Film of Loch Ness Mystery
The Scotsman Jun 5, 1934.
If Scotland has received worse treatment at the hands of the film producers than most of the other countries—with the certain exception of China, screen land of villains—-we cannot altogether absolve ourselves from blame in the matter? The sin, of course, is of omission: no conscientious or concentrated effort has yet been made in this country to depict Scotland and the Scots on the screen. There have been several short pictorial films reflecting obvious beauty from Highlands and Islands, a few pictures descriptive of local industries, and a number of independent amateur productions, for the most part unimposing in ambition. But there has been no attempt to build up a cinema impression of Scotland and the Scottish character. Murmuring at misrepresentation and criticising caricature on the screen, we have failed to make the obvious response.
The screen conception of Scotland, if frequently crude and very seldom flattering, has not often been so inept as to rouse us to indignant protest. There was, it is true, a silent film from Hollywood which had Annie Laurie as heroine, and the Massacre of Glencoe as one of its spectacular moments; a film of the life of Burns was picturesque but insipid; and several broad comedies have had the kilt, the bagpipes, and haggis in. overwhelming but ridiculous abundance. More damaging than those, however, is the consistent limitation put on the screen Scotsman's character. Hoping to find a suggestion of thrift, intelligence, and endurance in his make-up, we encounter instead either a perpetually kilted clown; crudely demonstrating the Scot's alleged meanness "and drunkenness, or rather a dull, docile person, utterly untypical of a nation traditionally productive of leaders. The music hall comedian is doubtless responsible for much of the misconception; but the film producers ought to go on better authority than his.
Film of Loch Ness Mystery
So firmly is the misconception of the Scot as a kilted toper established in the mind of the film producer that it will require a long course of counter-propaganda before it is removed. We find it, for example, in "The Secret of the Loch" the British film which has been made to capitalise the curiosity aroused regarding the under-water population of Loch Ness. Much of the story is staged in the old inn at Invermoriston, which houses in addition to a garrulous group of reporters apparently looking for scoops in the bottom of beer-mugs, a quaint collection of characters in fancy dress, who, in dialects difficult to identify, affirm repeatedly in chorus, "Mine's a whisky." Unacquainted with the clientele of the inn, we are yet certain that it does not include such Scotsmen as these. But perhaps this is to take more seriously than was intended a film which gives a frankly popular account of the Loch Ness mystery.
According to the film, the monster, half dinosaur, half diplodocus, has been hatched by the abnormal heat of last summer from a prehistoric egg-preserved from decay in the unplumbed waters of the Loch, and the story describes the attempts of a dogmatic professor to visit the monster in his under-water retreat, and the equally relentless efforts, of a young reporter to secure the story for his paper. The film was made by an English company, and is not noticeably sympathetic to the Scottish character. The danger is that the caricature at which we smile will be accepted as authentic by those lacking the perspective of actual experience. Apart from this aspect, we may add, "The Secret of the Loch" is a vigorous and competent production, and, if there is occasionally a marked theatrical note, the cynic may be pardoned for suggesting that it is germane to the subject.
Scotland has been treated more kindly by the documentary than by the studio filmmakers. We remember gratefully Grierson's "Drifters", Jenny Brown's films of the Shetlands, and "O'er Hill and Dale" Basil Wright's poetic picture of the Scottish shepherd. At present Edinburgh is the subject of a further documentary film being made by Marion Grierson for the Travel Association. We have seen some of the preliminary shots for the film taken during Assembly week, and were impressed by their pleasant pictorial quality and sense of intimate contact with the City's life. If we are to counteract the effect of the fantastic films of Scotland abroad, we must have more of these authentic pictures of Scottish life. And we can best guarantee their authenticity by making them ourselves. We need not submit without protesting foreign porridge.