Friday, December 07, 2007


Insomnia Theater

Most of the people who really love movies have a soft spot in their hearts for Ken Russell, the British director who loves to put the lives of artists, usually composers, on the screen. He had a period of white hot creativity from about 1966 (with the superb black and white biopic of Isadora Duncan) to 1980 (with an updated Jekyll/Hyde story called Altered States). There were only a few bad films in the 20 or so he made during that period and superb ones like The Music Lovers and Women in Love. But very few stay hot artistically forever. He's not dead yet and he, at age 80, is apparently working on a new version of Moll Flanders. But his creative juices began to dry up in the mid-80s and when he really bore down and tried again for magic with another D.H. Lawrence novel about the Brangwen girls, he pretty much failed; The Rainbow in 1989 was pretty awful. Just before that he filmed a really bad novel by somewhat famous Irishman Bram Stoker, of Dracula fame, called The Lair of the White Worm, which is the movie I watched tonight when I couldn't sleep. I'd seen it before.

It's so bad, it's good. Camp doesn't begin to describe the complete over the top, guilty pleasure this pitiful B movie wonderfully is. For one it has Hugh Grant, looking very young but being exactly the same as he has been in every movie since. The real treat is Amanda Donahoe looking pretty darn good and just enjoying the heck out of her super villainess role. She sprays green venom on a crucifix on the wall of a farmhouse from 4 inch fangs in a wide open mouth. That's the first thing she does to reveal she's actually more than just a cougar eccentric in a hot Jaguar XKE. "Do you have children?" ask Grant and Donahoe, as Lady Sylvia Marsh, replies, "Only when there are no men around."

Then it gets really weird.

Some of the acting is so bad as to cause actual pain to the viewer, and the story is worthless, but you see in some of the flashbacks, and in parts of the strange Concorde dream sequence, the final flare ups of the cooling embers of a profligate and somewhat wasted cinematic genius.

If you don't expect a thing, you will have a ball.


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