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Lair Of The White Worm (1988)

Any film that ends with Catherine "Dynasty" Oxenberg hanging from a ceiling in her best M&S white undies whilst being threatened by a very naked Amanda Donahoe sporting what can only be described as a huge strap-on has got to be worth a look.

Surprisingly, what starts out as an exercise in apalling accents (everyone seems to have been re-dubbed, especially the sisters) and kinky S&M actually has a few proper horror shocks towards the end, and enormous dildos aside, Lair Of The White Worm is not the apalling kitsch travesty you might remember.

Mad Ken Russell was obviously enjoying himself enormously whilst making the film - the sexual imagery is writ large across the screen (for "white worm" read "penis", for "lair" read "vagina" etc) and the references to snakes and dragons are everywhere - from Lady Sylvia's serpentine E-Type Jag to the hose used to clean off the muddy skull.

Sometimes the Freudian stuff is just a bit too obvious, though - during a dream sequence when Hugh Grant is enjoying the spectacle of Oxenberg and Donahoe wrestling on the floor in air hostess outfits, the red-tipped pen in his hands stands to attention (can't think what that's supposed to mean). And of course, Russell even manages to shoehorn in the biggest phallic symbol of them all - an entirely unnecessary Concorde aeroplane.

But there's no denying that the other nightmare scenes (brought on when anyone is subjected to Lady Sylvia's venom) are undoubtedly horrific - bloody nuns being raped by Roman soldiers, Christ being savaged on the cross by a huge serpent, more nuns impaled on huge spikes, Vlad-style - all in nasty, over-the-top hues of orange, crimson and blue.

Donahoe's Lady Sylvia is also a formidable baddie, and never more so than when she appears wearing a pair of huge PVC boots and tiny undies and starts giving a Boy Scout a good soaping down. Scout: "I'm not really into headbanging."

"Are you into any kind of banging?" she asks, before getting fed up and biting his nob off.

In the best traditions of Brit Horror it doesn't even have a happy ending, and despite the bagpipes, the final battle is entertainingly violent - featuring people getting chopped in half, impaled through the head and being eaten by a not-totally-unexpected white worm.

Lair Of The White Worm is nowhere near as bad as its campy, crappy reputation - it balances the campy crapness with a fair amount of nasty gore and genuine horror. It's also spasmodically funny and beautifully filmed in a vaguely Northern English setting. It even has a cracking theme tune.

Director: Ken Russell Writer(s): Ken Russell Bram Stoker (novel)

Cast: Amanda Donohoe - Lady Sylvia Marsh, Hugh Grant - Lord James D'Ampton, Catherine Oxenberg - Eve Trent, Peter Capaldi - Angus Flint, Sammi Davis - Mary Trent, Stratford Johns - Peters, Paul Brooke - P.C. Erny, Imogen Claire - Dorothy Trent, Chris Pitt - Kevin, Gina McKee - Nurse Gladwell, Christopher Gable - Joe Trent, Lloyd Peters - Jesus Christ, Miranda Coe - Maids/Nuns, Linzi Drew - Maids/Nuns, Caron Anne Kelly, Fiona O'Connor - Maids/Nuns, Caroline Pope - Maids/Nuns, Elisha Scott - Maids/Nuns, Tina Shaw - Maids/Nuns, Paul Easom - Soldier/Witchdoctor, James Hicks - Soldier/Witchdoctor, David Kiernan - Soldier/Witchdoctor, Matthew King - Soldier/Witchdoctor, Ross Murray - Soldier/Witchdoctor, Andy Norman - Soldier/Witchdoctor, Bob Smith - Soldier/Witchdoctor, Jackie Russell - Snakewoman

 

Last updated: February 27, 2010

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