The life of the legendary Russian villain Grigori Rasputin was a natural for the Hammer's Gothic style and lurid edge, and the commanding Christopher Lee is the perfect star for the role. With his deep baritone voice and d... more »ark, deep-set eyes, Lee creates an intense figure as the diabolical healer and mesmerist with a thirst for power. The film begins with the unapologetically crude and barbaric Rasputin expelled from his monastery for his hard-drinking hedonism and violent behavior, and before long he sets his sights on the bustling city of St. Petersburg. Within no time he has seduced Sonia (Barbara Shelley), lady-in-waiting to the Queen, with his hypnotic gaze and soon insinuates himself into the Royal Family. Lee's lusty portrayal is the highlight of this modest production, which presents an all-too-brief rise to infamy and disappointingly cuts short his notorious death. But if it's not prime Hammer horror, it remains a moody chamber piece with a mesmerizing performance from Lee (one of his best for the studio) and a very different take from MGM's handsome, classy 1932 production Rasputin and the Empress starring the three Barrymores. --Sean Axmaker« less
Charles S. Tashiro | Agoura Hills, CA USA | 12/03/1999
(3 out of 5 stars)
"No one could accuse Hammer Studios of an excessive concern with history in this, or any other of their period films. Ostensibly the story of Rasputin, who climbed to unimaginable heights of power because of his influence over the Tzarina Alexandra of Russia, this film is really more about the ability of the studio to make an epic on the cheap. It boasts the usual Hammer virtues--imaginative production and costume design, moody photography, and an energetic story-telling style seemingly constructed out of exclamation points. Christopher Lee's central performance is predictably rivetting. Barbara Shelley has probably never been better than as Sonia, lady-in-waiting to the Tsarina, who quickly is ensnared in Rasputin's power. Still, shorn of its historical context (there is no mention of the Tsarevich Alexis's hemophilia, for example, so that Rasputin's power over the Tsarina makes little sense, and Tsar Nicholas doesn't even appear as a character), the story seems a little thin. While a couple of characters pronounce solemnly that "Rasputin will destroy us if he isn't stopped," there isn't a hint of either the First World War or the Russian Revolution and the disastrous influence Rasputin had on Russia's participation in those events. Indeed, aside from the occasional torn bodice or broken bit of crystal, there doesn't really seem to be all that much at stake in this movie.While it might seem silly to burden an exploitation film like Rasputin the Mad Monk with questions of historical veracity, it's worth pointing out that its lack in this case ultimately works against the film. For the *real* madness of this period was a social situation that allowed someone like Rasputin to attain such influence and power. Depicting that larger canvas might be beyond the scope these filmmakers can provide, but that only proves that some topics may exceed the skills of even the most inventive low-budget filmmaking."
Hammer "History" Off But Not Studio's Fault
Scott A. Nollen | 03/20/2000
(4 out of 5 stars)
"The screenplay for "Rasputin: The Mad Monk" had to be initialed on every page by Prince Yusopov, one of the five conspirators who assassinated Grigori Rasputin. Yes, this is a Hammer "horror" version of the rise and fall of Rasputin--and there are huge gaps left out of the story--but the interference of Yusopov (who won $3 million in a suit against MGM in 1933 ["Rasputin and the Empress"]) and the usual Hammer low budget accounted for this. Christopher Lee researched the role obsessively, actually met two of the conspirators as a child, and gives one of the finest performances of his career in this particular depiction of the monk, whom--he will tell you-- was not "mad." I edited Mr. Lee's autobiography and am very familiar with his extensive knowledge of the facts. This DVD includes some excellent commentary by Lee, Francis Matthews, Barbara Shelley and Suzan Farmer. Aside from "Horror of Dracula" (1958), this may be Lee's best Hammer film."
Watch it for Christopher Lee's performance alone.
SCOTT W COOPER | Rochester. United Kingdom | 04/26/2001
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Christopher Lee as Rasputin.The film opens in a small russian village Inn.The Inn keeper's wife is near death,and the local Doctor can do nothing to save her.Suddenly,the door at the entrance to the Inn burst's open,and in storms Rasputin,demanding a drink,immediately."There's sickness in the house" cries a local resident."I can see that" shouts Rasputin,"nothing a couple of litres of wine won't put right". Inevitably,Rasputin takes the fever from the Inn-keeper's wife,into his own hands,and asks for only wine as his reward.But eventually the drink goes to Rasputin's head,and with it a desire for more than wine,so taking the Inn-keeper's daughter into a nearby barn,Rasputin commits rape.Having disgraced his cloth and the Holy Order,Rasputin is banished from his Church.Penniless,he sets out on the road,to central russia,a place where Rasputin can fulful his desires;wealth,power,and to seduce beautiful women.Eventually he gets greedy,and has visions of a link between himself,and the sophisticated royal classes,and ultimately to have all of Russia as his own,and meet his fabled destiny.Christopher Lee's performance adds a great deal to an otherwise mediocre Hammer production.Adding a new level of excitement is this transfer from Anchor Bay.A sharp,clear,and clean picture throughout.My only complaint about this transfer,is a minor one;Rasputin-The Mad Monk was filmed in Hammerscope (a Cinemascope variant),it's original aspect ratio being 2.35:1.However,Anchor Bay have presented this film at a ratio of 2.10:1,so a little information is still missing on either side.4/5 for this transfer.The sound quality on this DVD is presented in Dolby Digital.2.0 Channel,it is crystal clear throughout.The only minor fault being slight distortion on very high tones,i.e:church bells,some parts of the orchestrated score,but on the whole,a good overall effort.3.5/5.Having finally seen this film in a widescreen ratio,and so clearly,it adds,on it's initial viewing,a new level of excitement,especially to Hammer-Horror fans,like myself.Some memorable scenes include Rasputin dancing,and every time Rasputin talks down and belittles a member of the royal court.Some interesting extras on this DVD include an Audio Commentary with Actors Christopher Lee and Francis Matthews,and Actress's Barbara Shelley and Susan Farmer.Also a "World of Hammer" episode entitled "Christopher Lee".So,overall this DVD is great for any Christopher Lee/Hammer Horror fan's collection."
History Lesson for the easily pleased.
SCOTT W COOPER | 02/17/2000
(1 out of 5 stars)
"If this film is to be trusted Grigory Rasputin was a rather charmless individual whose success with the opposite sex is put down entirely to hypnosis and a rather impressive beard. Lee displays none of the monk's wicked charisma or subtlety, and the result is a rather workmanlike narrative which portrays the central character as nothing more than a brutal charlatan. History, and the influence he achieved within the house of Romanov, seem to suggest there was more to Rasputin's character than this. A missed opportunity by Hammer."
Rasputin movie review...from a true follower
Dolores D Hilton | Noblesville, IN United States | 08/16/2002
(3 out of 5 stars)
"This movie is very well put together, with many facts and so forth...yet the one negative is the assassination scene. It is NOTHING like the REAL assassination poor ole' Grigory Rasputin had to face...in this movie...he's just poisened and thrown out a window...THE END. In real life, much more had to take place to take down the "Saint Who Sinned"."