Rasputin: The Mad Monk (UK 1966)

Rating: **
Review Date: 4/9/12
Cast: Christopher Lee, Barbara Shelley, Suzan Farmer

"Rasputin: The Mad Monk" is a fictional account of the controversial figure's corrupt lifestyle and his rise to power in the early 1900's. He is portrayed as a mystical healer and a master hypnotist who can control the will of others. He is also portrayed as a hedonistic lout who enjoys wine and women, and is prone to outbursts of violence. At one point he boasts "I commit sins that are worth forgiving." A chance meeting with a lady in waiting to the Tsarina of Russia allows Rasputin to worm his way into the royal court and begin influencing matters of state. But his lascivious ways, rude manners, and hunger for power earn him some bitter enemies who plot to murder him.

Christopher Lee tears into his role as Rasputin with maniacal glee, giving a loud and boisterous performance that's so aggressively over the top that it borders on absurdity. The lovely Barbara Shelley plays the doomed Sonja, whom Rasputin manipulates to both satisfy his sexual appetite and achieve his political agenda. Stunningly beautiful Suzan Farmer (whom Rasputin refers to as "the pretty one") is also on hand as eye candy, and serves as bait for Rasputin's demise. The picture has all of the visual hallmarks of a Hammer production, but the pacing is horribly slow and the plot isn't particularly interesting. Watching Christopher Lee overact is a hoot and he dominates every scene that he's in, but his outrageousness has the tendency to kill the film's momentum. An average outing at best.