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Old 06-16-2004, 07:03 PM
Scored: 10
Views: 13,750
Default Lair of the White Worm

Reviewer: Dave
Review Date: November 27, 1999

Released by: Pioneer
Release date: 10/19/1999
MSRP: $29.98 (OOP)
Region 1, NTSC
Widescreen 1.85:1 | 16x9: Yes

Based on the last novel by Bram Stoker (author of Dracula), The Lair of the White Worm is an exceptional film that is finally getting the special edition treatment it deserves with a brand new anamorphic transfer thanks to Artisan, Pioneer and Sharpline Arts. Lets take a closer look...

The Story

inline Image Centuries ago John D'Ampton slayed a giant white worm (worm isn't referring to the actual earthworm type worm but instead a dragon or snake-like creature) that was menacing a small town in England. It's now present day and a local archaeologist Angus Flint (Peter Capaldi) excavates a skull that was part of the worm. The skull is excavated on the property of James D'Ampton (Hugh Grant), a descendent of John D'Ampton. The property is home to two orphaned girls named Mary (Sammi Davis) and Eve Trent (Catherine Oxenberg), whose parents disappeared without a trace.

inline Image Lady Sylvia Marsh (Amanda Donohoe), a neighbor to the Trent family, recently arrived back at her home. Sylvia steals the excavated skull from the Trent home. There's more to Sylvia than meets the eye; she's part of an ancient cult that worships the worm as a god and believes the worm is still alive, but is trapped somewhere inside of a local cavern. The followers of this cult are part snake and part vampire. They spit poisonous venom and are capable of paralyzing or transforming their victims after a lethal bite which injects the poisonous venom.

inline Image Sylvia plans on using the skull, along with a virgin sacrifice, to free the creature from its imprisonment. When Eve disappears, James, Mary, and Angus must find a way to defeat Sylvia before she frees the worm and sacrifices Eve.

inline Image Finding an older movie that I really enjoy and consider to be a classic is both a good and bad experience for me. It's good because I've found a classic; a movie that I can enjoy for years and years to come. It's bad because I always think to myself: "You idiot! This movie existed for years and you've never seen it before". This is exactly the case for The Lair of the White Worm. I was expecting a typical low budget horror movie with poor effects, poor acting, poor directing and a poor story. While watching the film I kept waiting and waiting for the film to go bad, but it never did. What I got was the exact opposite - this movie was terrific. The effects, story and acting were all wonderful. I thought Sylvia in her snake-like appearance was wonderfully creepy and effective. While we see very little of the worm the few scenes we do see look quite well for a low-budget film of the 80's.

inline Image Director Ken Russell, who both wrote and directed the film, did a superb job on the movie. He really accomplished making a good, effective horror film with a mix of humor thrown in as well. The oral sex scene, where a young boyscout is bitten by a snake-like creature, is quote amusing. Ken does a fine job in convincing us that Sylvia is part snake by giving her a snake-like look, even when she is in her pure human form. There's also numerous scenes where Sylvia appears to be slithering, or moving her tongue like a snake. Again, this happens when she's in her pure human form and it helps to establish and build Sylvia as a snake-like creature.

Image Quality

inline Image Lair of the White Worm is presented in it's original theatrical ratio of 1.85:1 and is 16x9 enhanced for widescreen TVs. Pioneer and Artisan did a superb job on the transfer. The film really looks brand new, boasting solid colors, zero grain, and very few scratches or blemishes appearing. Kudos to Pioneer and Artisan for doing such a terrific job.


Lair of the White Worm contains Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround sound. Dialogue and musical score sounded terrific; no hisses or pops heard at all.

Supplemental Material

inline Image The commentary was enjoyable, but strange. Russell is a strange fellow - you could tell he's proud of the film. He just comes across as being a little too cocky. Throughout the commentary he is very excited, or hyper. Perhaps this is all just part of being proud of his work, I'm not really sure. He did manage to relay a lot of details and facts about the film. There's very few gaps in the commentary and it's definitely enjoyable, but as I said Ken just comes across as a strange fellow to me and his attitude on the commentary making it somewhat less enjoyable.

The rest of the extras are a good read. All of the various notes are worth reading once to get some more detail on various aspects on the film.

Final Thoughts

I purchased this for the sake of reviewing, with plans to sell or trade it after I was finished. I'm happy to say this film falls into the keeper category for me and now has a permanent home in my collection. Anyone who enjoys horror films should like this movie. It's not huge on gore, but the makeup and costumes are superb. If you haven't seen this, I recommend you go out and buy it. At least rent the movie, otherwise you are missing out on another classic.


Movie - A-
Image Quality - A-
Sound - B
Supplements - B-

Technical Info.
  • Color
  • Rated R
  • 1 Disc
  • Chapter Stops
  • Dolby 2.0 Surround
  • Audio commentary by writer/director Ken Russell Behind-the-scenes photographs
  • Theatrical trailer



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