2012 Film Challenge #32 - The Lair Of The White Worm

The late Ken Russell has achieved immortality, for he made The Lair Of The White Worm.

It's like a cross between An American Werewolf In London, Withnail & I and early Peter Jackson. And though I really quite like even the most Hugh Grant of Hugh Grant films, his appearance in this might make some reconsider the notion that he's a charlatan of syrup – or worse.

And Peter Capaldi – who I really do dislike – in this has long floppy hair, glasses and a fascination with pre-Christian religion. He saves the day whilst wearing a kilt and playing the bagpipes. I had previously assumed him to be as irritating and despicable as Malcolm Tucker – where does the character end and the man begin? - but it turns out that he has range. Who knew? Maybe he should make a return to low-budget folk-horror in order to save his soul.

The central conceit – that heathen pagan Romans destroyed the sanctuary of a covenant – doesn't ring true at all. Everybody knows that Christianity didn't reach England 'til 597. But we'll let it pass. Early on, the weird landed-gentry heretic snake woman vomits on a crucifix. Later, when touched by a maiden, this triggers a hallucinatory mind-fuck in which a giant white worm encircles Christ as he looks sadly on at the hedonistic mass-rape of still behabited nuns under a swirling neon sky.

When it allows for such sudden descents into the bizarre, I think we can allow for a historical anachronism or two.

Then there's the music – The D'Ampton Worm – a rollicking piece of electronic folk-rock which sounds like The Levellers – this is played at a party which sees Hugh Grant gleefully serve pickled earthworms in aspic.

And the seduction and murder of an innocent boyscout who we're later told has terrible BO and halitosis.

And finally we learn how exactly to take care of a vampire policeman. You have to push him onto a sundial which resembles a snake. It makes his eye fall out.

The Lair Of The White Worm never does anything wrong, and it's never any less than amusing, fascinating and enthralling.

A lot of bad has and will be said of Ken Russell, but I defy anybody to argue that he was ever boring.

And it's set in Derby, where I live now!

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