In the Derbyshire countryside, a young archaeologist Angus Flint (Peter Capaldi) is digging at a farm bed ‘n’ breakfast owned by two sisters. He discovers an animal skull which seems to be some form of snake. Elsewhere in the area Lady Sylvia Marsh (Amanda Donohoe) has returned to her stately home after some time away thus begins Ken Russell’s adaption of Bram Stoker’s Lair of the White Worm.
The two sisters are friendly with the local Lord James D’Ampton (Hugh Grant) playing one of his soon to be patented posh bloke roles. Lady Marsh is harbouring a secret, she is an immortal priestess to a snake god and any chance she gets will indulge in the odd murder or sacrifice. James however is a descendant of the slayer of the D’Ampton worm, a local legend and when Angus discovers further evidence of the snake god’s existence all signs point to Lady Marsh.
Ken Russell’s Lair of the White Worm is certainly a one off experience and is just as entertaining and campy as it was when it was first unleashed onto audiences. Ken as we all know loved his controversial imagery and this film is no exception. There are topless nuns being abused by Romans, spitting at crosses and the startling image of a figure being crucified and hassled by a giant snake. All topped off by non stop freaky shots of Donohoe bearing her fangs in various states of undress.
Incredibly funny in parts especially the ‘snake charming’ sequences which have to be seen to be believed and had me rolling around with laughter. Donohoe is clearing enjoying herself as is Grant and future Doctor Who Peter Capaldi is good in his supporting role of Angus. Some of the optical effects look cheesy now as the film is 30 years old but the actual make up on Donohoe is well nasty. It’s also got one of cinema’s most bonkers theme songs as well which is performed in the film and played over the end credits.
Silly, scary in parts, campy, gory and surprisingly atmospheric. It won’t appeal to everyone but Ken certainly made something quite unique and his presence in cinema is greatly missed.
- Starring Hugh Grant Sammi Davis Amanda Donohoe Peter Capaldi Catherine Oxenberg
- Director Ken Russell
- Distributor Lionsgate