Wednesday, June 22, 2011

RASPUTIN, THE MAD MONK (Don Sharp, 1966)

A mad monk sacrifices upon the alter of hedonism, infused with carnal sins worth forgiving, an intervention of divine attention. Don Sharp transforms the historical figure of Grigori Rasputin into a man of diabolical and supernatural intentions, a caped horror cliché seducing women and drinking from their voluptuous bank accounts.

The true star of the film is Christopher Lee whose intense and exaggerated performance is a riot of both humor and violence, his every line a shouted command with eyes that scar the conscience. Rasputin heals the meek with hands aflame, and devours life with a sinful conflagration. He hypnotizes women and revels in lust and larceny, eventually gaining advantage through manipulation and mayhem; a prescient parable of modern politics. Rasputin is self-absorbed and seeks power to quench his voracious thirst and becomes an unsympathetic character study, an aberration that haunts the freak show. He begins the film in ragged brown robes of a suffering pilgrim, rises to the status of white robes where his healing talents are used for positive means (though the ends are still selfish), an finally meets his brutal fate in the red robes of hellfire. Rasputin is a caricature, a vampire who feeds on others, and it's a shame that the film didn't explore his dual nature; the religious zealot versus the polemical politician amid the Russian revolution.

Final Grade: (C)

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