Hammer films, rather like the old Universal Horrors are rather like film comfort food but I have to say that revisiting this film rather gave me indigestion. I was torn between relishing the familiar sets and character actors but just irritated by the script. I am aware that I'm being unfair inasmuch that Hammer on its limited budgets was never in my wildest dreams ever going do Grigori Rasputin anything approaching justice and they certainly never intended to - the were making a B-horror movie plain and simple. Made as a quad of films in 1966 which recycled sets and actors, RASPUTIN THE MAD MONK was filmed back to back with the superior DRACULA-PRINCE OF DARKNESS while THE REPTILE was the flipside of PLAGUE OF THE ZOMBIES. The story of the Russian monk who exercised so much influence over the last of the Romanoff Czars has been filmed many times - I first encountered it in an Italian film called NIGHTS OF RASPUTIN and later in NICHOLAS AND ALEXANDRA (with Tom Baker) and RASPUTIN (with Alan Rickman) although I've never managed to catch up with the 1930's Hollywood version with the three Barrymore siblings (Ethel Barrymore reputedly quipped "I thought I was rather good but I don't know what those boys were up to!"). But back to the Hammer effort. There is no serious attempt a historical accuracy in the script or the setting and Czar Nicholas is noticeably absent and, surprisingly, the murder scene is rather less dramatic and horrific than its historical counterpart. Don Sharp's direction is adequate given what he has to work with with only the scene where a would be assassin stalks the monk in the dark really being memorable. Acting is so-so with a competent cast which includes Francis Mathews, Barbara Shelley, Susan Farmer, Dinsdale Landen and Richard Pascoe. Lee is good (most of the time) but really doesn't look much like Rasputin. Sadly, finally, it doesn't work as history or horror.
|Rasputin the Mad Monk|