FILMS… Loch Ness (1996)

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A monster fish out of water movie…


An American scientist heads for the Highlands in search of proof that the Loch Ness Monster doesn’t exist and meets the wrath of those headstrong Scottish folk.


Loch Ness (1996) Movie Trailer, edpsj AND PHOTOS © POLYGRAM FILMED ENTERTAINMENT


Last year, I ran the No True Scotsman Blogathon, and surprisingly one of my favourite non-Scots as a Scot in the movies didn’t make an appearance. This was the role of Scootish – yes I know that’s spelt wrong… but it’s how it was pronounced in this film.  This film was about a warlock hunter, Redferne. This character was played both deftly and dourly by Richard E Grant in the film, Warlock (1989) Grant channels his role as Withnail from Withnail and I (1989) but this time he has a Scootish accent.

The warlock was played with style and panache by the most surprising choice, the terribly English Julian Sands. Sands hams it up in this titular role and looks less like a cross between Simon MacCorkindale and Timothy Dalton as Sands did recently in Crooked House (2017). And more like Jason Issacs with a blond wig.

Warlock also Julie – the cellist – from Fame (1982-87), aka The Beastmaster (1982)’s little sister, Lori Singer in a combination of token love interest and damsel in distress. But enough about this film, where Lori’s big brother Marc Singer as the Beastmaster would have booted the Warlock’s ass in the first five minutes. But it would obviously never have happened if she was cast first.

Loch Ness (1996) didn’t appear in my blogathon either, and this film is set at Loch Ness – a huge lake in Scotland, and not England as some people believe – and also perfectly fitted the bill. It has more than a few familiar acting faces trying the Scottish accent with varying success. At both ends of the cannae do to can do spectrum, these include one actress  – who should know better and more of why later – Joely Richardson and actor, Ian Holm.

Ian Holm plays a water bailiff who Darlin Husband immediately christened Bilbo MacBaggins on seeing this character had no name. He Holm – not my Darlin Husband – spends most of the film balefully looking into space holding a stick and eating an apple. Darlin Husband spent most of the time riffing the movie when he sensed my attention was lagging using an accent that sounded more like Maggie Smith’s Miss Jean Brodie than most of this cast. And he’s English.

The film has been described variously, and the consensus seems to be it’s a cross between Bill Forsyth’s charming Scottish favourite Local Hero (1983) and a dinosaur movie, Jurassic Park (1993). Anyway, to be honest, this description merely elevates it into a much better category. The former film stars Burt Lancaster as one of the Americans in Scotland with Scottish actors. Jurassic Park has an excellent Scottish accent from Richard Attenborough as Dr John Hammond.

Loch Ness is a drama crossed with a family movie with predictable Scottish references and a storyline. The film has as its leading man, everyone’s favourite actor from Three Men and a Little Lady (1990)  / Baby (1987), probably in between Tom Selleck and Steve Guttenberg, the legend that is Ted Danson.

The plot starts in Scotland, where Dr Abernethy (Philip O’Brien) is roamin’ in the gloamin’ on the shores of Loch Ness. He spots something moving in the water… takes a photo, and then dies after slipping on some rocks.

Then we’re thrust over the Atlantic, to Los Angeles.  As Dr Mercer (Harris Yulin) tries to convince his colleague, Dr John Dempsey to travel to Scotland to prove that Nessie – aka the Loch Ness Monster – doesn’t exist.  Yes, that’s right doesn’t!  Dempsey is a laughing stock amongst his peers but ideal for this job as he never found a Yeti in his previous research… cue a prequel that never was… 

Ted Danson – stretching all credibility to its finest – plays Dempsey, a middle-aged zoologist who is then sent from Los Angeles, America – as the in-film titles remind you of the location and the country in the plot where relevant a bit like those Fast and Furious movies –  to do just that.

So his character is dispatched to Loch Ness, Scotland… and it’s a case of cue bagpipes, gingerish wigs, kilts, Rod Stewart on the soundtrack and more familiar Scottish sayings in incomprehensive Scottish accents than your average Outlander (2014-) episode. Dempsey hunts Nessie by scanning the lake with some groovy looking gadgets in the hope that he won’t find her, with his trusty “Scottish” “comic” sidekick researcher, Adrian Foote (James Frain).

Foote believes the Loch Ness Monster exists, as do most of the village folk. These Scots enjoy exploiting the “beastie hunters” who come looking for it and boost their rental prices for boats etc.  Dempsey befriends a wee nine-year-old girl – in what looks like a red wig – called Izzy (Kirsty Graham) who believes in the monster. Izzy tries to fix him up with her (naturally) single reddish-haired mother, the pub and hotel owner Laura McFetridge (Joely Richardson).

