Rasputin: The Mad Monk (1966)

Opinion & writing by Tony Frame.

I originally saw this first back in the early nineties. I barely remembered anything about it apart from that I began watching it on a brand new 14-inch Philips teletext television, which was amazing back then because teletext was like a basic version of the internet on your TV before the internet even existed.

As a re-watch, Christopher Lee’s outing as the real-life holy man and mystic — who found prominence by befriending the last monarch of Russia in the late nineteenth century — is one of Hammer’s more serious of films.

IMAGES COURTESY OF IMDB

The story is loosely based on the real events surrounding Grigori Yefimovich Rasputin’s life, but in true Hammer fashion it amplifies the hypnotic capabilities of the titular character who commands members of the royal family to do his bidding for personal gain.

I found Lee mesmerizing to watch and he held my attention throughout with the gravitas he gives the role. His portrayal of the legendary Russian monk is imposing and formidable and I found it most satisfying that I was rooting for him and his evil exploits, which is partly due to the fact you are watching an anti-hero because of the large amount of screen-time he is given.

The story isn’t as fun or as fast-paced as other Hammer outings and I felt it runs slightly out of steam nearer the latter part of the movie. The writing is solid though, avoiding silly character choices, and the performances and direction are strong.

IMAGES COURTESY OF IMDB

The film is also aided with the ominous and dramatic score that one normally associates with most of Hammer’s classic productions and this really elevates some of the more intense scenes.

One thing of considerable note is that whilst this was the DVD version I watched, the transfer is excellent and was of Blu-ray quality; the detail of the sets and the sharpness of the actor’s eyes were fantastic and the rich saturation of colours were prominent throughout.

Overall I think the film has some re-watch value — even in this day and age — primarily for Lee’s prowess, in a role that was quite different from the other characters he portrayed.

FILM ⭐⭐⭐ DVD TRANSFER ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Director: Don Sharp

Writer: Anthony Hinds (screenplay) (as John Elder)

Starring: Christopher Lee, Barbara Shelley, Richard Pasco

See full cast & crew…

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