Iíve never been a big fan of Hammer films. I
find the movies to be somewhat slow moving; plodding, to be precise. A
bunch of dull monster fodder prancing about, whining about this, that
and the other, as the titular creature/vampire/whatever
slowly picks them off one-by-one (but never often enough). In the
interest of fairness, however, I probably shouldnít generalize Hammer
by my admittedly limited experience. To be quite honest, I could
probably count the number of their films Iíve seen on one hand. This
confession brings one of my darker secrets to light: Iím really not
that familiar with the work of renowned horror icon Christopher Lee.
know, I know. I should be ashamed of myself. Believe me, I am. What
makes matters even worse is the fact that the only reason I picked up
this DVD was the measly eight dollar price tag. I mean, eight
bucks! Imagine my surprise when I discovered the lousy eight dollars
I shelled out was actually for a good movie. Iím sure thereís a rub
somewhere (there always is), but so far it feels like Iím getting away
with something. Having my cake and eating it too is a rare treat indeed.
immortal Christopher Lee plays Rasputin, a monk. A mad monk. A mad monk
with the power to heal, not unlike Benny Hinn (a more contemporary mad
monk). Anyway, after having healed the local barkeepís wife of a
horrible illness, the gracious family throws Rasputin a party. After one
or two drinks too many, Rasputin gets fresh with the barkeepís
daughter, much to the dismay of her current boyfriend. The two scuffle,
with Rasputin coming out on top after lopping off his attackerís hand.
victorious in battle, Rasputinís fellow clergymen are not impressed
with their colleagueís violent behavior; his drinking and fornicating
doesnít do much to plead his case, either. Rasputin is immediately
disbarred (Ďcause thatís what happens to naughty monks).
Our Hero decides to try his fortune in the big city; so he loads up the
truck and moves to Beverly (or the Russian equivalent). Itís at a
local bar (have you figured out yet that the man loves to drink?) where
Rasputin meets Sonia (Barbara Shelley), a Lady-in-Waiting to the wife of
the Czar. Through some calculated manipulation (along with an uncanny
knack for hypnotism), Rasputin soon endears himself to the beautiful
aristocrat. He convinces (read: hypnotizes) Sonia into injuring the
Czarís son, Alexei, during an outing. Soon after the nefarious deed,
Sonia recommends a certain monk who just so happens to be in town to
come to the palace and heal the critically injured heir to the throne.
Once accomplished, Rasputin earns an incredible amount of brownie points
with the Czarís wife. As a matter of fact, Rasputin soon finds himself
with some great new digs, the title of royal physician, and all the
bennies (monetary and otherwise) that come with being on a monarchís
satisfied, it doesnít take long for the evil monk to become restless,
and set his political
aspirations just a bit higher; regardless of the grievous repercussions
to those around him, the royal family, nor Russia itself.
having enjoyed this film, Rasputin
is nonetheless indicative of a standard Hammer film: lavish colors;
dopey monster (or monk, in this case) fodder; and a cunning villain who
almost effortlessly does as he/she pleases. What makes the movie so
enjoyable has little to do with the story (which, in all fairness, is
the foundation to Rasputin is
found in the acting; specifically, Christopher Lee. His interpretation
of the mad monk is nothing short of inspired; well worth the price of
admission alone. Iíve read that Lee considers this particular role to
be the best he was ever offered. Iím in no position to argue this
point one way or another, but what I can say is that it is quite obvious
that Lee appears to be enjoying himself throughout the filmís
entirety. Whenever onscreen (which, fortunately, is quite often), Lee
chews the scenery for all itís worth. From the delivery of lines to
simple mannerisms, Christopher Lee demands your rapt attention. For the
most part, his fellow thespians are hopelessly lost in his shadow. They
in the world Lee creates, but in the end, itís still his world.
I have very little to whine about. If nothing else, I was a little
disappointed with the scenery. Or lack thereof. Rasputin,
like many Hammer films, has the feel of a period piece. Being set in
Russia, surrounded by royals, one might expect to be awed by extravagant
costumes and eye-popping landscapes. Russia is a beautiful place. Iíve
seen pictures, dammit! Sadly, Rasputin
doesnít capitalize on the aesthetics of the countryside.
the fashion is nothing to write home about either. Granted, one
shouldnít expect much from the peasant scenes (I mean, theyíre peasants, for gosh sakes!); but the rich should be flaunting their
lives of excess. Itís what the wealthy do, right? If I had two nickels
to rub together, no one would ever catch me without my purple polyester
suit, matching hat, and flamboyant white plumage poking out the brim,
just enough to accentuate the deep violet hue.
Iím divulging just a bit too much about myself here.
one of Rasputinís numerous dance scenes, Christopher Lee has an
obvious stunt (erÖdance) double. This surprises me, because Mr. Lee
strikes me as the type who could really cut a rug. Dracula. Fu Manchu.
All of these characters just scream ďBoogey-Woogey Man.Ē
Rasputinís impeccable bedside manner, After healing the barkeepís
wife, Our Hero immediately yells: ďOpen your eyes, woman! Youíre
cured!Ē You canít get pleasantry like that with a simple HMO.
uncanny allure to women. It must have something to with his technique;
like smacking them to the floor, stripping them, then having his wicked
way. After the deed, thatís when Rasputin bums some greenbacks,
ordering the woman du jour to leave the booty (figuratively speaking) on
the bed. Casanova? Puh-leeze.