Thursday, August 23, 2012
RASPUTIN, THE MAD MONK
"This is only a house -- and she has all of Russia!"
Rasputin (Christopher Lee) -- whom everyone calls RasPOOtin -- may be a monk but he refuses to live like one, being given to love of drink and women -- and power. With his almost mesmeric command over women, he gets a a smitten Sonia (Barbara Shelley), lady-in-waiting to the Tsarina (Renee Asherson), to arrange for him to curry the latter's favor by ministering to her injured little boy. The Tsarina rewards him with a house, and entry into her charmed royal circle. But some of Rasputin's actions alarm Boris (Richard Pasco) even after Rasputin has arranged for him to take over as the royal family's doctor. Others are jealous of Rasputin's influence, and Sonia's brother (Dinsdale Landen) is furious at the monk's treatment of his sister. This all culminates in a lively final battle where Rasputin proves quite difficult to kill. While it's debatable how historically accurate this is, it's entertaining and fast-paced, with Lee giving a vivid performance, albeit one with a few hammy moments. The other cast members are good; few of them attempt a Russian accent. This has a few lurid Hammer studio touches: a hand lopped off; acid thrown in a man's face, but is not really a horror film.
Verdict: Rasputin through the Hammer lens. ***.