The Lair Of The White Worm!
by: Dr. Boogie

Worms. They're nothing but trouble. Squirming around, aerating the soil, turning deacaying organic matter back into precious nitrates. What are they up to?

And then there's snakes. Really not all that similar to worms, and yet everyone in The Lair of the White Worm seems to have the damndest time telling them apart. This is a movie where the cast is routinely menaced by the specter of a giant serpent terrorizing their small town, but all anyone can talk about is worms. Then again, I suppose it wouldn't do to call the movie "The Lair of the White Snake," because then the audience would be left wondering, "Is This Love?"

The Lair of the White Worm (1988) by Ken Russell

Seriously, though, people are getting envenomed and they are all extraordinarily, mind-shatteringly English about it. You'll feel yourself getting paler the further you read on. But keep calm and turn on the subtitles as we wriggle deep into The Lair of the White Worm.

Here's the first and most incomprehensible of our main characters in the film, Angus Flint. A student archeologist known locally as "The Scottish Harold Ramis." While digging on a farm at the site of a former catholic convent, he discovers the skull of some sort of giant animal. The farm's caretakers Mary and Eve Trent scoff and dismiss it as nothing more than a cow's skull - cows of course being known for their row of sharp, hooked teeth and two long fangs.

No, Angus explains to Mary, it's definitely not a cow. Even more interesting, it was found below a layer flint alongside some roman era coins, and the Romans weren't widely known for storing giant carnivores in their convents.

But there will be plenty of time for sussing out a major archaeological discovery. It's time for a party.

The party is turned up to 11 as a cockney rockabilly band regales us with the Tale of the D'ampton Worm. It's quite a catchy song, apart from when the singer tries to rhyme "booze" with "cows".

While Mary is sweet on Angus, Eve has set her sights a bit higher on Lord James D'ampton, aka: Hugh Grant, aka: the Ponce Master General. He's throwing the party to commemorate his ancestor defeating the aforementioned worm by cleaving it in 'twain, like so:

Foreshadowing AND giant puppets? Could this party get any White Wormier?

Yes it could.

What you'll see a lot of in this movie are scenes where there's something slightly off, something a bit out of place. Maybe it goes unnoticed in the background, or maybe it forms the basis of a scene, like this disgusting banquet. Squid tentacles, noodles, clams, and some red wormy things which James identifies as "pickled earthworms in aspic." Delicious.

Angus munches one the worm-centric buffet and informs James that he may have found the skull of James' "worm". James gives us a little etymology lesson to explain that "worm" in the sense of his rousing song may also refer to dragon-like creatures. You know, the kind that actually have bones. But then he goes back to talking about actual worms, so the idea is a bit muddled.

Angus and Eve decide to ditch the party and take a shortcut home. Mary explains that nobody uses the shortcut anymore. Can't imagine why anyone would stop using a shortcut through dense, pitch black wilderness. Her parents were big into it, though, right up until they vanished without a trace. This piques Angus' interest, and when she talks about how her boyfriend was killed by an exploding water pipe he loses control and plants a big kiss on her.

The romance is cut short when a passing car startles Mary. She complains about the car "driving in the dark without headlights." All I can think is that "without headlights" must be some sort of English slang for driving with your headlights on.

Incredibly, the two of them arrive safely back at Mercy Farm without either a sprained ankle or a vicious serpent carrying them off into the night like Mary's parents.

Speaking of which, the local Police Constable Erny has let himself into Mary's farmhouse to tell her some news about her parents: Her father's watch was found in Stone Rigg cavern. So maybe he didn't die out in the forest. Maybe he just fell into a crevasse and got stuck. Suffice to say the search is back on and Mary eagerly volunteers for the chance to be the first one to find her parents' rotting corpses.

Before he leaves, Mary lets Erny know she saw a car driving through the woods near the Temple House estate, and in a village this small, there's no act that is considered too insignificant for the police to investigate.

