Tales from the Vestron Vault #3
Lair of the White Worm
by Scott MacDonald
Vestron Video was one of the seminal video distribution labels for horror, cult, and "B" movie content on VHS throughout the 80's and into the early 90's during the earliest part of the VHS boom. They were started in 1981 by a former Time Life executive who found himself in ownership of a large library of titles from the Cannon Films library amongst other things. In 1992 after 11 years of making waves in cinema circles Vestron Video closed up shop leaving their distinct Red "V" burned into the brains of the many cult and horror aficionados who frequently rented their tapes.
In 2016 Lionsgate Films decided to go through their library of cult horror cinema, and give them long overdue releases on the Blu-ray format. They have decided to do this under the guise of the defunct, but well remembered and well loved Vestron name. Lionsgate’s new horror line has been branded the Vestron Video Collector's Series, and though not every titles that has been announced, or will be announced will have been a prior Vestron release (though some will), they will certainly fit the mold of what the company was releasing at the height of their popularity in the 1980's. For their 2 January 2017 releases they have dug into their vaults and unleased 2 classics the Ken Russell directed Peter Capaldi/Hugh Grant starring LAIR OF THE WHITE WORM, and the 50's suburban satire PARENTS.
Lair of the White Worm
Director– Ken Russell
Starring – Hugh Grant, Peter Capaldi
Country of Origin- U.K.
Reviewer- Scott MacDonald
I just want to say we need more Ken Russell on Blu-ray, so thank you Vestron for helping to make that happen. In the last year trickles of some of his films have made it to the format with Kino doing his lesser known epic Valentino, his sleazy mid-80's masterpiece Crimes of Passion, and now Vestron are releasing his late 80's psychedelic horror film Lair of the White Worm to the format, but there is still a ways to go.
Peter Capaldi (Doctor Who, The Thick of It) stars as Angus Flint, a young archaeology student who discovers a strange skull that resembles a large snake while excavating a site. Soon after strange things begin to occur around the town many tied into the local legend of the D’Ampton worm. When Eve, the girlfriend of James D’Ampton (Hugh Grant) disappears, Angus and James begin to think there is something more to the legends, and descent into the lair of the worm to save her, and hopefully put an end to the local horrors once and for all.
Ken Russell is not one to truly stick to genre trappings, and Lair of the White Worm though based loosely on a late novel by Bram Stoker is a truly strange beast by the director that works wonderfully. It is first and foremost an occult horror picture, but to brand it exclusively as such would be doing it a disservice. The film has an undercurrent of campy humor both in dialogue, and visuals that truly help it stand apart from it's late 80's horror brethren. Also, Russell's visuals are firmly in the psychedelic camp at times giving the film a visual boost that is outstanding and quite a bit unique in the way he executes them. Performances from a young Hugh Grant and Peter Capaldi are excellent, and they own the screen every second they are on. Also, I'm prone to believing Russell had a phallic fixation at this point in his career between the dildo of death in Crimes of Passion, and the large phallus possessed by Lady Sylvia here...
Lair of the White Worm is presented by Vestron/LG in a quite solid 1:78:1 1080p transfer. Everything here looks quite natural and is certainly an upgrade from whatever DVD edition you're holding on to. Detail is excellent, colors are stable, and the grain field is natural, but not overwhelming. Audio is presented with a 2.0 stereo track in English. Dialogue and score are clearly audible at all times, and I did not detect any issues. There are 2 commentary tracks here one is archival with director Ken Russell, one is new with his wife Lisi Russell and film historian Matthew Melia. There are also featurettes, trailer, interviews, and galleries.
The Film (4/5)
Director– Bob Balaban
Starring – Randy Quaid, Mary Beth Hurt
Country of Origin- U.S.
Reviewer- Scott MacDonald
Parents is a film I haven't seen in about 20 years. I remember it being an enjoyable, and oddly amusing horror romp at the time I saw it, and oddly fitting to the 1980's period when it was made where everyone seemingly wanted to throw back to the 1950's. Which in an even more strange way makes if relevant to now, where certain facets of American society just voted us back into the 1950's.
Parents is told from the perspective of young Michael whose parents have just transplanted the boy to a Massachusetts suburb where he is struggling to get used to things. Early on he begins to suspect that his parents are not the normal American couple he thought they were, and spends the movie trying to unravel why his parents are acting so strange, or at least why their cooking is always so off.
Parents on my current re-appraisal is one of those films that tries to be so many things, and really kind of fails at most of them. The 1950's satire elements work, but that's possibly my desire for them to work. It fits firmly in the horror genre, but mostly it feels sort of dry and redundant. It hits on the cannibal card very early on, and in doing that kills any mystery or suspense. The end of the film feels very much like The Shining-redux. I like elements of the film, but overall I suspect I won't be going back to this one too soon.
Parents is presented by Vestron/LG in a 1:85:1 1080p AVC encoded transfer that preserves the films OAR. Everything here looks quite decent for the most part, blacks are solid, colors are stable, and grain is quite natural. The audio is presented with a 2.0 stereo track in English. Dialogue is easily discernible, the score comes through nicely. I did not detect any issues with the track. Extras include an isolated score that includes an interview with the composer. We also get a commentary with the director and producer. There are featurettes here about the making of and trailers, TV spots, and a still gallery.
The Film (2.5/5)