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Rasputin: The Mad Monk [Blu-ray]
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"Christopher Lee's finest Hammer hour ... It's the part he was born to play, and he knows it." – BritishHorrorFilms.co.uk "One of Lee's finest roles ... it seems like there is literally nothing that the man cannot do." – The Telltale Mind Hammer Films' dual reputation for screen shock and flamboyant costume adventure meld in this tale of the real-life "holy man" whose evil charm held the fate of an entire nation in its grip. In Czarist Russia, Rasputin (Christopher Lee), a peasant monk, mysteriously demonstrates his healing powers by saving a woman's life and asking only for wine and a Bacchanalian celebration in return. But soon Rasputin uses his evil charm and powers to become increasingly manipulative and violent. Ferocious, devious and other-worldly, this uncouth peasant ingratiates himself bit by bit into the lives of the sophisticated royal class ... Christopher Lee's multi-layered performance as Rasputin rates as one of the best portrayals in any film.
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I have included some facts (or at least believed as facts) about Rasputin below in the 'COMMENTS' section.
BLU-RAY:The picture is excellent. The colors are vibrant. You see virtually no imperfections such as dirt, specks, lines, etc. There is a little bit of film grain. I couldn't be happier with the picture and I'm sure most people who are upgrading will be very pleased. The movie is shown in 2.35:1 widescreen aspect ratio.
-The inside sleeve has a large picture of a scene from the movie in color.
-Audio Commentary with film historians Constantine Nasr, Steve Haberman and Ted Newsom. This is the new commentary for this release. I chose to listen to this one because I figure these guys have already listened to the other older commentary and will incorporate some of what they say into this commentary. Nasr, as usual, focuses on the working script as it relates to what was actually filmed. I did not like this particular commentary. I feel like 3 historians get in the way of each other and I'm not really interested in their opinions as to whether they like the movie. Two historians is fine or I think it's OK to have multiple people if they participated in the making of the movie. What I'm looking for from historians are facts about the scenes we see on the screen as well as other tidbits they know about the production.
-Audio Commentary with Christopher Lee, Barbara Shelley, Francis Matthews and Suzan Farmer - This commentary was made many years ago but has most of the stars from the movie. As usual, Lee dominates the commentary. He spends most of the commentary letting us know how much he knows about Rasputin and everything else for that matter. Well, that's how Christopher Lee was. He loves to talk. Even if he is a bit long-winded (like I should talk), that's a lot better than have nothing to say.
-Tall Stories: The Making of 'Rasputin The Mad Monk' - This extra talks about the making of the movie and the real Rasputin. It discusses what really happened when he was killed. This modern day documentary is 25 minutes long.
-Brought to Book: Hammer Novelizations - While I think any extra information is always welcome, I have to wonder why this short featurette was made. Essentially it shows you the covers of all of the movie novelizations that were made from Hammer Horror movies. So you get some of the regular historians talking about the publication history of these novelizations for 15 minutes. I would have much rather have seen a short documentary on the novels and stories that the movies were based on rather than vice versa. I never really saw the point of reading a novel that is some writers interpretation of what he is seeing on screen.
-World of Hammer episode: Costumers - One of those television episodes narrated by Oliver Reed.
-World of Hammer episode: Christopher Lee - Yet another television episode from the Hammer series narrated by Oliver Reed. This one is more interesting than the one on Costumers.
*****WARNING - LOTS OF SPOILERS BELOW THIS POINT*****
PLOT/SUMMARY: The movie opens in Siberia in the early 1900's. Rasputin loudly enters a bar and ends up healing the innkeepers wife by supposedly absorbing her fever with his hands. The innkeeper is grateful and gives Rasputin all the wine he wants. He ends up in the sack with a young girl. A young man in love with the girl attacks him and Rasputin cuts off the man's hand.
Rasputin takes off and gets a ride to St. Petersburg. He wins a drinking contest in an inn with Dr. Zargo and moves into his apartment. He hypnotizes one of the Tsarina's ladies in waiting, Sonia, while in a pub. He begins sleeping with her and again hypnotizes her. He tells her to injure the young son of the Tsarina and tell her to then call on him to cure the boy. Sonia does this and Rasputin shows up and heals him. The Tsarina gives hime his own palatial home. Rasputin becomes increasingly greedy and begins to anger people around the Tsarina. They plot to assassinate him.
PRODUCTION: 'Rasputin - The Mad Monk' was released in 1967 and was directed by Don Sharp. The movie was distributed in the United States by 20th Century Fox.
-There have been over 100 books written about Rasputin. None of them can be taken as 100 percent accurate.
-'Rasputin' was shot back to back with 'Dracula: Prince of Darkness' but was released as a part of a double feature with 'The Reptile'. 'The Reptile' was in turn, shot back to back with 'The Plague of Zombies'.
