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Pioneer Entertainment presents
Lair Of The White Worm (1988)

"Can we stop on the way for a bite?"
- James D'Ampton (Hugh Grant)

Review By: Jeff Ulmer   
Published: June 01, 2000

Stars: Hugh Grant, Amanda Donohoe, Catherine Oxenberg
Other Stars: Sammi Davis, Peter Capaldi
Director: Ken Russell

MPAA Rating: R for Nudity, horror gore
Run Time: 01h:33m:00s
Release Date: September 28, 1999
UPC: 013023011298
Genre: cult

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
A B+B-B- B-

DVD Review

Amidst many other notable cult films one should always find mention of Ken Russell's Lair of the White Worm. Based on Bram Stoker's final novel of the same name, the film gives us a different spin on the vampire theme, this time in the form of the famed D'Ampton Worm. As legend would have it, the distant ancestor of Lord James D'Ampton (Hugh Grant) had slain the formidable White Worm, an evil creature with an appetite for the blood of virgins. When archaology student Angus Flint (Peter Capaldi) unearths the skull of an ancient reptilian creature and the remains of the worship site of a pagan snake god, the hunt begins for the whereabouts of the creature. What follows is a campy escapade into English caverns, encounters with serpentine seductresses, and the unravelling of the legend of the White Worm. Classic cult fare, but not for the overly squeamish or prudish...

James D'Ampton - "Do you have children?"
Silvia Marsh - " "Only if there aren't any men around."

Russell is one of those filmakers who you never know whether to take seriously or not (the commentary gives it away). The film has plenty of little inuendos to the eventualities that follow, and the assembly of the film is far more artistic than at first it seems. Hugh Grant's performance foreshadows his later characterisations with dry humor, but Amanda Donahoe steals the show with her portrayal of the slithery Lady Sylvia Marsh, donning an array of costumes from skin tight leather to well, not much at all! The plot is engaging, the dialog witty, and the twists are well timed. This won't satisfy hard core gore fans, but at least one of the nastier scenes is, for lack of a better description, eye popping...

Rating for Style: A
Rating for Substance: B+


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.85:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: The image is slightly soft with fine grain evident, but suits the nature of the film. While not reference material, the transfer and elements are quite good, with no signs of edge enhancement, and only minor dust or other anomalies in some scenes. It is encouraging to see films of this nature being taken care of in their DVD incarnations. The anamorphic transfer is a definite plus.

Image Transfer Grade: B-


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Englishyes

Audio Transfer Review: Audio is clean and free from much hiss. The surround soundtrack has reasonable frequency range and good dynamics. Music cues and atmospheres fill out an otherwise center focused dialog track. Location ambience occasionally detracts from dialog clarity, but overall the sound is fine and suits the feel of the film quite well.

Audio Transfer Grade: B-


Disc Extras

Static menu with music
Scene Access with 12 cues and remote access
Cast and Crew Biographies
1 Original Trailer(s)
1 Other Trailer(s) featuring Salome's Last Dance
1 TV Spots/Teasers
Production Notes
1 Feature/Episode commentary by Ken Russell
Packaging: Amaray
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extra Extras:
  1. Special effects overview (text/pictures)
  2. Comparison with the novel
Extras Review: It is very encouraging to see attention to extras being included alongside cult films like Lair of the White Worm. Sharpline Arts was involved on this release, which includes a great commentary track by director Ken Russell (Altered States, Women In Love). Russell switches between tongue-in-cheek jabs at his film and cast, production trivia, and historical references. He is never boring, with just the right amount of fun offsetting interesting bits about the film. Text sections include a Ken Russell biography/filmography is included along with cast biographies. Essays on the special effects sequences and on the original novel and adaptation are also included. These text screens are accompanied by behind the scenes shots. There is a fair amount to learn in the supplements, and they round out the disc quite well.

The theatrical trailer and a brief TV clip are also included, along with a trailer for another Sharpline/Pioneer release of Ken Russell's Salome's Last Dance.

Extras Grade: B-


Final Comments

For classic camp fare you can do no better than Lair of the White Worm, this is definately among the cream of the crop for the genre. Pioneer and Sharpline Arts have assembled a respectable supplemental feature set for this release, certainly not a half-asped job. Ken Russell's commentary is worth the price of admission alone. I wish all films of this nature were afforded this kind of attention. If you enjoy offbeat horror/comedy this is a must have for your collection.


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