The Monster of Highgate Ponds (1961)

The children go to Highgate Ponds to feed the Nessie-creature they have named Beauty
The children go to Highgate Ponds to feed the Nessie-creature they have named Beauty

When a kipper-loving Nessie-type monster hatches from an egg brought back from Malaya by his Uncle Dick (Ronald Howard), a boy called David (Michael Wade) tries to keep the creature secret with the help of his sister Sophie (Rachel Clay) and his friend Chris (Terry Raven).

'Produced specially for children'
‘Produced specially for children’

This B&W British production is low budget and quite sweet, featuring polite children who speak awfully properly and some comical circus villains, who want to capture the monster so that they can use it as a sideshow attraction. This results in a chase along London streets and then Regent’s Canal.

Just chillin' in a pond
Just chillin’ in a pond

The creature itself is initially a stop-motion puppet when it first hatches (the animation is basic but charming), though in some scenes it is just a static model that the children carry about.

Stop-motion puppet of Beauty as a hatchling
Stop-motion puppet depicting the creature as a hatchling
Another shot of the stop-motion puppet
Another shot of the stop-motion puppet
A small non-animated model is utilised in this interaction
A small non-animated model is utilised in this interaction with Michael Wade

When the reptilian critter, which the children name ‘Beauty’, grows larger, the friendly beast is brought to life as a man in a suit. There are also a couple of brief close-up stop-motion shots of its face later in the story.

Beauty is a man-in-suit creation in this shot
Beauty is a man-in-suit creation in this scene

Directed by Alberto (DEAD OF NIGHT) Cavalcanti, the screenplay was written by Mary Cathcart Borer, who wrote a lot of now-forgotten kids films and TV series, including THE DRAGON OF PENDRAGON CASTLE (1953) and MASTERS OF VENUS (1962).

Beauty grabs a policeman's helmet
Beauty grabs a policeman’s helmet

The original story was dreamt up by Joy Batchelor, who founded the British animation company Halas and Batchelor with her husband John Halas. They were behind such productions as the animated feature film ANIMAL FARM (1954) and the Oscar-nominated short AUTOMANIA 2000 (1963).

A dog-walking busybody gets spooked by the pond-loving beastie
A dog-walking busybody gets spooked by the pond-loving beastie

THE MONSTER OF HIGHGATE PONDS, a Halas and Batchelor production made for the Children’s Film Foundation, is rather quaint and very much of its time.

DVD sleeve for Weird Adventures, which includes the Children's Film Foundation productions The Monster of Highgate Ponds, The Boy Who Turned Yellow and A Hitch in Time
DVD sleeve for Weird Adventures, which includes the Children’s Film Foundation productions The Monster of Highgate Ponds, The Boy Who Turned Yellow and A Hitch in Time

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