Monday, 20 February 2017

My Ken Russell problem




I am not much of a fan of Ken Russell. His early movies are visual eye candy, filled with British character actors. I'm not really a classical music fan, it's pleasant enough but I don't get off it the way he did, so his biopics don't really interest me much. The Devils has Ollie Reed at his finest, a man presumably a regular in Russell's films because of their resemblance to each other.  Tommy sort of works, and it sort of resembles at times a really twisted episode of Hi-De-Hi, down to that sort of Ben Aris outside a holiday camp. By the time of the 80s, they get rather close to erotic Skinemax territory, eg Crimes of Passion and his Vestron era is rather pretty and vapid, again filled with people off the telly. Even putting Stratford Johns in the middle of a carnival of debauchery is not enough to sate this viewer's boredom.  And Gothic has Julian Sands AND Gabriel Byrne, who somehow broke out of Irish soap stardom via Excalibur, and he wasn't the only Irish soap actor in Excalibur. His Excalibur/Glenroe costar Emmett Bergin's a better actor, but it was his brother Patrick who got the chance to hit the big time, sorry for going off-topic, this is going to not make a
Back to Ken, The Lair of the White Worm (19888) is different, because it is a sort of straightforward horror, and it's set in Derby. And it has Morris dancing and the words "special appearance by Stratford Johns" and Peter Capaldi in the first of several audition piece roles for a certain Time Lord. I had seen clips, but didn't realise it was set in the present (well, sort of, the cars are all 50s and so is Hugh 'effin Grant's uniform), and because there were so few British horrors made in the 80s and fewer set concurrently in modern Britain, and I've always preferred those set near enough to the present than those set in period.
Catherine Oxenberg, professional Princess Diana impersonator, real-life Yugoslavian royalty and fictional Princess Consort of Moldavia is slightly too polished, too Transatlantic for the role of a working class Derby farmgirl, so Ken tries to get away with this by dressing her up as skanky as possible in some scenes. She also sounds like she's trying to do a Brian Glover impression. Her on-screen sister, Sammi Davis comes across like the hero of a children's drama serial, and it begins okay with Capaldi, but the whole Amanda Donohoe/Hugh Grant stuff is miserable, resembling a big ad campaign for a foreign holiday company. I prefer the whole archaeological stuff. It feels more typical "British horror" and Capaldi doing his best Cushing-ish "making of the most of exposition" turn, which of course is something you need when you get to be the Doctor. And Stratford Johns' good as the "balding fright-wigged" butler, and Paul Brooke almost steals the show as the jaded PC who when bitten is attacked by Capaldi with bagpipes. And the Lambton worm resembles a phallic Sarlacc pit-ish thing (incidentally, Brooke was the Rancor keeper in Return of the Jedi).
White Worm is enjoyable at times, when it most resembles a normal horror film.

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