Laura (obviously) is the feisty independent type. She is fending off the startlingly blue-eyed Andy Maclean (Nick Brimble) who seems to be the only man her age in this village. Maclean “endearingly” calls her Laura McFrigid to his pals and he wonders why she won’t date him. Meanwhile, Dempsey’s research is annoying those yokel locals, Bilbo MacBaggins the water bailiff (Ian Holm) and the local eccentric, Gordon Shoals (Keith Allen), who wants him to leave the loch and the myth alone…

After Dempsey can’t find the monster, he’s all set to tell all and thus destroy this myth and legend, much to Foote’s and everyone’s upset. Then he sees Abernethy’s final photograph, and it is of what looks like a dinosaur fin.. and then Dempsey’s boat is sunk after a heavy object hits it. So Dempsey believes it’s the monster…

This film is more a romance than a family movie and should have been billed this way. I am sure many of the kids would have switched off after Danson and Richardson gave come hither looks over the haggis. It has one or two direct sexual references in a wtf moment for a family movie. These lines could easily have been cut out with the plot remaining intact. But this film was made for a crew member’s Scottish granny so that might explain why the emphasis on romance.

The will they, won’t they thrills, of other romantic movies and TV, make this possible romance less endearing and even more predictable as the movie shugs on at one hour and forty-one minutes running time. Danson and Richardson had some credible chemistry, but Danson had more of an on-screen rapport – and more scenes – with young Kirsty who played her daughter.

As for whether the monster exists in this film, this film hinted at this possibility throughout the film. This was a nice authentic touch but these ambiguous scenes and ambience added little to the suspense. This is because anyone who has seen the trailer, film stills or film posters or read the crew credits will know what happens.

On the bright side for us Scottish expats, there are tons of Scottish scenery at its finest with some stunning cinematography shots, in all weathers. Although Danson also gets to eat a huge plate of Haggis, neeps and tatties – that would feed a small army – in the most enticing part of the film. But the Scots are frequently seen as dour stereotypes with gingerish hair and wear tartan way too much for my liking.

The film’s cast has all non-Scots playing Scots and two Americans both playing Americans. Joely Richardson was probably the worst culprit of those with dodgy Scottish accents. This was shocking, especially as her mother is Vanessa Redgrave – and therefore part of the illustrious Redgrave acting family dynasty – and played the title role in Mary Queen of Scots (1971).

So perhaps Joely got lessons in how to do the Scottish accent from her brother-in-law, Liam Neeson. Neeson played Rob Roy, a famous Scot in this film biopic, badly. But whoever it was, next time you cast a whole movie with non-Scots and you want them to have a recognisable Scottish accent, I have a particular set of skills…


Weeper Rating  😦😦/10

Handsqueeze Rating 🙂 🙂 🙂 /10

Hulk Rating: ‎ mrgreen‎ mrgreen‎ mrgreen‎ mrgreen‎ mrgreen‎ mrgreen‎ mrgreen‎ mrgreen/10


Fourth So Bad It’s Good Blogathon 2022,  No 4

This film review was added to Taking Up Room‘s Fourth So Bad It’s Good Blogathon. Ian Holm in From Hell and Robin and Marian. Keith Allen in Eddie the Eagle and The Others.  Ted Danson in Ted, Three Men and a Little Lady, Magnum PI. The Simpsons and Frasier. Nick Brimble in Lust for a Vampire, Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves and Space 1999. Philip O’Brien in Quantum Leap, Batman and Bread. James Frain in Tales from the Crypt. Joely Richardson in The Time of Their Lives.



30 thoughts on “FILMS… Loch Ness (1996)

  1. Is it just me, or is this a concept that was destined to fail no mater how good the participants were. Romance is fine, family-friendly is fine, but to name a movie Loch Ness and only hint of the existence of the monster in an hour and forty minutes is begging audiences to shun you once word of mouth gets around. Well, at least you had your own personal riff track to entertain you ! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Come hither looks over haggis!
    That almost makes me want to see this film, Gill, but it all sounds rather painful. And predictable.
    Maybe if I could watch it with a rift track from your darling husband!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Ack, I dislike movies where accents are badly done. It takes you out of the story, doesn’t it?

    I love the premise of this film, and the casting sounds terrific, but I think I’d want a bigger payoff in the end. If your husband ever releases a commentary track, I’m in!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. This film sounds pretty dreadful but the part that bothers me most of all is Danson’s character trying to prove the monster doesn’t exist. You can’t prove the non-existence of something! It makes no sense. I love reading and watching about the Loch Ness Monster but I think I’ll have to give this one a pass.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. “Rod Stewart on the soundtrack.” That got my attention! 😉 Anyhow, have you seen The Water Horse: Legend of the Deep (2007)? That’s the best movie about Nessie that I’ve seen. It’s like a Scottish version of E.T. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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