The Secret of the Loch (1934)
|The Loch Ness Monster makes its first ever onscreen appearance|
In the early 1930s there was a sudden rush of reports of a monster residing in the depths of Loch Ness. Never an industry to miss a chance to jump on a bandwagon, the monster soon made its way to British cinema screens.
Now The Secret of the Loch is available to a modern audience courtesy of Network DVD who have licensed it from StudioCanal for volume 4 of its Ealing Studios Rarities collection.
Edited by David Lean and co-written by Charles Bennett (who later wrote The 39 Steps and The Man Who Knew Too Much for Hitchcock), it is a fast paced film but which has little to commend it. Its main appeal is its claim to be the first cinematic appearance of the Loch Ness monster. And what a monster it is.With serious budget constraints there was no hope of creating a monster to rival King Kong (which had been released the previous year). Instead a simple solution was found: an iguana was filmed walking across a model of the loch’s bed. This was then back projected to show it advancing on a diver. In another shot a model diver is seen suspended in front of the reptile.
The back projection is a success and has none of the harsh lines associated with the matte process that was regularly used for superimposing action during this period.
The film is of also interest for the inclusion of the actor Gibson Gowland.
A former merchant seaman, Gowland had first acted as an uncredited extra in Hollywood epics such as Birth of a Nation and Intolerance. In 1924 he played he lead in Erich Von Stroheim’s Greed. The following year he had a leading role in The Phantom of the Opera, with Lon Chaney. Such is that fickle nature of fame that, after a period in the UK, by the 1940s he was back in Hollywood working as an extra. Ironically, in 1941 he was an played a uncredited villager in The Wolf Man, starring Lon Chaney Jnr, whose father Gowland had appeared alongside in The Phantom of the Opera, back in the days when his career was at its height.