Of all the films to get the amazing Blu-ray treatment from Vestron, Lair of the White Worm is definitely one of the ones that deserves it the most. It’s a fascinating movie that never got its due on DVD. Loosely based on the story by Bram Stoker, the feature is a bizarre tale of snakes, vampires and snake-vampires. It’s one of the best from British cult director Ken Russell. It’s also known for featuring Hugh Grant and Peter Capaldi in early roles.
It’s weird, campy, and never once approaches so much as the idea of subtlety. These are the element that, for me, ultimately make Lair of the White Worm memorable. This is a funny, sexually-charged and surreal film. It’s not a feature that’s ever going to be a huge cult classic because it was never made to aim at a wide audience. I don’t think Ken Russell gave a shit who liked it or didn’t. That’s ultimately one of the most endearing things about it.
The transfer looks fantastic. So far, each of the Vestron releases has nailed it in this regard. The picture quality is crisp and clean and enhances the film’s naturally blue/gray tone. It does make the low budget look a little clearer, but it’s not like the lack of money was ever really hidden in the first place. Like Gothic before it, this was one of those Ken Russell features that almost seemed to wear its cheapness on its sleeve.
Best of all, there are some terrific special features. We’ve got several interviews with the FX team, editor Peter Davies, actress Sammi Davis—all brand new. Then there’s a Trailers from Hell segment featuring producer Dan Ireland. As Ken Russell is of course no longer with us, it’s great that his original audio commentary has been included. There’s also a commentary with Lisi Russell and film historian Matthew Melia.
The special features include some terrific anecdotes and revelations. First and foremost, something I’d never known—or completely forgotten about—Dan Ireland mentions that Amanda Donohoe’s role was originally offered to Tilda Swinton. But she thought it absolute garbage and never even returned any of Ken Russell’s calls.
On top of that, there are just some really sweet anecdotes to Russell’s direction of some of the feature’s most outlandish moments, like shouting “Alright Romans, bonking positions!” during the crucifixtion/orgy sequence.
As amazing as it is on one level to see something like Bud the C.H.U.D. get a deluxe edition Blu-ray release, it’s doubly great to see that kind of treatment given to a truly fascinating film that deserves the praise and the hype.
If you’re a fan of Lair of the White Worm, this Blu-ray is just about the best thing you could have asked for. And if you’ve never seen the film, there’s never been a more appropriate time to check it out, because it’s never looked better.
WICKED RATING: 8/10
Director: Ken Russell
Writer: Ken Russell
Stars: Hugh Grant, Peter Capaldi, Amanda Donohoe
Studio/Production Co: Vestron, Lionsgate
Length: 94 minutes