Trivia Christopher Lee and Francis Matthews spent several days filming an extended fight sequence for the film's ending. Eventually, much to Matthews's disappointment, most of the scene ended up on the cutting-room floor, leaving his bloody lip in the penultimate shot unexplained.
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Rasputin: The Mad Monk (1966)
10th May 07
Meet Rasputin, a completely bonkers Russian monk who needs to attend some anger management classes to curb his bullying behaviour, although despite being very ugly and very gobby he manages to be able to seduce any woman he sets his mind on. Of course it helps that he can hypnotise them as otherwise frankly he wouldn’t get anywhere.
Through this method of seduction and with his ability to cure people with placing his hands upon the sick or injured he soon wheedles his way into the Tsarina’s confidence, but as he starts pushing things too far he makes enemies who set out to put an end to his dastardly deeds.
Historical is pretty much out of the window, it's Hammer Time!
In the Seventies the dodgy but inexplicably popular pop act Boney M put the tale of Grigori Rasputin into song and forever immortalised the naughty monk as a chant that pissed-up revellers at office parties sing along to. Before then, in 1966, Hammer Productions had a go at bringing their version of the notorious womaniser to the big screen and who did they cast as this object of desire? Christopher Lee. No really, I’m not making this up.
Fitted out in a long dark wig and beard, the usual dour and pompous Mr. Lee looks to be having terrific fun growling and glowering his way through the lead role. It’s a pity as it is unlikely any viewer would have as much fun watching.
Allegedly Lee has actually met Rasputin’s assassins – Prince Yusupoff and Dmitri Pavlovich – as well as Rasputin’s very own daughter Maria, so given how huffy Lee got about Hammer’s Dracula scripts not remaining faithful to Bram Stoker’s source material he doesn’t seem to mind starring in a movie that takes HUGE liberties with another known figure. Normally I couldn’t give a stuff about movies taking such liberties but given Lee’s stance on others doing so, it all feels somewhat contradictory and leaves a nasty taste in the mouth.
In the Dracula movies Lee’s performance held up because for most of the screen time his character was spoken about and only seen sporadically. Even in Lee’s better movies such as The Wicker Man and The Lord of the Rings trilogy his screen time is not the most dominant. Here though he is very much thrust into our faces throughout and whilst there is some fun to be had with his hammy performance, after half an hour you just want to hurt the guy, badly! Frankly given a choice I’d rather listen to THAT Boney M track again for an hour and a half than sit through this. Ready now, ‘Ra Ra Rasputin... Lover of the Russian Queen!’
Director Don Sharp injects little in the way of energy into proceedings relying completely on his tall lean star to do all the work for him. Even the climatic fight sequence between Lee and co-star Francis Matthews fails to deliver, apparently intended to be much longer, and fails to raise more than mild interest. If you consider that most of this interest was aimed at the Benny Hill-style dummy that is meant to be Rasputin plummeting to his death then it's kind of a back-handed compliment.
Using the same sets and cast members as Dracula: Prince of Darkness, also released in 1966, Rasputin is your standard Hammer cheapie, and not one of their better ones at that.
Extras – just a trailer
Versions The UK cinema version (as well as the UK VHS releases by Lumiere and Studio Canal) was cut by the BBFC to remove a shot of a severed hand and to shorten the love scene between Rasputin and Sonia. The cuts were restored in various TV showings and later to all video/DVD prints.
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