IS 'RASPUTIN - THE MAD MONK' BASED ON REALITY?
-This movie is largely a fictional account of Rasputin's later life. However, there is a basis in fact for parts of it. Some of the events in this movie are based on the account of Prince Yusupov. His character is played by Francis Matthews but his name is changed to Ivan. This is because Prince Yusupov was still alive when this movie was made and Hammer feared legal repercussions. Prince Yusupov died the following year after 'Rasputin' was released. His appearance was similar to Christopher Lee's portrayal. The basic facts about Rasputin gaining favor of the royal family are mostly correct. Most of the other events are made up from rumors or are invented by the writer. Raputin was indeed a notorious ladies man. He is known to have slept around quite a bit and it is rumored that he had an affair with the Tsarina as well.
SOME FACTS ABOUT THE REAL GRIGORI RASPUTIN:
-Rasputin was born in 1869 and died in 1916.
-Rasputin was born a peasant in Siberia.
-He became religious after a pilgrimage to a monastery in 1897.
-Though he declared himself a Monk, he had no position in the Russian Orthodox Church. He was accused by the Church of immoral practices throughout his life.
-He became a society figure in Russia in 1904-05. He met the Tsar and Tsarina in November, 1905.
-He became the healer for the Tsar's son, Alexei, in 1906.
-Tsarina Alexandra did believe that Rasputin helped cure Alexei. Alexei suffered from hemophilia. In 1907, Alexei became very ill. Tsarina Alexandra put her faith in Rasputin. Rasputin went to the palace and prayed for the boy. Alexei recovered and from then on Rasputin's influence increased. In 1912, the boy became very ill again and Alexandra wrote to Rasputin in Siberia asking him to pray for Alexei. Rasputin wrote back telling her to keep the doctors away from Alexei. Alexei recovered.
-Rasputin was very divisive inside Czar Nicholas' II court. Some thought he was a mystic, others thought he was a charlatan.
-Rasputin's influence increased in 1915 when Czar Nicolas II left for battle in World War I.
-There were 3 assassination attempts on Rasputin. The first one was in 1914 and he was stabbed in the stomach but recovered. The second attempt in 1915 was uncovered before the plan can be executed. The final one was at the end of 1916 and succeeded. Rasputin was assassinated by a group of noblemen who opposed his influence at the end of 1916.
-The Romanov's were overthrown shortly after his assassination. Some believe that Rasputin's influence on the royal family is part of the reason for them being overthrown. It is believed that Rasputin's reputation was used against them.
-Most of the accounts of Rasputin's life are based on rumors or hearsay.
THE LEGEND OF RASPUTIN'S DEATH:
WHAT WAS BELIEVED BEFORE THE AUTOPSY: Prince Yusopov invited Rasputin to his home on December 17. 1916, shortly after midnight. He brought him to the basement and gave him tea and cakes that were cyanide laced. Rasputin, after initially refusing the cakes, ate them but showed no signs of being poisoned. He then drank 3 glasses of wine and still showed no signs of being poisoned. At around 2:30 A.M., he went upstairs and retrieved a gun that was held by the other conspirators. He shot Rasputin in the chest. One of the conspirators went to Rasputin's home wearing his clothes to fool anybody watching. When Yusopov returned to the basement, Rasputin jumped up and attacked him. Yusopov escaped Rasputin's clutches and Rasputin ran out into the courtyard. Rasputin was shot by one of the conspirators and collapsed in the snow. The conspirators took his body, wrapped it and dumped it in a river. Supposedly there was water found in his lungs indicating that he was still alive when thrown in the water.
WHAT WAS LEARNED FROM THE AUTOPSY: An autopsy was done on the body of Rasputin. There was no poison found in his body. His body shows multiple signs of torture. He was probably tortured to find out what his plans were. He was shot twice in the body from behind and once in the head from close quarters. He was probably lying on the ground when shot in the head. simultaneously and not at different times. He died of his gunshot wounds. There was no water in discovered in his lungs. Most of what is rumored about his death and attempts at assassination were probably made up.
MICHAEL RIPPER IS IN THE HAMMER HOUSE: Anyone who is a fan of Hammer Horror knows that character actor, Michael Ripper, is Hammer's most prolific actor. He is, in fact, in this movie even though it isn't readily apparent. The carriage driver, whom Rasputin rides with early in the movie, has his voice dubbed with none other than Michael Ripper's voice.
