Rasputin - The Mad Monk [DVD]
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A Hammer horror classic starring Christopher Lee as Rasputin, the monk who the Russian Tsarina takes under her wing. The story begins with Rasputin, after using his powers to cure an innkeeper's wife, throwing a party, raping the innkeeper's daughter and cutting off the hand of her suitor. He then refuses to apologise to the Abbot of his monastery and leaves for St Petersburg, deciding to use his faith-healing powers for his own hedonistic ends. It is here that he eventually wangles his way into the Tsarina's court and she allows him more and more power.
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I can't believe Canel carelessly released it this way. There are even very noisy parts [like an old 78 rpm record] noticable here and there throughout the disc; and in writing this review I haven't yet listened to the audio commentaries or other extras. As for a replacement release--well I hope so. I've never been involved in having to request one. By the way this audio problem exists, to a lesser extent, on their same day release of The Mummy's Shroud.
Although the sound is the original mono audio, and is theoretically presented in uncompressed PCM - there may be coding problems as several people have felt that it does not have the depth of the original DVD audio. I did not really notice this initially as I was more concerned with the image quality, but have now had a proper listen and they are absolutely right. The dynamic range seems faulty with weak base elements, particularly in the early sections of the film. So beware, in case there is a product
re-call. However the video at least is a clean and detailed transfer, with good depth of colour etc presented in an unmatted 2.55:1 version - although it was actually designed to be shown in the 2.35 CinemaScope format. Shame about the sound. It's weird that Hammer seem to have shot themselves in the foot four times in a row.
Tall Stories: The Making of Rasputin The Mad Monk with Denis Meikle, the author of A History of Horrors and Jonathan Rigby, author of Christopher Lee: The Authorised Screen History and Andrew Cook, author of To Kill Rasputin. The legendary Barbara Shelley, and Francis Matthews, also provide some background together with David Huckvale, author of Hammer Film Scores and the Musical Avant-Garde who discusses the music.
Brought to Book: Hammer Novelisations discusses the Hammer book tie-ins with Rigby and Mark Gatis
World of Hammer Episode "Costumers" is the weakest item and does not really add much to the package as it gives very limited information on its subject just lots of extracts and unnecessary plot detail.
However all is redeamed with the Stills Gallery of posters, lobby cards etc and behind the scenes shots and information on the Rasputin "free beard" marketing gimmick !
The Audio Commentary features Christopher Lee, Suzan Farmer, Francis Matthews and Barbara Shelley
In truth it's Christopher Lee as the title character who keeps this from plunging the depths of stinkerville, and this in spite of sporting a most distracting and ridiculous beard. Plot simply - and fancifully - shows Rasputin as a hard drinking, womanising bully with a penchant for hypnotism, all of which he uses for his nefarious ends.
It's all very colourful, with Lee holding court as male saps and beautiful dames (Barbara Shelley oh my eye!) come and go, which all builds to a furious finale in the Hammer Films tradition. Yet the slow pace, weakness of the story and the overt feeling of watching a rush job, stops this from being anything but a Hammer time waster. 6/10
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