Monday, June 21, 2010

The Lair of the White Worm (Ken Russell, 1988)

The greatest film ever to feature a hallucinatory flight of macabre fancy, one that was induced by simply touching a wall mounted crucifix that had been slathered with a generous dollop of corrosive green venom, The Lair of the White Worm is a seductive masterwork of perverted deviancy. Mixing rural backwardness with state-of-the-art technology (a character can be seen at one point fiddling with a compact disc*), mythological horror with campy playfulness, and boasting a enough close-up shots of nylon stockings to drive someone who has a fetish for that sort of thing into a hosiery-based stupor, this Ken Russell (The Devils) directed lark, based on the novel by Bram Stoker, is a bizarre trip through the wormy labyrinth of an English town called D'Ampton. It's true, I could have used a little more dreamlike lunacy and a little less spelunking. But the flame-ridden, gang rape heavy freak-outs we do get were so memorable in terms of impaled nuns, untoward thrusting and prancing snake women with blue skin, that you will no doubt forgive the fact that they're sparingly employed. The story of two floppy-haired gents teaming up to battle a gigantic worm, and its lingerie-friendly helpers, the film begins and ends with a colossal hole. Genital in appearance, one opening is natural, while the other seems artificial. Of course, the exact details pertaining as to how each hole came to be are not important. (I had this whole tangent that involved a lot of crude wordplay ready to go, but I somehow lost the vaginal fortitude to carry on.)

What is important is that I mentioned the floppy state of the two male protagonists' hair. One of the first things we see (besides the hole) is the wind tussled hair of Angus Flint (Peter Capaldi) as he is about to discover the skull of a mysterious creature buried alongside a small collection of Roman coins. Popping into my mind like a thunderbolt as he dusted off his creepy find was the thought: Where's Hugh Grant? I mean, who is this floppy-haired impostor? Well, apparently this film has two actors with floppy hair.

You see, Mr. Grant plays James D'Amption, a so-called "nobleman" who has family connection with the worm in the film's title, and just happens to have a follicle traffic jam playing out over and over again on the surface of his forehead.

(I can't believe I passed on making vagina puns in order to babble incessantly about floppy hair.)

At any rate, the weird skull found by the archaeologically inclined Scotsman leads James, the Lord with a family history that revolves around fighting large slippery creatures, to come to the conclusion that something strange is afoot. This beckons him to take Angus, along with the Trent sisters Mary (Sammi Davis) and Eve (Catherine Oxenberg), whose parents have disappeared, to search the caves on the out skirts of town. (I loved how their mining helmets temporarily subdued the behaviour of their chaotic hair.)

Meanwhile, a dangerous temptress, who doesn't look like a giant worm, is lurking in the woods. She says she has a fear of snakes, but you could totally that Lady Sylvia Marsh (Amanda Donohoe) was down with reptiles.

You could also say that Lady Sylvia has a bit of a worm skull fixation.

Oozing a raw, unvarnished sexual magnetism, Amanda is a sinister delight as the predatory Lady Sylvia. In fact, every moment she was on-screen was a reason to be thankful. Wielding her slender legs with a reckless abandon rarely seen outside your average slab of 1970s-era Eurosleaze, Amanda is seemingly in a constant state of erotic entanglement. Whether lounging in intimidating lingerie or caressing Catherine Oxenberg's prestigious calves with a largish worm dildo while lounging (the woman loves to lounge) in a tanning bed, Miss Donohoe seems to relish the opportunity to a play a woman with a serpentine disposition.

Out of all the stark imagery in The Lair of the White Worm, I couldn't help but notice that a lot of people seem to be drawn the nightmarish temperament of the scenes that are a result someone becoming exposed to the poison coursing through Lady Sylvia's saliva. I, on the other hand, was immediately taken with Hugh Grant's kooky dream involving Amanda Donohoe, Catherine Oxenberg and Sammi Davis as flight attendants who are not afraid to show off the bluish resplendence of their stockings.

A Scotsman with a live grenade and an equally live mongoose in his sporran is swell and junk, but I'll take Amanda Donohoe and Catherine Oxenberg wrestling to synthesizer music in the aisle of a super-sonic jet over that any day of the week.

The chic clothing Amanda's Lady Sylvia wears throughout this movie should inspire someone to design an entire fashion line around them, as I have no troubling whatsoever imagining them strolling down the more perversion-centric runways of world.

Costume designer Michael Jeffery dresses Amanda in a wide array of sexy outfits. My personal fave being the tight brown getup she wore while sitting in a tree. (I'm still trying to figure out how she managed to get up there in those heels.)

Coming in at a close second was her blue flight attendant uniform. Which, like the majority of looks, is adorned with a pin or broach with a snake theme.

Her long white coat with a matching three-cornered hat was Lady Sylvia's introductory outfit, and I must say, it does an excellent job of establishing her unique sense of style. The fact that the many different types of nylons she sports throughout the movie were colour coordinated to fit her many moods was not lost on me. A snake sheds its skin in order to grow, and in turn, so does Amanda's slithery enchantress.

Now, like most people, I tend to wear the same thing everyday (an infrequently laundered pair of black sweatpants and a twenty-year old Front Line Assembly t-shirt). However, in the high end word of Lady Sylvia, changing clothes is second nature. The white nylons of her introductory outfit obviously represent the worm of the film's title (the film is not called The Lair of the Magenta Worm for a reason). Her brown nylons signify the soil of the earth, which is, you guessed it, the place where worms generally live. And the blue nylons, well, they stand for the large area, known in some circles as "the sky," that hovers over the soil of the earth.

