The Lair of the White Worm (1988) [Feature]

UK (MIFF 2021 )
Director: Ken Russell

Ken Russell’s mash-up of Anglo-Saxon folklore and Bram Stoker’s bonkers final novel is a wildly erotic and hilariously campy tale that pits a baby-faced Hugh Grant and Peter Capaldi against an ancient vampiric snake goddess.

The freewheeling plot of this delirious 1988 disasterpiece involves a primordial phallic snake god and its virgin-sacrificing, vampy aristocratic acolyte; a kilt-wearing archaeology student who unearths a giant reptilian skull and thinks he has deadly bagpiping skills; a toffy young lord descended from a legendary dragon slayer; and more violently pornographic and deranged dream sequences than you ever thought one movie could contain!

This is, after all, a Ken Russell film. The so-called apostle of excess definitely lives up to that designation with The Lair of the White Worm, an absurdly OTT, boisterously carnal and provocative work that features pre-fame appearances from Capaldi and Grant alongside the deliciously sensual Amanda Donohoe, who was clearly having an absolute ball playing a wickedly supernatural seductress. Don’t try to make sense of it: just strap in and enjoy the truly wild ride.

“Russell seems to delight in that kind of sexual confusion, poking fun at binaries, whether it’s that of male and female, good and evil, or god and the devil.” – Film Comment

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