Monday, May 27, 2013

Trailer Park :: The Key to the Loch :: Larry Buchanan's The Loch Ness Horror (1981)

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"Well, what is a monster? It's not easy to achieve monster status."
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For the last 1400 years there have been tales of a monster lurking in the murky depths of Loch Ness; a large body of water nestled in the highlands of Scotland. And despite numerous eye-witness accounts and photographic evidence, concrete proof of the creature's existence has been maddeningly elusive. Until now...

In the annals of movie history, aside from Arch Oboler, there is a nary a bigger culprit, cinematically and inertly speaking, than Larry Buchanan in the 'tell don't show' form of movie-making. (Loosely translated: We don't even get to watch the paint dry, we get to listen to somebody describe the paint drying for about an hour and half. No. Wait. It's more like listening to someone else describe how another person described paint drying on a wall for six straight hours.) Talk is cheap, and film and F/X cost money, after all, explaining why this filmmaker has provided many a cinematic Waterloo for even the most hardened film buff. 

Still, after a string of made for TV remakes for American International pictures in the late 1960's, Buchanan settled into a demented groove of revisionist B.S. bio-flicks, tin-foil hat conspiracy diatribes, and speculative cinema on everyone from Marylin Monroe, to Howard Hughes, to Lee Harvey Oswald. However, somehow, no matter how inspired, Buchanan would take these incredibly novel and monumentally screwy ideas and drain nearly every ounce of momentum from them, making most a chore to sit through. I mean, how can you take the idea of Nixon enlisting a rogue branch of the CIA to clandestinely kill the three 'Pied Pipers' of rock and roll and make it boring? Buchanan can, and he did, too. Still, if you can manage to kick and scratch your way through 'em, there are a few rewards to be found hither and yon.

Now, amidst all of that conspiratorial tedium and whackadoodle theories is a strange anomaly in Buchanan's oeuvre; a throwback monster movie called The Loch Ness Horror. And as I started to translate my notes into a synopsis, I slowly realized they could explain the movie and Buchanan's tactics all on their own. Read on...

-- We open in 1940, with a German bomber flying over Loch Ness. A kook in a castle hears the plane. And Inflato-Nessie just surfaced. Holy shit. Nessie vs. Nazis?!? This is gonna be, oh, wait. This is a Larry Buchanan flick. Right. Yes. Nessie dives back under the water and we cut to the present. That's it. Thanks a lot, Larry.

-- Ah. I see. There are two kinds of Nessie hunters. The scrupulous. And the unscrupulous. 

-- Hunh. And there's the Nazi bomber, mostly intact, and the pilots, also mostly intact, at the bottom of the Loch. Maybe the monster did eat the plane? Nah, that doesn't make any sense. Maybe the pilot saw the monster, had a heart attack and crashed? That makes perfect sense. Regardless, whatever happened, it happened off screen. Repeat it with me: Thanks a lot, Larry.

-- "The Mad Scot of Killie-Cranky Isle." Really, Larry? Really? 

-- Oh, wow. The highland brogues are a little thick in this. Stress on the gargling RRRRRRs. These aren't just Scotsman. These be Pirate Scotsman.

-- Okay. The score thus far. The good guys are still listening to stories and theories from the Mad Scot of Killie-Cranky Isle, who, according to the film, was responsible for the famous photo of Nessie. The bad guys have gained possession of Nessie's egg. And the MacGuffin -- sorry, the Nazi plane and pilots are still at the bottom of the Loch. 


-- And now the obligatory romantic interlude between the American hero (the son of the writer, director and producer) and the Daughter of the Mad Scot of Killie-Cranky Isle. She hates Yanks. He's a dope. Oh, how will it end? Shut up and kiss 'er already!!! 

"But Professor? How does the Loch Ness Monster 'get it on'?" 
"The coupling cannot be called in the vernacular, 'a quickie.'"

-- Turns out Nessie's a hermaphrodite. Who knew. Also of note, the juxtaposition of conjecturing on Nessie's mating habits onshore with the clumsy courtship of the hero and Kathleen out on the boat is pretty darned hysterical. Got it, Larry. Now move along, please and thank you.

-- Heh. And now we reach the 'Nessie the 13th' portion of our movie as two horny teens row to a secluded castle for a little secret nookie. And not just any secluded castle. But the secluded castle of the Mad Scot of Killie-Cranky Isle! 

-- Meanwhile the hero and the daughter are pulling a "Wake Up, Little Susie" out on the Loch. Only they're not at the drive in. They're in a boat. And they're not watching a movie. They're watching sonar readings and arguing over the etiquette of profanity. They haven't fallen asleep either. So, never mind. Forget I even brought this analogy up.

-- And the Mad Scot of Killie-Cranky Isle, armed with an axe, just interrupted the horny couple mid-grope. And during the melee, gets himself axed to death. Now, I think the old fart and Nessie share some kind of psychic link. But, being a Buchanan flick, we're kinda left holding the bag on these presumptions. Regardless, Nessie is now on the prod and seeking revenge. 