Outside Temple House, Erny calls for back from the only other cop in town, but gets only sass for his trouble. It's okay, though. Erny has years of police training and experience to fall back on. Unfortunately, he is immediately bitten by a snake and collapses. Thankfully, help is close by.

The woman who looks like she takes fashion advise from Paul Revere and Gandalf the White in equal measure is Sylvia Marsh. She lives in Temple House, but is typically away during the colder months, hence why Erny wasn't expecting anyone at the house. He tells her a snake bit him, but she assures him it was probably "just a nettle". Nevertheless, she invites him in for a nightcap.

What? That's not weird! Okay, maybe the sexy saxophone music playing in the background makes it a little weird, but do you know of a better way to treat nettle punctures?

Erny wonders if he should go to the hospital and Sylvia, perhaps a bit incensed that he would question her ability to suck out poison, tells him "they'd only amputate". Forget all about modern medicine, she tells him, "what you need is another brandy." And boy, does he fight off that second glass of brandy. The two of them do some catching up amid more inappropriately sexy sax music. Well into his second brandy, Erny spills the beans about Mary spotting her car and how she and Angus are going to be away on the search party the following morning.

And that's all Sylvia needs to hear for her to plan a day trip.

Seeing the excavation in front of the farmhouse, Sylvia assumes there must be more to this farmhouse than just a quaint pastoral bed and breakfast. She walks in, with neither a locked door, or even a closed door, to stop her.

I mean it's only an intact skull of a previously unknown species. Not like you need to keep something like that in a safe place. Granted, Angus probably wasn't expecting a fashionable rich woman to come and grope his skull, but couldn't you have at least closed the front door?

Sylvia gathers up the skull and slips out, though not before paying her respects to the cross.

Starting to think there's something weird about Ms. Marsh.

Anyway, Sylvia casually strolls out of the house with the skull in check and drives back to her manor. No one to stop her from stealing the skull, no one to see it sitting in the front seat of her car, nothing to even slow her down. She probably could've taken the time to fill in the dig site just for fun.

Shortly after Sylvia burgles the place, James and Eve arrive. Seems the two of them stayed up all night "dancing" and completely missed out on that cop letting himself in and leaving her dad's watch. I'd say Mary was the more responsible sister both for coming home at a decent hour and leaving a note for her sister, but then again she cut through the woods where her parents disappeared and she didn't bother to even shut the damn doors when she left!

Eve decides to take a nap and spots the mess Sylvia made on her crucifix.

Naturally, Eve is compelled to reach out and touch the mysterious green liquid.

She barely touches it before immediately regretting her decision...

I don't remember this part of The Passion.

Eve makes enough noise during her vision of nuns getting raped while a giant snake and snake woman look on that James comes up to check on her. She angrily rebuffs him for thinking that collapsing into a twitching heap means there might be something wrong with her.

James really begins to suspect something might be wrong when Eve doesn't go for her tea right away. He asks her about what happened, but she's already blocked out the memory of the terrible nightmare. James gently encourages her to remember by saying, "Yeah, just... try harder." What a gentleman.

Trying harder doesn't work for Eve, but seeing that the hands on her father's watch have turned into a snake...

That reminds her of seeing a convent destroyed by roman soldiers overseen by a giant snake curled around a crucifix. James correctly guesses that it was a white one. How does he know that? Was he able to see her dream the same way he saw the hands on the watch change into a snake?

No, he happened to see the newest development in Angus' dig: a mosaic of a white serpent curled around a crucifix, not unlike the symbol on those coins. Angus apparently dug this up after coming home from the party, but before leaving for the search party in the morning. Maybe he's more dedicated than I thought.

James wants to see if the skull matches up too, but of course it's been gone for ages. Angus and Mary arrive back in time to see him off and hear Eve talk about her "bad trip". I wonder how Mary resisted the temptation to touch the gross stuff all over the wall?

There's still plenty more
Lair of the White Worm to see!
Click here to continue onward to page 2!


Reader Comments

Click here to return to the Features homepage