You can't help but notice that none of the other characters in the film have a sense of style that can match Lady Sylvia's. I mean, floppy hair, gaudy prom dresses and frumpy sweaters can't compete with the intensity that only a pair of thigh-high leather boots can provide. Yet even though this struggle for fashion dominance ends up being a strictly one-sided affair, to see a character vanquish her foes in one particular field, while simultaneously have their perfectly proportionate ass handed to them from a good vs. evil perspective was fascinating on a number of misguided levels.

video uploaded by TSfilmvault

* I wonder if the Party Doll A Go-Go soundtrack by Double Vision is available on compact disc.


  1. I will contribute more feedback, but seeing Peter Capaldi reminds me of how awesome In the Loop was.

    I was on a huge Hugh Grant kick (me? really?) in the mid-90's when I saw this one on video. As you can imagine, my reaction was something along the lines of "What the ****?!?"

  2. I love this movie. It and Salomé's Last Dance are highly underrated in the genre of perverted horror.

    Hmm... Mood stockings. Someone should get to work on that.

  3. This is one crazy-ass film and God bless (or damn depending on your religious affiliation) Ken Russell for having the cojones to make it. Wow. This film is trippy on more than a few levels but you sure nailed it in terms of floppy hair and nylons. That's what a lot of horror films are missing nowadays - directors with nutty fetishes who aren't above sticking them in their films.

    Awesome review.

  4. I couldn't even make it through this film I thought it was so boring. I figured Hugh Grant in a horror had to be something amazing. Not for me.

  5. Karim Amir: I hear the language used in In the Loop is quite saucy.

    I envy your 90s-era, WTF-esque reaction to TLOTWW, as my 90s were pretty WTF-free. (You know, in terms of Hugh Grant kicks and watching movies about giant worms.)

    Adam Lambert's look at the Much Music Video Awards reminded me of Nivek Ogre circa 1986.

    World Cup: North Korea lost, big time. :(

    Darius W: Note to self: Watch Salomé's Last Dance.

    Of course, the DVD is going for 177 bucks on

    Why must everything be so hard? I want more perverted horror!

    J.D.: Thanks, J.D. I'm glad you likey.

    I realize that viewing the film from a strictly floppy hair and nylon-based perspective was a tad risky, but I'm content with my decision.

  6. Are you okay? I heard about the earthquake!

  7. Karim Amir: Other than feeling like the earth was gonna swallow me up, I'm peachy keen. :)

    TheAnswerMVP2001: I am truly sorry that you were unable to appreciate this film on any discernible level.

  8. Yum-Yum, I've been searching high and low for a copy of Rinse Dreams' Dr. Caligari and can only find a $100 laser disc version which is not my speed.

    I actually stumbled upon your site during my nearly yearly quest. I'll be returning often.

    Any clue of how to get my hands on a copy?
    Also, a review of 'Meet the Feebles' might fit in with some of these classics.

  9. I got my of copy of Dr. Caligari at an adult website called Excalibur Films. Sure, it doesn't come with cover art, but as far I know, it's the best version of the film commercially available at the moment. Plus, it's quite inexpensive.

    I've always wanted to see Meet the Feebles.

    Excalibur Films

  10. @Yum-Yum - You can reject this comment if you want. I have a VHS-to-DVD transfer of Salomé's Last Dance if you are interested. I am trying to think of how to get it to you digitally. I don't use RapidShare or any of that stuff. I could perhaps set up the FTP on my home computer, but it is quite slow, so might mean a long transfer time. I could snail-mail you a copy, but I know you relish your anonymity. If you want to email me,

  11. Thanks, man. If things get desperate--you know, not seeing Salome's Last Dance-wise--I'll be sure let you know.

    Oh, and congrats on getting 200 followers.

  12. Definately Hugh Grant's best film. And the theme song is one of the best pieces of exposition I've seen in a movie. It scandalized my little sister though, when she watched part of it with me and a friend in high school. More than a decade later and she still doesn't trust my taste in movies.

    1. I definately agree about it being Hugh Grants best film..better than all the ROM com crap he did..this is a superb film..laughed that it freaked your sister out LOL!

  13. If you live anywhere near Boise Idaho, I know a place where you could get your hands on VHS copies of Doctor Caligari and Salome's Last Dance.

  14. Boise, eh?

    Hershel Heimowitz's Potato Video: The Quickening.

  15. Hey Yum. How's the G20?

    Yes, In the Loop's dialogue is very saucy and very funny, just
    like this review.

    The worm. I remember the worm. I don't remember the mongoose. I like mongeese.

  16. How's the G20? Hopefully over and done with. I mean, what a colossal waste of time and money.

    I'll keep an eye out for In the Loop on my cable dial.

    Mongoose are adept at killing snakes.

    It's official: All the cool countries have been knocked out of the World Cup. (Bye, Slovakia.)

  17. Now this is my kinda horror flick. Good Lord is Amanda Donohoe sizzling hott here. An '80s classic. Great post! More people need to see it.

    1. Yeah, Amanda is the star in this. but to be fair they all did a great job ib this notch!

  18. Got and watched Dr. Caligari from excalibur films. Thanks for the pro-tip! Don't forget about 'Meet the Feebles' and if you enjoy that move on up to 'Let My Puppets Come'!

  19. Will Errickson: Thanks, Will. :)

    Stoydja: You're welcome.

    Oh, I won't forget Meet the Feebles.


    n. to distill important knowledge about a subject and share it with those new to said subject.

  20. If you need more Amanda Donohoe (and who doesn't) track down Nic Roeg's Castaway. It a battle-of-the-sexes movie with Oliver Reed and a perpetually nude Donohue. Not quite as psychedelic as some of roeg's other work but def worthwhile. Wasn't on dvd last i checked. I have transfer from vhs

  21. A perpetually nude Amanda Donohoe? Sold.