Tetsuo II: Body Hammer – The sequel to Cyberpunk Body Horror turns 30
The existence of the Loch Ness Monster is plausible, according to scientists who have discovered fossils of an extinct long-necked reptile in what was once a freshwater river system in present-day Morocco. The news got me thinking about how, despite being the most well-known cryptid next to Bigfoot, Nessie is rarely portrayed in horror cinema.
Once upon a time, however, we nearly got a really exciting Nessie movie.
In 1976, two of the most renowned international genre studios – Tohothe japanese kaiju kings behind the Godzilla franchise, and Hammerthe British film company known for its brightly colored gothic monster films, has begun developing a co-production titled Nessie. Partially inspired by the success of Jawsvarious scripts were written and a promotional poster was created, but the project never came to fruition.
The ambitious film would have started with a lorry containing a dangerous chemical crashing near Loch Ness, awakening the ancient sleeping monster from its murky depths. Thus begins a globe-trotting rampage from Scotland to the Canary Islands and the port of Hong Kong, tangling with tuna boats, a nuclear submarine and an oil rig along the way.
Having struggled to secure funding and international distribution on several previous projects, Nessie seems to have been Hammer’s attempt to avoid the waning popularity of gothic horror in favor of a larger spectacle with broader appeal. It all started with a treatment Clarke Reynoldswho already wrote 1967 The Viking Queen for Hammer and was best known for the years 1968 Shalako with Sean Connery.
Knowing that special effects would be critical to the success of the project, Hammer struck a deal with Toho-Towa to contribute a portion of the budget to be spent on special effects in exchange for Far East distribution rights. Veteran of the Godzilla franchise Teruyoshi Nakano would serve as special effects director on the production.
Upon learning that the British media personality David Frost (named after Frost/Nixon) was developing his own Loch Ness Monster movie titled Carnivorous, Hammer reached out and Frost suggested they join forces. He came on board as a producer, joining studio head Hammer Michael Carrerashammer board member Euan Lloydand producer of Toho Tomoyuki Tanaka.
With Toho keen to see a script – then only in the processing phase – regular Hammer Christophe Wick (To hell with a girl, scream and scream again) was tasked with delivering one quickly. Actor turned filmmaker Brian Forbes (The Women of Stepford) – which had appeared in two Hammer efforts: 1957 Quatermasse 2 and 1959 yesterday’s enemy – then developed the screenplay and was attached to direct. He eventually gave up and was replaced by Michael Andersonfresh off the success of Logan’s Race.
Nessie was officially announced at the Cannes Film Festival in May 1976. Originally conceived with a budget of $3 million, it was announced as a $7 million production, matching the estimated budget of Jaws. Rising costs necessitated the arrival of additional investors, with Hammer weaving a tangle of negotiations with Columbia Pictures in the United States as well as producers in Germany and South Africa.
Having failed to secure the full budget and with growing concerns over nearly every other aspect – script, directing, special effects, programming, rights – Nessie had died in the water in early 1979. Hammer went into liquidation soon after. Construction of the Nessie propeller was already well advanced; it is said that Nakano later used it as a dragon in 1987 moon princess.
The list of unmade films is so extensive that there are numerous documentaries, podcasts, books, and articles (including Bloody Disgusting’s Phantom Limbs) dedicated to the subject, but Nessie remains largely elusive. The “what if?” of two genre powerhouses working together to bring the legendary creature to the screen is undeniably fascinating, but the main actors involved have never spoken about it publicly and, since Nakano’s death last June, have all passed away. Perhaps the recently renewed interest in the cryptid will Nessie swim on the big screen in their honor.