Lair of the White Worm
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The Lair of the White Worm

It is not uncommon that an author to become so famous for one particular work that it eclipses the fact their oeuvre is considerably more extensive. One example is one of the foremost Masters of Horror in the literary world, Bram Stoker. Upon mentioning his name, the first title that will come to the lips of almost everyone in the room when the ‘Dracula.' Written in 1897 it has been a play in a consistent contender in hall films 1933 right up to current times. Very few people are aware that Mr. Stoker’s last novel, ‘The Lair of the White Worm’, was made into a movie 1988. Has recently been released on Blu-ray and because of a particular member of the cast the movie may have increased interest to a lot of people particularly in the science fiction community. The principal cast includes people some notoriety during the period of the film’s production, Hugh Amanda Donohoe, Grant, and Catherine Oxenberg but the one of particular interest was based, Peter Capaldi.Currently, this talented actor is best known for assuming the most recent incarnation of the iconic role of ‘The Doctor’ in the BBC’s longest-running series, ‘Doctor Who.' For cinephiles, the main reason for increased interest is that the filmmaker serving as the director and screenwriter Kurt Russell, one of the most controversial and flamboyant auteur's career spanned several decades. His primary trademark style included exaggerated gratuitous sex and nudity, and off-color sense of humor and a particular penchant for ridiculing religion, particularly the Roman Catholic Church. Although most of his films are regarded as exceptionally camp, Mr. Russell has tried his hand at some more serious themes such as ‘Altered States.' Before beginning the consideration of the stone in earnest, it is worth noting that this is considered one of Mr. Russell’s less successful, tongue-in-cheek horror films.

Angus Flint (Peter Capaldi) is a Scottish archaeologist who is currently investigating a site somewhat close to home, Derbyshire in the East Midlands of England. During his scholarly work there Flint has taken up residence in a quaint bed-and-breakfast owned by a pair of sisters Mary (Sammi Davis) and Eve Trent (Catherine Oxenberg). Among the things that Flint found one item, in particular, sparked his academic curiosity, the skull of a rather large snake. He believes that it may be involved in the local legend of the d'Ampton 'worm.' According to legend, this mythological creature slain in Stonerich Cavern by John d'Ampton, the Lord of the Manor. His descendant, James d'Ampton (Hugh Grant), still resides in the ancestral home. The Manor is not the only ancient stately residence in the area. The nearby Temple House is impressive structure is currently home to the beautiful and seductive Lady Sylvia Marsh (Amanda Donohoe). Not much is known about this woman usually, results in the operational of scary stories and suspicions that are a pastime in such small and isolated communities.

The mystery deepens as Flint discovers ancient Roman coins along with the reptilian skull, providing some framework that the ancient evil rights described in the stories might have occurred. The coins also appear to have an effect on Lady Marsh inducing very bizarre sexual hallucinatory fantasies. There is a supernatural conflict being force in this isolated region as long as anyone can remember. Lady Marsh comes from a long line of conjurors of evil. During the time of the Roman Empire, the infamous worm was summoned to confer supernatural power upon the legions to ensure the success as they raped and pillaged the enemies. Themes that concentrate on Bacchanalian excess are ideal for the directorial style of Mr. Russell, all conducive to present such hedonistic revelry into an exceptionally campy demonstration dark humor. As any fan of the works of Ken Russell will confirm when you set about to experience one of his movies, it is best to leave all sensibilities, and sense of traditional morality are aside. Mr. Russell eschews half measures only knowing how to drive headlong into overabundance. For example, he took the mundane phrase of "sex, drugs and rocked roll" and pushed it to a surrealistic level in the movie ‘Beyond the Valley of the Dolls’, which ironically was written by the master film critics, Roger Ebert. While this movie is not as over-the-top as that example, but then again very few things are. One thing about this film is that Kurt Russell delivers on the promise made by the title. There is indeed a worm that is white and unspeakable things happen to those victims all injuries lair. Many derogatory things have been said about Mr. Russell, but he is not known for not delivering what he promised.

Throughout the ages mythology concerning the worm has changed as it was passed down through the generations. It is now generally believed that the Lord of the Manor was responsible for by bridging a dragon that resided in a nearby cave. As is commonly found in ancient stories, the antagonist is belittled by derogatory terminology; hence a vicious Dragon becomes a worm. The family reputation is at stake all those who have inherited the title of Lord of the Manor have preferred to retain ‘Dragonslayer,' as the family’s heritage. Russell is not one to only extend exposition and in keeping with this after a few establishing scenes of the archaeologist at work and short order holding a giant, reptilian skull, once the main characters introduced it is not long until the revealing its true nature. The hyper- sexualized Lady Marsh this soon revealed to be an immortal sorceress, a priestess to the ancient snake god, Dion, afforded Mr. Russell an opportunity for one of his favorite plot contrivances in a film, scantily attired beautiful women. She maintains the life of the vast snake in the cavernous tunnels that connect the side of the day, Temple House with Stonerich Cavern. Naturally, this ancient evil deity requires regular human sacrifices to retain its vitality. To (or "intending to") ensuring that there were no happy endings, another trademark of the current Russell film, there is a vampiric nature to the snake that is passed down to its caretaker to imbue it with immortality.

Many hard-core fans of the horror genre I had already possessed the DVD as part of my collection as well as having it in streaming video format. I was most intrigued when I received the notification that I would receive a preview copy of the Blu-ray release. In the past, I have found that movies that rely heavily on dimly lit scenes transferred to high-definition in a most beneficial fashion. If the remastering is done correctly, as it was here, the amount of detail that is brought out of the original 35mm Panavision film stock, provided ample detail that went unnoticed in previous, low-resolution formats. Likewise, the DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 is robust offering a broad spectrum audio range quite expansive in comparison to the Dolby Digital Stereo presented in the previous releases. There is also an English DTS-HD MA 5.1 included. This his edition is part of the on ‘Collector’s Series’ from Lionsgate.

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Audio Commentaries: Director Ken Russel

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Lisi Russel, in Conversation with Film Historian Matthew Melia

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Featurette: "Worm Food: The Effects of The Lair of the White Worm."

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Interviews: "Cutting for Ken" with Editor Peter Davies

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"Mary Mary" with Actress Sammi Davis

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Trailers & Gallery: "Trailers from Hell" Featuring Producer Dan Ireland

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Theatrical Trailers

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Still Gallery

Posted 01/31/2017

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