Nessie That Wasn’t

Nessie pic

I think this picture is of a monster from a Hammer Films / Toho co-production that never happened.

I’ve been reading Sinclair McKay’s A Thing of Unspeakable Horror: The History of Hammer Films (Aurum Press, 2007) — which is a fascinating sociological study, even if I find some of his evaluations of specific films problematic — and I came across a reference to an interesting giant monster film that died before production began. Apparently Bryan Forbes (who had been a managing director of EMI in the early 1970s) was approached by Hammer in the mid-1970s regarding a film project.

Hammer — like the rest of the British film industry — was struggling to survive, forced out of profitability by contracting cinema attendance, lack of funding opportunities and changing perceptions of the horror genre that Hammer had previously dominated with its unique gothic approach. Hammer hoped that Forbes could help guide the company into new, more viable areas.

According to McKay, Forbes wrote a screenplay for a film of epic proportions called “Nessie”. It would:

…. dramatise the Loch Ness Monster and be a sort of cross between King Kong and Jaws. ‘It was a sort of horror in that it was a monster movie,’ [Forbes] recalled. Forbes wrote a very detailed screenplay, one involving underwater ruins and oil rigs in the Indian ocean getting wrecked.’

Various people were to be involved, including Godzilla’s Toho Studios (according to Toho Kingdom). Bryan Forbes would direct and Toho’s Teruyoshi Nakano handle special effects, with David Frost, Euan Lloyd, Michael Carreras, and Tomoyuki Tanaka producing (at least according to the poster mock-up that was created):

Nessie poster

‘But it disappeared,’ said Forbes. ‘Just disappeared without trace really.’ Forbes still has the script, and production sketches… (McKay, p.173)

Toho Kingom adds:

Work on the film had actually already commenced on Toho’s part by the time that the financial backing from Hammer fell through. Special effects guru Teruyoshi Nakano had already designed and created the Nessie prop by the time the project was finally axed. This wasn’t the first time a co-production between Toho and a foreign company resulted in one of the companies pulling out after production had started though, the first being the TV version of Varan in 1958. However, after the rights issues involving another failed joint venture, Latitude Zero (1969), following its initial theatrical release, this project was most likely best deemed left unfinished. This film wouldn’t mark the end of the Nessie prop, however, as special effects director Nakano would bring the creature back as the Dragon in his last film, Princess from the Moon, done in 1987.


  • Sinclair McKay, A Thing of Unspeakable Horror: A History of Hammer Films (Aurum, 2007)
  • Toho Kingdom (including images)
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4 Responses to Nessie That Wasn’t

  1. Todd says:

    So that’s what NESSIE would have looked like…
    Very nice find, indeed; almost “alternative-Godzilla-ish”
    in design;0). I would have loved to see this one made.

  2. Backbrain says:

    Apparently the budget was to have been $8mill. That’s rather big for both companies.

    I haven’t been able to confirm that the picture is a “genuine” one of Nessie as she was to be. I’m assuming so from the way Toho Kingdom organise their pages. But I’ll love confirmation (or otherwise)….

  3. Luana says:

    20 Agosto 2010 alle 08:51
    Nessie Loch Ness Monster and the Black Man without a face date 1949-
    Artist Maurits Cornelis ESCHER 1898-1972 NL

    June 29th 2010, Rome
    Great works of art
    Andrea Dipré, famous art critique with Antonio Prospero, CEO of the Escher-
    Nessie association.
    Welcome to you all by Andrea Dipré, presenter of the program The Great Works
    of art. The subject of today’s program is a drawing of exceptional and
    fundamental importance due to its artistic value by the Dutch graphic artist
    and engraver Maurits Cornelis Escher who, with his genius, tackled the
    geometrical representation of art.
    One of his works was found by chance a few years ago, stashed away for decades
    in an old and forgotten garage in a small village in the southern region of
    Campania. This work is of extraordinary importance.
    Escher was loved by scientists, mathematicians and logicians. The work is
    dedicated to the myth of the Monster of Loch Ness known as Nessie.
    The picture is held together in a wooden oak frame and depicts a mysterious
    figure playing a fife who seems to be enchanting the sea creature with his
    Here you can see a life-size photo of the original, which is well hidden in a
    secret location. On the back of the picture there is the signature of Escher
    himself as confirmed by a scientific study of his calligraphy.
    The work is a charcoal drawing measuring 53 cm x 42 cm. This extraordinary
    piece of art was found, as said above, by chance by policeman Raffaele De Feo.
    The calligraphy and signature have been officially recognized. The work is of
    amazing importance also due to the sightings of the Monster of Loch Ness which
    began in the 1930s.
    The work was given to policeman Rafaelle De Feo’s mother and brought to Italy
    a few years later to Volturara Irpina a small village in the southern province
    of Avellino . Escher managed to represent the essence of Nessie. Here is the
    life-size photo of the picture. You can contact the owner or Mr. Prospero for
    more information, and have the chance to see the original which belongs to myth
    rather than history.
    The work, I remind you, is an Escher, the great Dutch artist who was born in
    1898 and died in 1972. Mr. Prospero is also working hard to make the piece of
    art obtain the recognition it deserves. It has already had great success by a
    vast public, but my wish is for it to obtain even larger and wider popularity.
    Thank you.

  4. Roger Todd says:

    Fascinating stuff! I found a reference on another website to the film originally being pitched in 1976. That date is interesting given one element of the proposed film – oil rigs being wrecked, presumably by the monster.

    In September 1975, Britain’s venerable BBC science fiction series Doctor Who ran a four-part story called ‘Terror of the Zygons’ in which the titular amphibious aliens control a cyborg monster (the Skarasen) which is none other than the Loch Ness Monster itself! The opening scene of the story has the creature attack and wreck an oil rig in the North Sea, one of many rigs so attacked according to the script (though only the one was shown for budgetary reasons).

    I wonder if Bryan Forbes had watched the serial whilst writing his movie script…

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