Director – Milton Rosmer, Screenplay – Charles Bennett & Billie Bristow, Producer – Bray Wyndham, Photography (b&w) – James Wilson, Underwater Photography – Eric Cross, Music – Peter Mendoza, Decor – J. Elder Willis. Production Company – Wyndham Productions
Frederick Peisley (Jimmy Anderson), Seymour Hicks (Professor Heggie), Nancy O’Neil (Angela Heggie), Gibson Gowland (Angus)
There are reported sightings of the Loch Ness Monster. Professor Heggie announces to a conference in London that he is certain that the monster exists and it is really a prehistoric diplodocus. This is greeted with ridicule by his fellow scientists. Jimmy Anderson, a reporter for the Daily Sun, wants to obtain an exclusive interview with Heggie. He travels to Loch Ness, joining a horde of other journalists who have descended there. Professor Heggie proves notoriously cranky and publicity adverse but Jimmy charms both his granddaughter Angela and gillie Angus. However, when a diver goes missing in the loch during Heggie’s attempts to search for the monster’s cave, the professor is placed on trial and accused of negligence. With the professor’s only line of defence being the existence of the monster, Jimmy determines to return with proof.
This fairly obscure British-made film would appear to be the very first ever film treatment of the Loch Ness Monster. London surgeon Robert Kenneth Wilson published his famous photo of the monster in the Daily Mail in April 1934 and the film came out just over one month later.
The monster has made a number of appearances since then with the likes of What a Whopper (1961), Legend of Loch Ness (1976), The Loch Ness Horror (1982), Nessie (1985), Loch Ness (1996), Beneath Loch Ness (2001), Incident at Loch Ness (2004), The Water Horse (2007) and Beyond Loch Ness (2008). Not to mention odd cameos in films such as 7 Faces of Dr Lao (1964) where it was one of the title character’s various guises; The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes (1970), which featured a mechanical version; and Amazon Women on the Moon (1987), which makes the claim that monster was Jack the Ripper. Equally strange have been its appearances on tv in the likes of The Convenient Monster (1966) episode of The Saint; an episode of Bewitched (1964-72) that reveals the monster is a witch; and the Doctor Who episode Terror of the Zygons (1975), which reveals it is an alien cyborg. (For a more detailed overview see Films About the Loch Ness Monster).
The Secret of the Loch is hardly an auspicious effort for being the very first Loch Ness Monster film. The modern monster movie did not exist back in this period and so the film has been construed more as a comedy. There is a certain snappy sense of humour. The film gets much mileage out of scenes with greenhorn reporter Frederick Peisley being taken advantage of by the locals in the pub with their shaggy dog stories or his being taken as a Scotsman by Gibson Gowland’s manservant after appropriating a clan tie.
On the other hand, the conference scenes collapse into the buffoonish where director Milton Rosmer seems more interested in slapstick routines, slamming sticks on old duffers’ feet or having them wake up and start babbling the name of their wife. Certainly, in the role of the professor Seymour Hicks blusters his way through the film with entertaining regard.
The dramatics are thoroughly mundane. The film seems to be less concerned with the existence of the Loch Ness Monster than reporter Frederick Peisley’s determined efforts to get inside the professor’s house. As was very much the wont for films of this era, the film sees the need to add a romantic subplot where Frederick Peisley pursues the professor’s daughter Nancy O’Neil despite neither she nor her father seeming to want him around the house. After 65 minutes of the film’s 71 minute running time, we do eventually get an appearance of the Loch Ness Monster, although the unconvincing optically enlarged lizard standing in for the monster defeats the exercise altogether.