The Lair of the White Worm – Blu-ray review
Director: Ken Russell
Cast: Amanda Donohoe, Hugh Grant, Catherine Oxenberg
Reviewed By Brian M. Sammons
This is a Ken Russell movie. The same guy that gave us Tommy, Altered States, Crimes of Passion, and Gothic, so you know it’s going to be weird as hell, interesting, and unique. But is this often forgotten 1988 film any good? Well it is based off of a Bram Stoker novel, so that’s promising, right? It has Hugh Grant in one of his earliest roles…although he pretty much disowns this movie now. For you Whovians out there, it has Peter Capaldi before he became the latest Doctor Who, so that’s something, yeah? It tells a bit of English folklore through the prism of Lovecraftian horror, and that usually a safe bet. Aw hell, it’s The Lair of the White Worm, now out on Blu-ray from Lionsgate’s Vestron Video Collector’s Series imprint, so let’s just dive in and enjoy the crazy.
Angus Flint (Capaldi) is excavating an ancient Roman site in the green and pleasant lands of Britain, when he unearths a huge, unrecognizable skull and some murals showing people worshiping a giant white snake-thing, or worm as dragons used to be called in ye olden days. This is curious as these are the lands where, centuries back, silly folktales say that a British knight supposedly did battle with a great white serpent. In fact, the nearby town even has a party remembering the event every year, and wouldn’t you know it, that anniversary is almost here.
Enter the seductive, sensual, sexy (and more words that begin with s) Lady Ssssssylvia Marsh. She’s back after being away for so very long, and what an odd coincidence, now people have started going missing. Hmmm, weird. Before you can say holy snake-fanged almost-vampires, Batman, Sylvia starts things up for a return to some old-time religion, complete with virgin sacrifices to an undying snake god. Add in psychedelic visions, the power of music used in hilarious ways, nun rape, a blatant game of snakes and ladders (because get it?), an awesome British rock/folk song about the big white worm, some mongoose ex machina, dream sequences that even Freud would think were too on the nose, teenage boy baths ending badly, the awesomeness that is bagpipes, a “where the hell did he get that grenade” moment, and the Pièce De Résistance: the strap-on death dildo of Dionin! With all that, you have one hell of a movie, or you know, stuff that’s par for the course when it comes to a Ken Russell film.
Let’s get to those slithering special features that can be found on this new Blu-ray release. First there is an audio commentary with the late director Ken Russell that was recorded some years back. Then Lisi Russell, the director’s widow, has a commentary/interview with film historian Matthew Melia. There is a featurette with the special effect artists that runs over 27 minutes. There is an interview with the editor, Peter Davies, that’s nine and a half minutes, and another interview with actress Sammi Davis, who played Mary Trent, that’s nearly 16 minutes long. Then there is a “Trailers from Hell” segment with producer Dan Ireland. The usual trailer and still gallery bring this nice collection of extras to a close.
The Lair of the White Worm is a gloriously goofy flick, filled with sex and violence just as you like it. It’s got some cool ideas, and lot of weird ones, and thankfully only a few that fail to entertain. And really, that’s the best word to describe this movie: entertaining, and that’s always a good word when it comes to film. It’s not all that scary, it is often funny, sometimes oddly arousing, and I love it so. If you’ve never seen TLofWW, you are in for a treat. A strange, confusing, but tasty treat. This one is highly recommended by me for some WTF fun.