The Lair of the White Worm

The Lair of the White Worm ★★★★★

I can't remember where I first learnt of the Lambton Worm, but it might have been in the same book that contained the story of Percy Fawcett. As junior archaeologist Angus (an enthusiastic Peter Capaldi) explains, the story isn't about your common or garden earthworm, but an old fashioned wyrm, i.e. a dragon, which terrorizes the townsfolk as dragons are wont to do. Ken Russell, however, realizes that snakes are much sexier than dragons, so the humongous animatronic "worm" in his panto-folk-horror update of the tale is a sort of snake-worm-eel-dragon hybrid, and a charming sort at that.

Everything about The Lair of the White Worm is pure charm, from the pairing of Capaldi with a pubescent Hugh Grant (as lord of the manor) to the unstinting Carry On level innuendo of which the script is confected, to the erotic Amanda Donohoe and her stylish costumes (my favorite being her tree-climbing outfit), to the entr'acte dream sequence with Grant being molested on a plane, to the acid-flashes of Roman soldiers raping nuns, the constant putting-on of the kettle, the squinting local Plod, Donohoe triumphantly removing her earplugs having waylaid the bagpiping, kilt- and sporraned Capaldi... I could go on, but I'd just be explaining what happens in the film. It's a masterpiece.

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