Book for the Highgate Vampire Symposium
Films

Rasputin the Mad Monk (1966) REVIEW

Rasputin the Mad Monk (1966) REVIEW

Rasputin the Mad Monk



TITLE: Rasputin the Mad Monk

YEAR RELEASED: 1966

DIRECTOR: Don Sharp

CAST: Christopher Lee, Barbara Shelley and Richard Pasco

PLOT: This film chronicles the life of Rasputin – the womanising and mysterious religious advisor to the Russian Tzar.

FUN FACT: Christopher Lee actually met the assassins of Rasputin (Prince Yusupoff and Dmitri Pavlovich) as a young boy.

BUY FROM AMAZON: Click here


REVIEW BY ADAM SCOVELL


Hammer’s historical films aren’t famed for their period accuracy or epic expanses, yet for all their faults, there is something extremely watchable about them.  Though the pre-historic films have the obvious draw of a scantily clad cast and dinosaurs, 1966’s Rasputin The Mad Monk appears to have little to bring in the crowds other than the presence of Christopher Lee.  Yet behind its confused genre choices, lies a great film that mixes faux historic texts with the best of Hammer Horror.

The film opens with Rasputin showing off his magical powers of healing before seducing another man’s wife.  However the viewer is instantly aware that grounding the film in an apparent reality lends a real gritty feel to the horror and the decapitation of a hand from the wife’s husband seems far more affecting than similar scenarios found in the likes of The Plague Of The Zombies of Curse of Frankenstein.

Fleeing the lynch mob and being expelled from his church for blaspheming by “being so steeped in sin”, Rasputin goes to St Petersburg where he plans to use his supposed powers however he pleases.  It’s refreshing to see Lee in a Hammer role worthy of his acting prowess.  His wordless Dracula and Frankenstein’s monster have a powerful presence but with such a deep and foreboding voice, Lee gives one of his best performances for Hammer; only bettered by his holier than thou Duc de Richleau in The Devil Rides Out.

What does seem odd is the film’s choices in presenting the dialogue.  Director Don Sharp should have perhaps made it clear as to whether people should speak in normal English to adopt a Russian accent as this switches between characters making the film seem set in Russia one minute and Somerset the next.

Class starts to become an issue as two aristocratic couples head to a bar where Rasputin is engaged in a drinking game.  However Barbara Shelley’s aristocrat has a little too much to drink and laughs at Rasputin’s dancing for which he begins to hypnotise her and uses her to infiltrate the powerful elite of St Petersburg.  The seduction scene in particular is well done, with the feel of a David Lean style romance achieved in spite of the obvious sleazy elements of Rasputin.

The mix of magic and realism works a wonder and the film turns historical tales of the monk into a true horror film with his character being easily as evil and as powerful as Dracula or Charles Gray’s Mocata.  He even exhibits Dracula like traits including hypnotism and power over women, making him a fiend to the society of gentlemen.  Though lacking historical accuracy, viewers after such things would be just as likely to find World War Two accuracy in Where Eagles Dare.  Rasputin The Mad Monk plays with its source and turns it into one of Hammer’s best and most original films.



View Comments (3)

3 Comments

  1. Delin Colon

    13th March 2012 at 2:52 pm

    This film only chronicles the myths surrounding Rasputin. In actuality, Rasputin was a proponent of equal rights for the severely oppressed Jews, as well as being anti-war. The aristocracy (indeed most of Russia) was rabidly antisemitic and viewed any aid to Jews as treasonous. The nobility, the clergy, the bureaucracy and the press launched a smear campaign to discredit him.

    The book, “Rasputin and The Jews: A Reversal of History” debunks all the myths and portrays Rasputin as he really was, confirming that history is written by the powerful (and the literate), and not by the downtrodden masses.

    Some historians have pointed out the hypocrisy of the nobility’s portrayal of Rasputin as a drunken womanizer, considering that they themselves consumed French champagne and vodka by the case, and venereal disease was rampant among them due to their own promiscuity.

  2. Cindy

    31st March 2012 at 9:59 am

    Wow Delin that’s pretty informative! Even today everything portray Rasputin as womanizer!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>

Films
@AdamScovell

Adam Scovell is a writer and filmmaker currently studying for a PhD in Music at the University of Liverpool. He has written for The Times and The Guardian, had films screened at Manchester Art Gallery, FACT and The Everyman Playhouse, and runs the twice Blog North Awards nominated website, Celluloid Wicker Man.

More in Films

Vincent-Price-The-Last-Man-on-Earth

15 things you didn’t know about The Last Man on Earth (1964)

Peter Fuller19th June 2015
Christopher Lee in Sleepy Hollow

Sir Chris Lee’s death means the loss of a childhood friend, says Tressa Yeomans

Guest Writer14th June 2015
Christopher Lee

Sleep well Sir Christopher Lee, says Katie Doherty

Katie Doherty14th June 2015
Terence Fisher directs Christopher Lee as Dracula

Andrew Garvey on Christopher Lee: I’ll miss him

Andrew Garvey14th June 2015
Christopher-Lee-as-Saruman

11 amazing but true facts about Christopher Lee

MJ Steel Collins11th June 2015
Christopher-Lee

Goodnight, Dark Prince: Sir Christopher Lee (1922-2015) OBITUARY

Richard Phillips-Jones11th June 2015
The-Cutting-Room

The Cutting Room (2015) REVIEW

Staff Writer7th June 2015
Roddy McDowall in Legend of Hell House

The Legend Of Hell House (1973) REVIEW

Richard Phillips-Jones1st June 2015
The-Evil-Beneath-Loch-Ness

The Evil Beneath Loch Ness (2001) REVIEW

Simon Ball28th May 2015
Vincent Price in Witchfinder General

Vincent Price festival announced for London

Staff Writer27th May 2015
The-Sleeping-Room-image

The Sleeping Room where horror fills your dreams

Kayleigh Marie Edwards15th May 2015
Olivia Williams in The Haunting of Radcliffe House

Director reveals creepy goings-on shooting The Haunting of Radcliffe House

Matt Wingett6th May 2015