“This fearful worm would often feed on cows and lamb and sheep,
And swallow little babes alive when they lay down to sleep.
So John set out and got the beast and cut it into halves,
And that soon stopped it eating babes and sheep and lambs and calves.”
–Lyrics to “The D’Ampton Worm” from Lair of the White Worm
DIRECTED BY: Ken Russell
FEATURING: Amanda Donohoe, Hugh Grant, Catherine Oxenberg, Peter Capaldi, Sammi Davis, Stratford Johns
PLOT: An archeology student visiting the British countryside digs up an elongated skull he assumes belongs to an dinosaur while excavating the site of a buried convent, now an English bed-and-breakfast run by two young sisters. Lord James D’Ampton is the boyfriend of one of the sisters, and also the descendant of a legendary D’Ampton who reputedly slew a dragon (the “D’Ampton Worm”) that had terrorized the countryside. After wintering in climes unknown, slinky and regal Lady March returns to her mansion and discovers the skull, after which strange events begin to transpire…
- Russell’s script was very loosely based on Bram (“Dracula”) Stoker’s 1911 novel, although the similarity almost ends with the shared title.
- This was Russell’s second horror film in three years after Gothic (1986).
- Hugh Grant had roles in six films released in 1988, including portrayals of Chopin and Lord Byron.
- This was Amanda Donohoe’s second starring role in a feature film. She went on to greater fame when she joined the cast of the hit T.V. show “L.A. Law” in 1990. Catherine Oxenberg, on the other hand, had made a name for herself on the hit T.V. show “Dynasty,” and this was her first feature role in a theatrical release.
INDELIBLE IMAGE: A 30 second hallucination sequence featuring Roman soldiers raping nuns before a cross on which a monstrous worm slithers over a crucified Jesus while a topless blue vampire woman looks on joyfully, waggling her tongue. The scene is dressed up in lurid colors and performed in front of a deliberately cheesy looking blue-screen inferno. So over-the-top and parodic that it’s not nearly as offensive as it sounds.
WHAT MAKES IT WEIRD: Ken Russell throws a handful of his typically excessive hallucination/dream sequences into what is otherwise a subtle horror parody, creating a minor masterpiece of deliberate camp blooming with ridiculously memorable scenes.
Clip from Lair of the White Worm
COMMENTS: The one word that immediately comes to mind to describe Ken Russell’s The Continue reading 23. THE LAIR OF THE WHITE WORM (1988)