DVD
Rasputin the Mad Monk

Starring: Christopher Lee, Barbara Shelley and Richard Pasco
Warner Home Video
RRP: 7.99
D039308
Certificate: 15
Available 11 October 2004


Rasputin walks into a tavern and cures the landlord's wife's fever by drawing it out with his hands. He asks for much wine as his reward, but when he ravishes the landlord's daughter and gets into a fight he is hauled before a senior representative of the church. The monk is about to be punished when news of his healing is revealed. Risking the possibility the powers could be sent from the devil, the church let him go. After using and manipulating a lady in waiting to the Russian Tsar, Rasputin hypnotises her into arranging an 'accident' for the Tsar's little boy, so that he can heal the child and gain favour with the court in St Petersburg. But his eventual influence and brusque manner gains him many enemies who see no alternative but to have the man killed...

After the suave and sophisticated but chilling demeanour of his Dracula portrayal, it's a considerable wrench to witness Christopher Lee's extreme extrovert characterisation of the mad monk of St Petersburg. There is still the deep commanding voice and the staring eyes, but added to that we get a loud, violent, uncaring, mannerless, crazy, evil scheming manipulative fiend, whose favourite hobbies seem to be drinking and debauchery (outrageous!). Lee turns in a pretty fine performance too.

It has to be said that Hammer Productions deserve much plaudits here for managing to compress an extremely long and complicated semi-true story into a tidy and enjoyable 87 minutes.

Perhaps the legacy of John Carpenter's Halloween character Michael Myers getting up time after time when believed dead has changed the way we view madmen in horror films, because for such a powerful man Rasputin seems to be dispatched far too easily. Didn't the real Rasputin get poisoned, shot and stabbed? Or is that just a myth?

Whatever, Rasputin the Mad Monk from 1966 is a better than average offering from the prolific Hammer archives, with an on-form Christopher Lee alone making it worth a look.

Ty Power

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