PLOSH

ness

ROBOT DISCOVERS LOCH NESS MONSTER shrilled the press. I’m old enough to remember when LOCH NESS MONSTER DISCOVERS ROBOT would have been a less startling headline.

What had happened, of course, is that an exploratory underwater robot had stumbled upon a sunken prop from Billy Wilder’s THE PRIVATE LIFE OF SHERLOCK HOLMES, a favourite film of mine (and others of my generation: Mark Gatiss,  Jonathan Coe, who discovered it on TV as kids). Nessie-ologist and famed beard guy Adrian Shine (“I liked his beard” — Werner Herzog in INCIDENT AT LOCH NESS) explained that the monster had been built with two humps, as in legendary sightings, but Billy Wilder took against the humps and ordered them removed, despite concerns being voiced as to how this alteration would affect the creatures flotation. The faux-plesiosaur subsequently capsized and has lodged on the lake bed ever since.

I was a bit skeptical about this, since Shine was using lots of words like “apparently” and “it is suggested,” but Wilder was always one to say he couldn’t judge a scene visually until it was projected — PLOSH DoP Christopher Challis was astonished at this great filmmakers refusal to look through the camera. “He just said he wouldn’t know until he saw it on the screen. If he didn’t like what he saw we’d do it again. Extraordinary. But look at the films he’s made.” So he might have signed off on a humpy dinosaur and then changed his mind when he saw the rushes.

And then there’s THIS —

Sherlock Nessie 3

A shot of a clearly reduced-scale Nessie, its face matching the one in the movie, being towed by a boat. So this version of the creature was built for establishing shots on location. The one seen most prominently in the film is a full-sized head and neck clearly photographed in a studio tank — this is the image most of the newspapers used to illustrate their story, misleading their readers into imagining some thirty-foot colossus embedded in the silt and the loch’s bottom.

Sherlock Nessie

Anyway, all this reminds me that my producer’s favourite film is THE APARTMENT, which I introduced to him, and then I lent him PLOSH, and I still haven’t got it back from the bastard.

Advertisements

4 Responses to “PLOSH”

  1. “Which I introduced to him”… egad! Just how old is he???
    😮

  2. A mere boy and a beardless youth. He did wonder, “How have I not heard of this before?”

    He was my student at the time I showed the film.

  3. In the finished film, there’s the scene of the submarine being presented to Queen Victoria. We see the head and neck being attached; no humps or visible accommodation for same. And in the capsizing scene, no humps. If either of those scenes was filmed (or extensively prepared) first, there might have been a realization that the humps on the miniature wouldn’t match.

  4. Wilder did like to shoot in sequence as much as possible, perhaps explaining why Robert Stephens’ makeup improves as the film goes on (although I’ve also wondered if his shockingly pale appearance in his first scene was the aftermath of his suicide attempt).

    I suspect, anyway, that the head-attaching scene was done later. Though the catastrophe of two non-matching sub/Nessie designs being constructed is precisely the sort of mess that can result from the departmentalisation of film shoots, if you’re not careful.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: