Rasputin, The Mad Monk

Rasputin, The Mad Monk is a 1966 movie from Hammer Productions directed by Don Sharp. It stars Christopher Lee as the Russian peasant-mystic Grigori Rasputin, notable for gaining great influence with the Tsars prior to the Russian Revolution. Barbara Shelley, Francis Matthews, Suzan Farmer, Richard Pasco, Dinsdale Landen and Renée Asherson also star in this movie. Although based on some events mentioned in Prince Yusupov’s account of the story, the movie is partly fictional.

In the Russian countryside an innkeeper is lamenting over the near death state of his wife and the doctor has given up hope on curing her. That night Rasputin, a wandering monk dressed in a robe, wild hair and a long beard (looking like a tall, thinner Rabindranath Tagore) comes in and demands wine. As he learns of the innkeeper’s wife’s illness he goes to her room and, in front of her husband, daughter and another man, cures her using his ‘special powers of healing’. The grateful innkeeper provides large quantities of wine and there is much singing and dancing as the daughter dances with Rasputin. Later he sneaks the girl off to the barn for a romp in the hay but is attacked by a suitor of the girl. Rasputin defends himself and gravely injures the man but is forced to escape away on a horse as the girl’s screams brings all the men come in thinking the monk is the attacker! Later hauled before an Orthodox bishop for his sexual immorality and violence, the innkeeper springs to the monk’s defence. Rasputin protests that he is sexually immoral because he likes to give God “sins worth forgiving”. He also claims to have healing powers in his hands, and is unperturbed by the bishop’s accusation that his power is from Satan.

Rasputin makes his way to St. Petersburg and at an inn enters a drinking contest with a disreputed doctor, Dr Boris Zargo. After consuming huge quantities of wine, Boris faints and is carried to his room by Rasputin, who then makes himself at home there. He sets his designs on gaining influence over the Tsarina and plans his strategy. He seduces the Tsarina’s Tsarina’s lady-in-waiting, Sonia, on whom he has a hypnotic effect and after using her to quench his voracious lust for sex, he sets her out to do his biding. He instructs Sonia to push the Tzarina’s son from a high ledge and the injured boy goes into a coma. After doctors cannot cure him, Sonia tells the Tzarina about the holy man who can heal anyone and Rasputin is asked to come and heal the royal child. Rasputin heals the boy to everyone’s astonishment and he is rewarded by the Tzarina. Soon, setup in a grand house, with Boris as his assistant, Rasputin receives many gifts and makes a lot of money by healing, mostly women, Rasputin becomes wealthy and arrogant. His ruthless pursuit of wealth and prestige, and increasing control over the royal household attracts opposition. Finally he dumps Sonia, saying he lusts after her friend Vanessa who he finds very attractive, who he has grown tired off and she kills herself. Sonia’s brother Peter had earlier enlists the help of Vanessa’s brother Ivan to bring about the monk’s downfall as he was enraged at the monk’s manipulation of her.

They find a disillusioned Boris who walked out on Rasputin sitting in an inn and they hatch a plan. Ivan invites Rasputin to his house for dinner on the pretext of meeting Vanessa. However when Peter discovers his sister’s dead body he goes to kill Rasputin but gets a beaker of acid in his face for his troubles. At night as Rasputin arrives at Ivan’s home he gorges himself on poisoned chocolates & wine that Ivan provides. He sees Boris and struggles with him & Ivan but is pushed through the window and falls to the snowy ground and dies.

Unfortunately the didn’t stick to the original story, much to my chagrin. In reality he was poisoned, beaten when he still survived and then shot to death. The popular song ‘Rasputin’ by Boney M comes to mind and is responsible for many, like me, to be fascinated by the life of this man. And yeah he doesn’t seem to have a romantic relationship with the Tzarina, despite the lyrics Anyway, good film and it looks like Lee had a ball in it. 7.5 outta 10!

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