 2004.
In all fairness to Buchanan The Loch Ness Horror, despite its inherent cheapness, is actually a competently put together and fairly enjoyable no-budgeter. Although the film was shot in California, the irrepressible Buchanan succeeds in passing his locations off as the Scottish Highlands quite well.
To be frank the titular "Nessie" really doesn't get enough screen time, but nevertheless The Loch Ness Horror largely avoids lapsing into tedium thanks mainly to its amusingly cliched and xenophobic depiction of the Scottish. While Buchanan's son Barry is rather bland and wooden in the lead role as the young American researcher Spencer Dean, the rest of the cast are evidently having fun as they struggle to maintain absurdly phony Scottish accents. Character actor Doc Lawrence in particular is a real hoot, really hamming it up as the local loony Jack Stuart, who happens to be an authority on the monster. The cast is also fleshed out by a gang of wisecracking, bicycle-riding American teenagers (who are introduced trilling an impromptu rendition of "You take the high road, I'll take the low road" ) on a camping trip in the area, who contribute some amusingly cheesy dialogue if nothing else.
However, it of course goes without saying that the real attraction here is "Nessie" itself and on the rare, randomly plonked in occasion's when the titular, smoke-blowing beast does make its presence felt it really steals the show. An obvious green rubber model "Nessie", aside from a little mechanical jaw movement, looks completely inanimate and trundles along as if it were moving on wheels. The fact that it is only ever shown from the neck upwards suggests this probably was the case! The rubbishness of the monster actually works in the films favour, indeed all of its appearances are real side-splitters in particular one hilarious scene which sees "Nessie" chow down rather unconvincingly on the arm and head of the films principal villain.
One element of The Loch Ness Horror that proves considerably less successful however, is the addition of a tedious, pointless subplot involving a Nazi aircraft which crashed into the Loch during WWII. Although the crash is shown in the films opening sequence this subplot is not really introduced in earnest until the films final third and unfortunately it does rather drain the films latter stages of interest, which is a shame really. Personally I would have much preferred to have seen this subplot erased in favour of some more dodgy monster mayhem.
In conclusion The Loch Ness Horror, whilst never living up to the promise of its superb poster/video cover, still possesses ample amounts of trashy charm thanks mostly to the limited yet hysterically funny monster antics of the rubbish looking "Nessie". While I don't suggest anyone else goes to the same pains that I did to check out Buchanan's effort, it is in all fairness entertaining, low budget crap which at least never outstays its welcome.
Worth checking out for trash fans. I really will have to try and pick up a few more Buchanan films on DVD. Anyone have any recommendations for me?
At present The Loch Ness Horror is unavailable on DVD and while I take no pleasure in being a pessimist I wouldn't personally hold my breath whilst waiting for it to ever get a release. The Loch Ness Horror was released on video here in the UK during the pre-cert era on the Diplomat label and there is also a long OOP American NTSC VHS release from Monterey Home Video. However, both are as rare as rocking horse poo these days and on the rare occasion's original tapes turn up on E-Bay or Amazon Marketplace they tend to command a high price from what I've seen. For more cash strapped folk such as myself who want to check The Loch Ness Horror out there's always the DVD-R route, although I obviously don't advocate such disreputable behaviour...