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Review: Rasputin the Mad Monk

Rasputin the Mad Monk

Rasputin the Mad Monk (or, as the hilariously tasteless American television promos for the film pitched it: “Ras-poo-tin! The Maaaaaad Monk!”) depends quite heavily on a fine central performance by Christopher Lee, this time in basso-profundo evil mode as the infamous, social-climbing Russian pseudo-monk, a turn-of-the-century Czarist Eve Harrington. But Lee is unfortunately let down by a haphazard (and often wildly inaccurate) scenario that seems the result of trying to cover too many bases. Playing a bit like Hammer’s Greatest Hits, the film attempts to meld historical pageantry, occult shadings, and a liberal dose of third-act terror and gore (Rasputin’s last stand is re-imagined as a proto-slasher “he just won’t die” showcase). Damned if Lee doesn’t do his best to sell it, and his efforts come off like an offering to the Gods of Camp. Lee heals the sick by clasping his hands down in front of the faces of the afflicted until they drip with sweat, he cuts off a peasant’s hand and then throws a hissy fit when his superiors at the monastery demand an explanation, he hangs around in bars and fancy-dances himself into an effete, toe-pointing tizzy and then, when a drunk lady giggles at the end of the dance, hypnotizes her and snarls blackly, “You will apologize for laughing at me!” Lee’s riotous, low-throated interpretation of the back-stabbing mystic is something to behold, and confirms him as Hammer’s greatest weapon, but Rasputin is nothing more than a relic, a C-grade period-exploitation film from a studio that was Britain’s King of the B’s.

Cast: Christopher Lee, Barbara Shelley, Suzan Farmer, Richard Pasco, Francis Matthews Director: Don Sharp Screenwriter: John Elder Distributor: 20th Century Fox Running Time: 92 min Rating: NR Year: 1965 Buy: Video

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