Thursday, December 19, 2013

LAIR OF THE WHITE WORM is back! Now, stream Ken Russell's juiciest, naughtiest, campiest treat

It's been decades since TrustMovies first viewed this little horror treat, brought to the screen by no less than Ken Russell, and starring a very young Hugh Grant, a very sexy Amanda Donohoe, a younger-than-you'll remem-ber-but-funny-as-ever Peter Capaldi and chock full of just about everything Mr. Russell loved to rub in our faces: trans-gressive sex, Christianity trashing and paganism, here joined by a delectably sexy fanged female, a giant snake, and other fun tropes most often found in the horror genre. THE LAIR OF THE WHITE WORM, I believe, is the only one of Russell's films that was a "pure" (or maybe impure) genre piece, though many movie buffs found many Russell movies horrors of another sort.

I've always had a mixed response to this filmmaker's work. (Mr. Russell, who died in 2011 at the age of 84, is shown at left). My favorites are his black-and-white musical biographies made for British television and his very interesting artist bio Savage Messiah. Now that I've seen Lair/Worm again, I must add it to that list of favorites, too. Ken probably ought to have tackled even more genre pieces, because what these film require, along with what Russell clearly had in spades -- the knack for bringing to the horror genre his special kind of transgression -- apparently produced that rare match made in sleazy-movie heaven.

The filmmaker guides his oddly assembled cast (which also includes the likes of Catherine Oxenberg (above, left), that adorable little blond Sammi Davis, (above, right) and everyone's favorite British oddity Paul Brooke (below) to pile on everything from horror to comedy, romance to adult/teen sex (and then teen murder) arriving at a destination that can only be called Camp Wonderful.

Just viewing that old and fondly remembered Vestron Pictures/Vestron Video logo should jolt a number of viewers back to a certain low-end-but-lots-of-fun memory lane. But Lair/Worm is so all-over-the-place that, if you are anything like me, and have not seen the film in decades, then you will also probably have forgotten so much of it that it will seem new and funny and pretty special all over again.

Mr Russell is not particularly good on suspense or surprise, and the villain is rather obvious from the start. But the filmmaker is so good on doing what he loves best -- shocking us with some heavy-duty fantasy elements that combine religion and sex (remember The Devils?) along with pairing Jesus (above) with, well, you'll see -- that the movie almost immediately assumes pride of place in the hearts of the irreligious.

Plus, there's Ms Donohoe, one of whose first major roles this was, and -- boy, oh, boy -- does she impress. So much so, in fact, that I am not sure anything she did subsequently registered quite so strongly. The actress gives her all, whether it's in black boots, panties and negligee (above) or sporting a set of fangs (below) that would have Dracula himself running for the hills.

Mr. Grant (below, left) is almost the straight man in the piece, and so is rather wasted by not being able to show much of his usual charm. Mr. Capaldi (below, right) has more fun with his role and actually registers more strongly here. But we're not coming to a Ken Russell film for charm or romance, are we? So lean back, hold on (yes, it is rather a bumpy ride), and enjoy the utterly bizarre, creepy and funny goings-on.

You can now stream The Lair of the White Worm via Netflix (click here for the link) or via Amazon Instant Video and on DVD.

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