-- Aaaaand she just ate half of the horny couple. New rule of horror: Have sex, get eaten by a lake monster. Check, and check.

-- No. No. Don't send the traumatized surviving half of the horny couple to the hospital. Or even listen to her warning. Just shush shush, tut tut and send the wee lassie home. 

-- Also, in regards to our hero, are you sure you want your radio call sign to be 'Wet Bottom'?

-- Uh oh. Last surviving bad guy still has Nessie's egg AND he's just kidnapped the daughter of the late Mad Scot of Killie-Cranky Isle. 

-- And now, UNIT just showed up. Hoping for Zygons. What the hell? Oh, wait. The Nazi plane.

-- Waitaminute. I thought he was dead?!? Oh, that must have been the OTHER Mad Scot of Killie-Cranky Isle. Then who the hell was that other guy?!? 

-- Updating the score: the British military has put Loch Ness on complete lockdown. The bad guy is currently trying to break through said roadblock with the daughter and the egg tucked away in the back of his van. The hero is still tinkering with the sonar. And I still have no idea who the horny teenage couple killed last night.

-- On a positive note. Lake Tahoe is doing an admirable job of posing as Loch Ness.

-- Fear not, sweet Kathleen. Nessie's in hot pursuit and will save you! The Dukes of Loch Ness! Hit it, Roscoe! 

Ladies and gentlemen, the absolute zenith 
of Larry Buchanan's film career.

-- Okay, ladies. You've been kidnapped, trussed up in the back of a van, and just witnessed the Loch Ness Monster eat your kidnapper and two other people. What would you do next? If your answer is to return home, change into a dress to impress your new beau, and pretend it all never happened then, congrats, you, too, could write a movie about the Loch Ness Monster. Oh, Larry. No, honey. No...

-- And what would a Larry Buchanan flick be without some form of government conspiracy? It's too stupid to repeat the details, but involves the Nazi MacGuffin, an Upper Class Twit of the Year not being at his post back in 1940, and explains the presence of the British military to keep it all under a very wet blanket. 

 -- You maniacs! You blew her up! Damn you. Damn you all to hell! Goodbye, dear, sweet Nessie. *ahem* One big bowl of Plesiosaur soup comin' up.

-- And we close with the hapless hero tearing away from his sonar long enough to help the daughter, after she takes time to change clothes, again, to return the late Nessie's still percolating egg to the bottom of the Loch. The end. Wheeeeeee! 

Circle of life and all of that.

Though light years ahead of the threadbare creatures in his Azalea films, Buchanan's Nessie is still a hoot and a half to behold. Created by Tom Valentine and Peter Chesney, this hydraulic powered prop's plastic origins are easily betrayed -- and one could swear the whole thing was simply a giant inflatable pool toy; and its crossed-eyes and permanent grin, with those perfect teeth, make the creature look slightly teched in the head. Still, the fully animatronic creature runs rather smoothly (better, dare I say, than Bruce the shark ever did), and, to the directors credit, he shot it as effectively as it could be shot considering the limitations. To me, Nessie's loopy appearance only adds another layer of delirium to the proceedings. And believe it or not, this was not the creature's only screen appearance, as it would be recycled some six years later in Joe Dante's Bullshit or Not segment of Amazon Women on the Moon

Was the Loch Ness Monster really Jack the Ripper?

The Loch Ness Horror was also a total family affair for Buchanan, too, with his wife serving as producer, his son in the lead as the hero, another son stationed in the editing booth, and a daughter serving as script-supervisor and an extra. And even though his usual Buchananisms are all present and accounted for, I hereby declare The Loch Ness Horror is easily this certain Schlockmeister's best -- if not the most easily digestible film. And leave it to me to save the best for last. That's right. Now that I have finally seen The Loch Ness Horror, I have officially scratched everything Buchanan has produced, directed and written -- yes, even Mistress of the Apes and Strawberries Need Rain -- off the watch-list. Woo to the ever-lovin' hoo! I am done with this guy. However, it should be said that, even though there are some I will never, ever watch again, others, especially The Loch Ness Horror, will probably find their way back into rotation again at some point. I mean, c'mon, that critter is ADOREABLE! Sadly, aside from a long out of print VHS release, like Nessie, this film is maddeningly elusive. However, a quick search around YouTube will provide all the evidence you need of this film's existence.

The Loch Ness Horror (1981) Clan Buchanan :: Omni-Leasure / EP: Jane Buchanan / P: Larry Buchanan, John F. Rickert / AP: Irvin Berwick / D: Larry Buchanan / W: Larry Buchanan, Lynn Shubert / C: Robert Ebinger / E: Randy Buchanan / M: Richard H. Theiss / S: Sandy Kenyon, Miki McKenzie, Barry Buchanan, Doc Livingston, Stuart Lancaster

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