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The Lair of the White Worm [Import]
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Wittily updated from one of Dracula author Bram Stoker's lesser-known horror novels, The Lair of the White Worm is a camp classic that only Ken Russell could have delivered. It's got all the perversity one expects from the bombastic director of Tommy and Altered States: sensible plotting, intelligent dialogue laced with double entendre, graphic imagery with Boschian intensity, and a mischievous disregard for good taste and decorum. In other words, it's heretically hilarious, especially when skeptical Lord D'Ampton (fresh-faced Hugh Grant, in one of his earliest films) begins to suspect that seductive neighbor Sylvia (Amanda Donohoe, game for anything) is connected to the local legend of a monstrous serpent that feeds on sacrificial virgins. Evidence mounts with the help of a local archaeologist (Peter Capaldi) and two endangered sisters (Catherine Oxenberg, Sammi Davis), and Russell infuses Stoker's grisly plot with his inimitable brand of blasphemy, including a gouged eyeball, a venom-splattered crucifix, Roman soldiers raping nuns (in a delirious hallucination sequence), and some of the funniest one-liners since Young Frankenstein. Prudes beware; everyone else enjoy! --Jeff Shannon
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Top Customer Reviews
It's also an incredibly ridiculous movie, with goofy acting, hilariously bad special effects, a bunch of dream sequences that are apparently there to fill up time, and the villain ends up being more hilarious than horrifying. It rockets right past "horrible" and into "so bad you can get together with your friends and laugh hysterically at it."
It takes place in a small British town that has local legends about a knight who slew a giant white "worm," and young Scottish archeologist Angus Flint (Peter Capaldi) just found a giant snake skull. At the same time, wealthy recluse Sylva Marsh (Amanda Donohoe) -- a weird snake-lady who likes to eat people, literally -- encounters local noble, Lord James D'Ampton (Hugh Grant).
Then Angus' landlady Eve Trent (Catherine Oxenberg) vanishes without a trace, and James suspects that the ancient evil Christ-hating snake has returned somehow. Now he and Angus must somehow save Eve (and her idiot sister Mary) from Sylvia in the lair of the white worm...
I think they must have made up "The Lair of the White Worm" as they went along, because this movie really has no story. People wander around, speculate about the snake, Sylvia bites a few people, and then some random people start lurching around with giant comical snake fangs. That's it. Nothing really builds up to anything else.
Eventually the filmmakers seem to have realized that their story HAS to end, so they slap together one of the most unintentionally funny climaxes EVER. Think a giant snake puppet, a hand being SLOWLY sawed off, and a crazy lady wearing a giant fake ivory penis.Read more ›
It's pretty "campy" which I usually don't like, but I DO like this movie.
Hugh Grant plays James D'Ampton, who returns to his ancestral castle in the English countryside. James' distant ancestor was said to have slayed a dragon, the white worm, who supposedly dined on the flesh of young virgins.
A legend that James immediately dismisses, but when a local amateur archaeologist discovers the huge skull of a reptile and what looks like a site of worship on James' property. It has James rethinking his original dismissal. Especially when his virginal & virtuous girlfriend, Eve, disappears.
James and the young archaeologist, Angus, decide to investigate the the dark cave, rumored to be the lair of the great white worm.
Living in the same small locality is the beautiful vamp Lady Sylvia Marsh, a so-called "snake watcher" Really a devotee of the snake deity. She wants to get her hands on the reptilian skull and make some "offerings" to the white worm.
She really has everyone in the village entranced, but James is able to resist her. He's very suspicious about her activities. And acting like a snake charmer, attempts to stymie her plans.
Donohoe is excellent as the sultry and dangerous Lady Sylvia . Her costumes, make-up and unique cars! are fabulous, lots of fun. :-)
The film contains some dream sequences involving extreme images of followers of the white worm (who worship the snake deity) in some kind of shocking ecstatic frenzy together with some nuns, and an image of Jesus. Filled with blood, nudity, suggestive activity & some pretty big phallic shaped objects! :-).. I wasn't offended by this, but some overly-prudish people might be.
The special effects are cheesy to the n-th degree, in the same category as Tim Burton's in Beetlejuice and with much the same effect.Russell camps it up to just below the point where it might have become tedious.
Donahue steals the show with her performance, but Hugh Grant provides a great counter, in the days when one still said: "Hugh who?" The only disappointment is Sammi Davis, who really cannot act her way out of a paper bag. I shall never understand why Russell used her so often (she also ruined the otherwise superb "The Rainbow").
In the final analysis the film is difficult to recommend to anybody who is not totally whacky and enjoys totally whacky films. Some of the horror sequences are genuinely horrific, but the comic counterfoil is as arresting, making the film a hybrid the likes of which I have never experienced.
Final note: after seeing the film on a festival, I was hitching home and given a lift by a lady who had also just seen it and reminded me a little too much of Amanda Donahue's character. Now that was scary!
Most recent customer reviews
Hey, it's a Ken Russell film with lingering shots of women wearing garter belts and stockings. What's not to love?Published 3 months ago by K. Zimmerman
This is a vampire movie that differs from the other traditional vampire movies. It's about a female vampire, played well by the English actress, Amanda Donohoe, who is the high... Read morePublished 21 months ago by L. F. Sweeney
but that's not necessarily a bad thing. This is typical Russell; weird non-fitting dreams, and definietly not enough violence, horror or sex when, here, it wouldn't be superfluous,... Read morePublished on July 6 2004 by nom-de-nick
Yes, it's over-the-top! Yes, it's gorey and heretical but this only adds to the movie's drawing power. Read morePublished on Feb. 1 2004 by Michael Gannon
I found this movie to be FUN to watch, several times. It has a number of actors who stared in this film before they became big names in America. Read morePublished on April 8 2002
can you imagine pitching this film?...
'guys! i read this bram stoker story and i think it could make a great movie... hear me out. Read more
Up front, NOT everyone will like this film. It's a Ken Russell film, after all. That said, if you are scared of snakes, have a religious bent or hate picked earthworms in aspec,... Read morePublished on Jan. 28 2002 by Deborah MacGillivray
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