THE LAIR OF THE WHITE WORM (1988)
-Review by Nic Brown-
Russel adapted a Bram Stoker story about a cult
and its worship of a pagan snake god, and set it in modern day
Conveniently enough, the local land owner, Lord James D'Ampton (Hugh Grant in one of his early roles) holds a fall party that Angus attends with the sisters. The legend of the D’Ampton worm is played out in a musical number by a local Celtic rock band, complete with a large costume worm that Lord D’Ampton must slay in commemoration of his ancestor John D’Ampton’s defeat of the creature centuries before.
While all the celebrating is
going on, Lady Sylvia Marsh (Amanda Donohoe) moves into the mansion
next door (aptly named
Did I mention that I believe Ken Russell is on drugs? Well with the ground work for the story laid out, Russell weaves his strange tale, filled with flashbacks and past life regression that reveal Roman snake worshipping centurions raping and killing nuns in the convent, a large white snake puppet chewing on Jesus on the cross, and odd dream sequences that involve Donohoe and Davis cat fighting over giving Hugh Grant a drink on an airplane. There’s snake charming, poison sucking, ritual killings, and you learn the origin of the game chutes and ladders - hint: the film is about a snake cult after all.
Despite the poor dialogue and somewhat wooden acting by Davis and Oxenberg, THE LAIR OF THE WHITE WORM is still an entertaining film. Hugh Grant is fun to watch in his role as a pompous “noble” who has to fill his ancestor’s monster slaying shoes while uttering lines of dialogue like “Let me know if you find any chastity belts, the maids are constantly getting pregnant.” Donohoe’s performance is also worth noting as she plays her seductive femme fatale snake priestess role both skillfully and remarkably unclothed for most of the film. Donohoe even rises out of an oversized snake charmer’s basket at one point, writhing in a convincingly snake like fashion.
Russell’s story is not for everyone as some of the flashbacks are brutal, disturbing, and possibly religiously offensive as they show Dionin and his followers trying to exert their supposed superiority over the “Christian God”. However, if you can get past that, the film is clever and it has enough twists and surprises to keep it interesting. So if you’re in the mood to see what an acid trip in a snake farm might be like, check out Ken Russell’s LAIR OF THE WHITE WORM, be warned though, the film you may forget, but you’ll be humming that damn D’Ampton worm song for weeks after you see the film.