[box cover]

Incident at Loch Ness

Since his films hit American shores — and more specifically after the 1982 Les Blank documentary Burden of Dreams — director Werner Herzog has attracted a cult following. Not so much his films per se, but the man himself — as shown in Dreams, one gets the impression of a mad German scientist with precise ideas and unhinged fantasies. This is best represented in Dreams: While filming Fitzcarraldo (1982) — about a man who moves a boat over a mountain — Herzog makes his crew literally move a boat over a mountain. Many of his biggest fans are in Hollywood; Crispin Glover and screenwriter Zak Penn (best known for writing Last Action Hero) have latched themselves to him, and with Incident at Loch Ness (2004), Penn gets to direct a movie starring his idol. The premise of the film is that Penn is producing Herzog's latest documentary, entitled The Enigma of Loch Ness, and both are followed by cinematographer John Bailey, who's going to make a Dreams-esque documentary on the making of said project. Teaming up with a film crew (including cinematographer Gabriel Beristain), troubles between Penn and Herzog unfurl thanks to Penn's Hollywood demands. For instance, Penn wants everyone to wear matching jumpsuits, hires a "crypto-zoologist" (Michael Karnow) who's obviously a nutter, and his sonar expert is ex-Budweiser catfighter Kitana Baker, whom Penn makes take a dip in the freezing Loch Ness lake. After more ridiculous Penn decisions, some crew jump ship, but there appears to be something in the water — and it may or may not be the producer's doing. Incident at Loch Ness and its makers (even on the DVD) want people to be fooled that the film was a real documentary, and some viewers may have the chance to read the piece that way, but even so, the script makes it rather evident early that this isn't totally on the level. There are some clever ideas to be found here, and Penn takes a lot of pot shots at the Hollywood mentality — though by having Penn himself play the character of the jerk producer it lessens the parody; it's toothless because Penn is obviously in control of his own ineptness, and knowing that the filmmakers are trying to pull our legs gives the movie an aimless quality. The real pleasure is spending 90 minutes with Herzog, who seems to have mellowed with age. He's a charming host — but displaying none of the creative insanity that made him famous. Alas, that seems to be the picture's missing element; as funny as it might be to see Herzog buy razors, you wish it was he and not Penn who was flipping out. It's also what keeps Incident at Loch Ness from being anything more than a curio. Fox presents the title on DVD in anamorphic widescreen (1.78:1) and Dolby Digital 5.1 audio. Extras include a partial audio commentary with Penn and revolving guests (including Herzog) that react to the film as a real event and only runs 55 minutes. On the flip side there's additional supplements, with six deleted scenes featuring cut interviews with faux scientist Michael Karnow (6 min.), four cuts scenes with Penn (4 min.) two cut scenes with Herzog (2 min.), along with 12 additional scenes (12 min.). There are also multiple Easter eggs, include a 22-minute "making-of" and the real feature-length audio commentary with Herzog and Penn. Keep-case.
—DSH



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