The Lair of the White Worm is a 1988 Ken Russell film full of vampires, snakes and phallic symbols. It follows the classic horror film genre with some light touches, often downright kitschy. It was also one of Hugh Grant's earlier roles.

Lair was a cult hit from square one, although most people find it a bit campy and dumb (heck, I liked it). It's based on a little-known and way out of print 1912 novel by Bram Stoker, better known for Dracula. The book is apparently terrible but can be accessed courtesy of Project Gutenberg.

The movie plot (completely different from the book): Young archaeologist Angus Flint (Peter Capaldi) is excavating near a local guesthouse when he uncovers a dinosaur-like skull. Investigating, he teams up with Lord James D'Ampton (Hugh Grant), recent heir to his family's estate and neighbor to the sexy but eerie Lady Syliva Marsh (Amanda Donahoe). Marsh is a vampire-like snake creature, immortal, and an integral part of the cult from which the movie gets its title. (That's not really a spoiler; she spews venom very early in the film, so you know something's up.)

Also stars Catherine Oxenberg and Sammi Davis as sisters Eve and Mary -- nice Biblical names to tie in with the religious themes that always pervade vampire films. They run a local guesthouse and their parents, also archaeologists, vanished mysteriously a year ago. It's also noteworthy that Hugh Grant plays a sharp, intelligent character who uncovers the whole plot; he's the most charming and competent character in the cast, in contrast with his bumbling romantic roles that were to come (see BigCujo's w/u on Hugh).

Phallic symbols abound -- snakes, gearshifts, garden hoses -- as do sexual double entendres. It's all corny but fun to notice. And I always liked that when people ask Angus about whether he's "Scotch," he replies: "It's 'Scottish' -- 'scotch' is a drink." With his thick accent it sounds pretty cool.

Sources: IMDb; great fan page at

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