An archaeologist in Harold Lloyd-ish glasses yells “YEEEE-HAH!” when he finds something… An amazing Scottish band sings about fish while people dance around a giant model of some sort of worm-fish hybrid… A delicious dish of pickled earthworms is served at a party… and that’s just within the first ten minutes of The Lair of the White Worm, the latest film to enter TMP’s Classics of the Corn Hall of Shame.
Loosley based on Bram Stoker’s novel of the same name, this film tells the age-old tale of the d’Ampton Worm (inspired by the Lambton Worm), a dragon-like monster that was slayed by a man named John d’Ampton, saving the town from its wrath. Now, many years later, the manor of John d’Ampton is still in the family, lorded by his ancestor James d’Ampton (Hugh Grant).
James is friends with the Trent sisters, Mary (Sammi Davis) and Eve (Catherine Oxenberg), who run the local bed and breakfast. Staying at their B&B is archaeologist Angus Flint (Peter Capaldi), who digs up a very unusual skull in their backyard. Upon learning the local myth of the d’Ampton worm, Angus begins to suspect he’s found its skeleton.
As it turns out, he’s exactly right. Lady Sylvia Marsh (Amanda Donohoe, in a role turned down by Tilda Swinton!), the fashionable lady of the spooky-but-stately Temple House, is an immortal priestess who harbors the snake-beast beneath her house.
It’s corn and oddity from start to end in The Lair of the White Worm, which was directed by Ken Russell. Synth-y ’80s music with an eerie twist, horrifying (but very brightly colored) flashbacks to an ancient era, Lady Sylvia sleeping in a woven basket and getting “charmed” out of it like a snake… what a mess this film is.
It’s both more disturbing and more raunchy than I expected it to be. But it certainly belongs in the CotC Hall of Shame, with young Hugh Grant and Peter Capaldi’s nerdy bromance and the neon hell that is apparently supposed to be the the ancient past. The film can be very uncomfortable to watch, though its cheese made me laugh out loud a couple of times as well.
I had little knowledge of what The Lair of the White Worm was about going in and based on the poster Netflix uses thought it would be more of a futuristic sci-fi flick. Can you blame me, when Lady Sylvia is dressed like this?:
She looks much more like an alien than a vampire-snake. Her costumes are actually my favorite aspect of the film, since so much of the story disturbed me. Time for a bad pun: Sylvia may be evil, but it’s her collection of accessories that’s truly wicked! *Badum-tsk*
- “If that’s a primitive man, it looks like a dinosaur sat on him!”
- “Silly moo! That’s not a cow, it’s got no horns!”
- “Are you into any sort of banging?”
- “That’s enough of that, Kevin. That sort of music freaks me out.”
- “My god, Kevin, you do have appalling B.O. Save your breath. You’ve halitosis, too.”
I’ve had trouble collecting my thoughts on this one and I can’t recommend it outright, because I was genuinely disturbed by it. I watched it months ago and I fear that editing this post may be enough to bring on the nightmares. The Lair of the White Worm is an incredibly strange film, and you should only seek it out if you’re interested in the strangest.
Bonus points: Hugh Grant’s character watches a silent film about his dragon-slaying ancestor!