Pros: Christopher Lee; Sets; Some Great-Tense Scenes; Soundtrack
Cons: Drags at times; Expected Better Ending; Average Hammer
The Height of Hammer
By 1966, Hammer was a champion in the horror and science-fiction field with their movies about vampires, monsters, and the occult. Hammer decided to take on the legend of Rasputin and exploit all his mythical madness.
Rasputin: The Mad Monk
Rasputin is a name that many know of without ever studying Russian history; the rumors and myths about him are survived for nearly a hundred years and continue to intrigue historians and curious researchers. Hammer's Rasputin exploits some of the greatest myths about the man (such as mind control) and mixes them into a 90 minute movie with drama and mystery.
The film starts off in the early 1900s in Russia with Rasputin healing the sick wife of an innkeeper with his hands. Despite claiming to be a religious monk, he is brought before the Orthodox Bishop for his sexual escapades and violent temper. Rasputin claims to enjoy being a sinful man and frankly enjoys to give God a challenege when it comes to cleansing him of his sins.
Rasputin travels to St. Petersburg where he hypnotises and seduces the Tsarina's lady-in-waiting Sonia. Soon, Rasputin infultrates the House of Romanov and begins to influence the Tsarina after healing her sick son Alexei. As Raputin begins to crave more power and wealth, his enemies grow and devise a plan to stop the mad monk.
Historical? No. Fun? Yes.
The film, although dealing with the historical subjects of the Romanov family; the character of Rasputin; and pre-Russian Civil War; is historically innacurate. Despite its liberty with facts and events, the film manages to be fun and a treat for the eyes with its vibrant colors and sets. There are numerous aspects of the film that I enjoyed; and some that I disliked...but first, the pros.
The first aspect I enjoyed was Christopher Lee in the title character of Rasputin; Lee is fantastic as the mad monk. His temper tantrums and screaming remind me of his portrayals as Dracula. His apperance, complete with the infamous long beard, resembles Rasputin and one can tell Lee enjoyed working on this film (If he didn't, he sure fooled me).
I enjoyed the sets with its vibrant colors and chilling atmosphere. If you are a fan of Hammer, then you can easily recognize the sets from Dracula: Prince of Darkness which was filmed either before or after Rasputin: The Mad Monk. In addition to the sets, various actors and actresses from that film have roles including the great Barbara Shelley as the beautiful Sonia.
I enjoyed that Hammer took on a new subject and expanded their horizons with a film about the "mad" monk. The last 25 minutes of the film are exciting and build up great tension; this is when the film really picks up and we are treated with great deaths and performances.
The sound-track is amazing; like nearly all Hammer films it does its job at creating the mood. Dark, eerie, and powerful...
The Low Points of "Madness".
Rasputin: The Mad Monk has a few aspects that I didn't enjoy; nothing too major to take away from the film's fun aspect though.
First, I found the film to drag in a few scenes; there were times when I was losing interest towards the middle of the film but being a Hammer fan, I continued to watch.
Second, I didn't care for the ending at all...a complete let-down from my stand-point. I have read that the ending was edited and re-cut to the version we see today...what a shame. I often believe this film was riding on the fact that Rasputin meets a ghastly end and unfortunately, that wasn't what the audience gets. Is the ending truly horrible? No. Was I expecting better? Yes.
The film is your average Hammer film; in the end, it wasn't one of their greatest but it surely wasn't one of their worst...it definately depends on the taste of the movie-goer. For me personally, I would have liked to see more violence and gore.
Rasputin has very little violence, no nudity, and no language...while the film has no rating, it would probably have a "PG" rating if released today. Whether kids would find it enjoyable is another story.
Where Can I Find This Film?
Rasputin: The Mad Monk is becoming increasingly difficult to locate; as the DVD and VHS is out of print. Your best chance of purchasing the film will come from online retailers like amazon.com; also check your local libraries or rental service to see if the film is available.
Rasputin is historically inaccurate fun; it's an average drama film with snippets of horror mixed in. Christopher Lee is worth the view alone and is a great way to kill a boring evening.
Rating: 3/5 Stars