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RASPUTIN THE MAD MONK ($30) is something of a tough Hammer movie to categorize. It really isn't a horror film, yet Hammer has given it all the stylistic trappings of a movie from that genre. In fact, RASPUTIN THE MAD MONK shares a number of cast members and set with Hammer’s DRACULA, PRINCE OF DARKNESS. RASPUTIN THE MAD MONK takes the notorious historical figure and practically turns him into a movie monster (whether Rasputin was a monster in real life is something I'll leave to the historians). This greatly fictionalized account of the life of the Russian monk depicts Rasputin as a scheming mesmerist, who uses his gift for healing to better his station in the world. To satiate his lust for women, wealth and power, Rasputin uses his skills to manipulate his way into the court of the Russian Czarina.

As Rasputin, Christopher Lee certainly gives one of the finest performances of his career, perfectly embodying the crafty monk who has abandoned his vows for the ways of the flesh. Christopher Lee has always been a towering presence in horror movies, but the role of Rasputin proves Lee's gifts extend beyond the genre that made him famous. Barbara Shelley also gives an outstanding performance as Sonia, the Lady in Waiting to the Russian court that falls under Rasputin's hypnotic spell. The cast of RASPUTIN THE MAD MONK also includes Francis Matthews, Suzan Farmer, Richard Pasco, Dinsdale Landen, Renée Asherson, Derek Francis and Joss Ackland.

Anchor Bay Entertainment has given RASPUTIN THE MAD MONK a very good presentation of DVD. RASPUTIN THE MAD MONK has been framed at 2.10:1 because the film was shot with early CinemaScope lenses, which causes some distortion at the extreme edges of the frame when projected through modern equipment. Despite the compromised aspect ratio, none of the wide screen compositions are severely effected. The 16:9 enhanced transfer reproduces a sharp image, with relatively good detail. Shadow detail comes up a bit short in some of the darker scenes, making the picture appear a bit flat. Colors reproduce with a natural level of saturation, which is better than I expected from DeLuxe color elements from the mid 1960s. Flesh tones are fairly natural and there are no problems with either chroma noise or bleeding. Solid authoring and dual layer technology prevent any noticeable traces of digital compression artifacts.

The Dolby Digital monaural soundtrack provides respectable fidelity and will take a fair amount of amplification without distortion. Dialogue is always clean and intelligible. A French language soundtrack is also encoded onto the DVD.

The basic interactive menus have a smattering of music and provide access to the standard scene selection feature, as well as the DVD's extras. Topping the list is an audio commentary featuring cast member Christopher Lee, Barbara Shelley, Francis Matthews and Suzan Farmer. The commentary has a relaxed atmosphere provides good-natured anecdotes, as well as some historic facts about the real Rasputin. Also included on the DVD is a theatrical trailer for RASPUTIN THE MAD MONK, plus 60-second and a 20-second combination television spots, which featured THE REPTILE as the second half of a double feature. Rounding out the extras is a 30-minute World Of Hammer episode entitled Christopher Lee.




DVD reviews are Copyright © 2000 THE CINEMA LASER and may not be copied or reprinted without the written consent of the publisher.
THE CINEMA LASER is written, edited and published by Derek M. Germano.



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