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This review appears direct to the web courtesy of THE CINEMA LASER.

RASPUTIN THE MAD MONK

RASPUTIN THE MAD MONK ($50) is another sterling addition to Elite Entertainment’s continuing series of Hammer films on Laserdisc. In fact, RASPUTIN THE MAD MONK could be one of the best films produced by Hammer. RASPUTIN THE MAD MONK isn’t so much a horror film as it is a historical drama, with horrific overtones. Christopher Lee gives one of the finest performances of his career as the crafty and evil Rasputin. As a Holy Man, Rasputin leaves a lot to de desired, spending much of his time drinking and carousing with women, then again, there is the occasional maiming and murder to consider. The story presented here is pure fiction, but does depict the crazed monk’s effect on the Russian court, by using mesmerism to control the Czarina and elevate his station in life. Like Christopher Lee, Barbara Shelley gives a standout performance as the Czarina’s Lady In Waiting who is degraded and destroyed by Rasputin. Shelley’s work here is also pivotal to the success of the film. In addition to Lee and Shelley’s fine performances, the cast of RASPUTIN THE MAD MONK also features Francis Matthews, Suzan Farmer, John Bailey and Joss Ackland.

Elite Entertainment has done a fine job transcribing RASPUTIN THE MAD MONK to Laserdisc. Like previous films in the Elite/Hammer series, William Lustig has supervised the Letterboxed transfer. For the most part the transfer looks quite good. RASPUTIN THE MAD MONK was produced in CinemaScope, but there were some problems with anamorphic film elements, which necessitated that the film be transferred at 2.1:1 instead of 2.35:1. There isn’t too much harm done to the composition, since few characters are situated towards the extreme edges of the frame. Other than the aspect ratio being slightly off, the transfer of RASPUTIN THE MAD MONK appears just fine. The transfer has good detail and color considering that DeLuxe film elements from this time period are notoriously horrible. The digitally encoded monaural soundtrack has respectable fidelity, and will take a fair amount of amplification. The Pioneer pressing had only modest speckling. As supplement, Elite Entertainment Inc. has included an audio commentary featuring cast member Christopher Lee, Barbara Shelley, Francis Matthews and Suzan Farmer. The commentary is very entertaining and features good-natured anecdotes and a lot of historic facts about the real Rasputin. Christopher Lee really got into the role, and learned quite a bit about the man he portrayed. The audio commentary on my sample suddenly disappeared for the last few minutes of side one, but reappeared on side two. Elite has also included a theatrical trailer for RASPUTIN THE MAD MONK, as well as a 60-second and a 20-second combination television spot, which also featured THE REPTILE.

The Hammer films that Elite Entertainment Inc. is releasing on Laserdisc are real treasures. RASPUTIN THE MAD MONK is especially good. Recommended!

 
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Laserdisc reviews are Copyright 1997 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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