RASPUTIN THE MAD MONK (1966)
Director: Don Sharp
Cast: Christopher Lee (Grigori Rasputin) Barbara Shelley (Sonia) Richard Pasco (Dr. Zargo)
Legendary Horror actor Christopher Lee (Horror Of Dracula/Curse Of Frankenstein) hams it up in the title role of this entertaining, if historically inaccurate, Hammer film.
The film opens in a tavern where the owner is forced to close early due to his wife being seriously ill. Enter Rasputin demanding a drink of wine, when told of the ladies illness he storms into her bedroom and uses his mystical healing powers to cure her of her sickness. “Open your eyes, woman! You’re cured!”
In return for this miracle Rasputin only asks for a bottle of wine… and then another… and another until a full party is in swing. This is where we first see Rasputin’s dancing prowess, it would appear Lee is using a stunt double in some of his dance steps. Rasputin lures the owner’s daughter into a nearby barn where he attempts to have his wicked way with her. The girl’s jealous boyfriend hijacks the attempted fornication and a struggle results in the boy losing his hand. This leads to Rasputin being thrown out of the monastery for lurid and drunken behaviour.
Rasputin travels to St Petersburg where he meets Dr Zargo, a hard drinking disgraced doctor. He engages in a drinking competition with Zargo, which is one of the highlights of the film… that Rasputin can sure pack away the booze. It is during this drinking comp that Rasputin meets Sonia, who will soon fall for the hairy one’s charms. Rasputin sure has a way with the ladies, slapping them, throwing them to the floor, hypnotising them and forcing them to disrobe and copulate. Sonia is employed to the Czar and Czarina, and it is through the manipulation of Sonia and Dr Zargo that Rasputin befriends the Czarina. With the Czarina under his control Rasputin plans to take over Russia and destroy anyone that stands in his way. Sonia’s brother and his friend become aware of Rasputin’s evil plot and plan to assassinate the mad monk.
Christopher Lee gives one of his best performances as Rasputin, at times he seems a little over the top but more often he comes across menacing and downright evil. Lee fans will really enjoy the film and you can tell Lee is having an absolute ball playing the role, which allows him to be much more animated than his numerous wooden Dracula roles. Richard Pasco and Barbara Shelley give convincing performances as well, but it is who Lee really carries the film. The cinematography is very static and a little removed and the action is a little sparse like in most Hammer films. Rasputin was shot back-to-back with “Dracula Prince Of Darkness” and utilises the cast, costumes and sets of the film.
The version I got has bonus trailers and TV ads which offer punters a free Rasputin beard on entry to the cinema! I’m off to Ebay to search for my own.