Lionsgate UK are again releasing a batch of its Vestron Video Collector’s Series on Blu-ray. As like last time Infernal Cinema is reviewing these titles, this time its the turn of Lair of the White Worm…
On sale 26th February from Lionsgate, directed by Ken Russell.
James D’Ampton (Grant) returns to his country castle in England. Legend has it that James’s distant ancestor once slayed the local dragon — a monstrous white worm with a fondness for the sweet flesh of virgins. The young lord dismisses the legend as folklore, until archaeology student Angus Flint explores James’s property and unearths a massive reptilian skull and a pagan snake god’s ancient site of worship.
This movie is, at times, mad. There are moments in this feature that are truly startling and jump out from the screen at you. Some cause unintentional laughter and some are genuinely impressive.
Lair of the White Worm is one hell of a ride, with a quirkiness that makes sure it stays in the viewers mind after the run time has ended. Which is ironic considering the first 20-25 minutes feel like some sort of drab BBC drama serial set in the country. It all starts off rather genteel and moribund. But this being a Ken Russell movie things thankfully don’t stay this way for long.
There are moments that see a middle aged tubby police officer being charmed like a snake by a future Doctor Who playing the bagpipes, a woman spitting venom at a crucifix and Amanda Donohoe wearing an almighty strap-on while covered in pale blue bodypaint. Then there’s some of the more sexual scenes (this is a Ken Russell flick, after all) that mainly involve Donohoe wearing very little or caressing and sucking large wooden stakes. These all add up to make Lair of the White Worm feel like a completely different movie to the one that started.
Although he may not have known it at the time but Russell would cast two British actors that would go on to achieve great global fame. The biggest future star is Hugh Grant. Just five years before finding worldwide lasting fame in Four Weddings and a Funeral here he is being foppish and cast as a posh boy (what a shock). Next there is now-former Doctor Who lead Peter Capaldi, being non-stop incredibly Scottish. The sight of him appearing out of nowhere in a full kilt and sporting bagpipes is something to behold. He swears only once (‘batshit’ is uttered, for those wondering). Grant and Capaldi actually have brilliant screen chemistry together and their joint scenes during the second half of the feature have some genuinely funny and entertaining exchanges.
Amanda Donohue is over the top and campy as the evil and manipulative Lady Marsh. She is stunning to look at, whether it be fully clothed or nude. Ken Russell must have bloody loved filming her.
Based on the Bram Stoker book of the same name, it’s safe to say this differs greatly in places to the original source material. Although it is believed Stoker wrote this while heavily medicated, which would make sense.