WHAT HAPPENED TO THE FIGHT SCENE AT THE END: Francis Matthews, who plays Ivan, comments that he does not like to talk much about 'Rasputin - The Mad Monk' because of the editing at the end of the movie. Almost the entire fight scene between himself and Christopher Lee has been removed. You see Ivan get shoved out of the way and then a moment later Rasputin is on him. Ivan is bleeding and all disheveled. This is because he had just finished a rather lengthy fight with Rasputin that was edited out. He says they spent days filming that scene, only to see it removed by the editor. I agree with Matthews. They probably needed to cut some time from the movie but I think they could have cut that time elsewhere. I thought that the fight scene seemed rather short, especially in light of the legends surrounding Rasputin's prolonged assassination.
-Many people believe that this was one of Christopher Lee's best ever performances. I agree with that assessment. He seems to be perfect for the role.
-I thought that Rasputin could have just told Sonia to go off and leave him alone. He had hypnotic powers. Why not just tell her to just forget about him? Why risk creating enemies. Of course, the argument will be, Rasputin was mad!
-I think that Rasputin is a very unlikable anti-hero. I find that most of the time, when I watch an old horror movie I am rooting for the bad guy to win or at least survive even though I know this is not going to happen. In this movie, I felt quite the opposite. From the get go, I despised Rasputin and wanted to see him go down.
-Oddly, Czar Alexander does not appear in this movie. In real life, he left for war in 1915 but he was still around when Rasputin showed up to help his son.
CONCLUSIONS/RECOMMENDATIONS: This is an excellent release. The picture is superb and it has some excellent extra's. This movie features one of Christopher Lee's best performances. If you are a fan of Hammer Horror films then you will certainly want to add this to your collection. If you are a fan of old horror movies, you can't go wrong with purchasing this release.
I think this is one of the better Hammer Horror films and this movie was made during the pinnacle of Hammer's movie producing years.
Plot: 8/10 or 4 stars - Excellent movie with a bit of a letdown at the end.
Acting: 9/10 or 5 stars - One of Christopher Lee's best ever performances.
Picture: 9/10 or 5 stars - Just excellent.
Extra's: 8/10 or 4 stars - Some good extra's here, two commentaries and some documentaries.
Overall: 5 stars
Christopher Lee stars in an excellent lead performance, dominating the film from start to finish, and is the best thing about it. Well filmed, with a good supporting cast, though takes factual liberties with the real life Russian historical events it is based on.
Hopefully, Scream and/or Shout Factory will release the remaining films from those Anchor Bay collections like "Prehistoric Women" (1967) and "Four Sided Triangle" (1953) .
Top international reviews
Great picture quality
I can't believe Canel carelessly released it this way. There are even very noisy parts [like an old 78 rpm record] noticable here and there throughout the disc; and in writing this review I haven't yet listened to the audio commentaries or other extras. As for a replacement release--well I hope so. I've never been involved in having to request one. By the way this audio problem exists, to a lesser extent, on their same day release of The Mummy's Shroud.
let down comes because of a dreadful audio mix that sounds like you are listening to it
through an old transistor radio. Such a dreadful shame. It is apparent Studio Canal / Hammer
know about this but are unwilling to do anything about it. They did recall the discs from
their Prince of Darkness release and replace them all, which has no doubt cost a pretty penny
and put them off doing anything to help people who have bought this version. The DVD contained
in the Hammer Box Set has far superior audio and even though the print does not compare, I think
I will have to watch that one in the future.
Le scénario se concentre plus sur le côté surnaturel et diabolique du personnage de Raspoutine au détriment d'une véritable documentation historique. Ainsi, on note aucune scène avec le tsar Nicolas et le rôle de la tsarine se retrouve considérablement réduit. Il faut admettre que sans la prestation (formidable) de Christopher Lee, Raspoutine le moine fou serait bien fade, le film commençant avec un début réussi, mais plongeant dans l'ennui dans sa deuxième partie, avec un scénario pas assez épais.
Il reste cependant le jeu de Barbara Shelley et surtout de Christopher Lee - qui porte largement le film sur ses épaules -, le charme de la Hammer et la mise en scène correcte de Don Sharp (auteur du très réussi le Baiser du vampire) qui en font un film en fin de compte pas trop mal quoi que pas un très bon du studio.
Rasputin is a drinker and womaniser who has healing powers. Using these he becomes the trusted Doctor to the Zsars wife. However his motives are suspect.. Christopher Lee plays the title role (based on a real historical person and in part true) and is the best and worst thing about the film. Without Lee's screen presence this simply wouldn't have worked. However in places I found his performance a little over the top (dare I say even a little hammy).
This is also available in the The Hammer Collection boxed set of 21 films.
If you're a fan of Hammer films it would make sense to buy it in that set if you can get it at the right price. Having seen the film once or twice before I bougght the DVD I knew what to expect from this. Overall it is an entertaining film but I don't think it will hold up to repeated viewings.