Loch Ness They Created a Monster TV REVIEW

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Loch Ness They Created A Monster is a fascinating documentary study of the quirky personalities and cultural clashes in the Loch Ness Monster hunt, writes NEIL NIXON

Loch Ness They Created A Monster

There’s no shortage of the monstrous or strange in a new documentary film on the shenanigans in and around Loch Ness from the early seventies to the mid-eighties.

Nessie remains an elusive and enigmatic presence as the true natures of the human menagerie gathered to hunt the mythical creature(s) slowly reveal themselves. 

Long-term stalwarts of the hunt – Tim Dinsdale and Frank Searle – are represented in archive footage and by those who have survived them (in Dinsdale’s case by the son he left for lengthy periods to hunt the Loch Ness Monster, in Searle’s case by one of the female assistants he recruited, collaborated with and famously bedded in his tiny caravan on the quiet side of the Loch). 

Another veteran, Adrian Shine, remains focussed and capable of looking back half a century to tell his own story.

An observation made directly at one point and hidden in plain sight frequently during the 91 engrossing minutes is that this golden age occurred partly because of the collision of hardened military men like Searle for whom the regularities of civilian life after combat held no attraction, and a younger hippie generation disdainful of rules who found the romance and counter-cultural feel of life on the side of the Loch a perfect escape from other options.

Amongst the second group a few notable paranormal community figures appear, including Mike Dash whose eloquent insights into what he and his fellow volunteers did illuminate the details missing from the grainy archive footage, most of which was clearly shot to illustrate moments when the endless empty hours of unproductive Loch watching were punctuated by action.

Dash was on hand when the explosive collision of the crusty and truculent Searle and the more academic and high-tech Loch Ness Project finally occurred. I’m giving nothing away – it’s a collision you know is waiting to happen from the moment you meet the key characters and realise Searle’s low-key caravan, newsletter and photograph sales were located on the less frequented shore whilst the increasingly large research presence gathered around Shine and a steady stream of ambitious mavericks, some with substantial funds, favoured locations near Urquhart Bay on the main Inverness to Fort William road facing Searle. 

The historic tale is framed for the present day by footage on a current coach tour, complete with lively commentary describing the action of decades ago and some of the key evidence, notably the short black and white film taken by Dinsdale that – apparently – defined the final decades of his life.

Indeed, Dinsdale is shown in one clip suggesting he’ll devote 20 years to hunting the monster, having filmed something enigmatic in April 1960, he was still searching for an encore to the famous footage in 1987 when he died. 

Frank Searle’s vivid and notably prolific output of still photographs also feature, along with the two notable sets of underwater shots gained from combining strobe lights, sonar, and underwater cameras in the seventies. 

The shots of massive banks of juddering computer tapes and the discussion of just what “computer enhancement” of photographs meant in 1975 (there were basically two places on the planet capable of delivering this), is an insightful glimpse into how far the abilities of researchers have come. 

Your mobile phone today effortlessly out-performs an entire floor of clunky seventies computer hardware, a point you’ll easily grasp when you see the cutting-edge technology of 50 years ago clunking away whilst earnest looking employees go about their business. 

Each element of the evidence gets its turn in the feature length exploration of days the Loch is unlikely to see repeated, but it is the human researchers and the community around them that emerge as the real stars and their story that is the takeaway insight from this occasionally inspiring and frequently darkly comic tale.  

You can watch Loch Ness They Created A Monster on BBC iPlayer  

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