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The Curator of Schlock #118 by Jeff Shuster

Rasputin, the Mad Monk

Women want him and men want to kill him.  

I’m a bit of a DVD collector. Others might say hoarder, but so what if I end end up being crushed under mounds of plastic discs one day. I can think of worse ways to die. I’m no Coolduder, but I do have a large library. Unfortunately, as with any collection, you end up having gaps. For me it’s Hammer movies, those wonderful British gems of the 50s, 60s, and 70s. They’re probably most well known for their horror collection, those glorious Technicolor recreations of classic monsters such as Frankenstein, Dracula, and the Mummy.

The trouble with Hammer Horror movies is that they were distributed over here in the States by various movie studios such as Universal Studios, Columbia Pictures, and Warner Bros. This means if you want to get all of the Dracula movies or all of the Frankensteins, you have to rely on editions of varying quality from different studios. You just can’t get a box set like you can with James Bond movies. With the advent of Blu-Ray, I had hoped Hammer movies would be given a second chance on home video and we did get some excellent releases like Twins of Evil and Dracula: Prince of Darkness, but even Blu-Ray releases have been haphazard here in North America while Great Britain gets the full catalogue of Hammer titles.

Little did I know that Anchor Bay had released a full bevy of fancy Hammer Horror DVDs back in the late 90s and early 2000s. How did I miss these? Was I not paying attention? Titles such as Plague of the ZombiesThe Mummy’s Shroud, and The Devil Rides Out were all given the special edition treatment. I was asleep at the wheel, which is surprising since I bought so many Anchor Bay DVDs back in the day  like Nightmare City and Phenomena. A fellow curator loaned me his Anchor Bay edition of Hammer’s Rasputin: The Mad Monk, which brings us to tonight’s review.

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Rasputin: The Mad Monk was directed by Don Sharp and starred Christopher Lee in the title role. The movie starts out with some Russian tavern owner who is worried his wife is going to die because she has a fever or something.

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Rasputin shows up at the tavern wanting to guzzle down some wine so he drains the fever out of the guy’s wife, taking it into is hands so he can convince the tavern owner to throw a wild party. Yeah, Rasputin has magic powers or mutant powers or demonic powers-whatever! He gets drunk, tries to have his way with the tavern owner’s daughter, and slices off a man’s hand with a garden hoe.

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I started out thinking Rasputin would be an anti-hero like Paul Kersey or John Kramer. You know, he saves lives, but is a womanizer and a glutton. The Catholic Church doesn’t approve of Rasputin, what with all the debauchery and chopping off of hands so he high tails it off to St. Petersberg. He figures he’ll use his mind controlling powers to influence the royal family.

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He seduces one of the Tsarina’s ladies-in-waiting, but commands her to commit suicide once he tires of her. When her boyfriend seeks revenge, Rasputin knocks acid in his face. You know, Rasputin is kind of a mean guy. No wonder everyone wants to kill him.

I’d tell you to check out the movie, but it’s no longer available on DVD. Sucks to be you!

 

Five Suggestions for the Budding Hammer Collector

  1. Hammer Film Collection – 5 Movie Pack: The Two Faces of Dr. Jekyll, Scream of Fear, The Gorgon, Stop Me Before I Kill, The Curse of the Mummy’s Tomb You can get this one for cheap. They’re all good, but The Gorgon is the highlight. This is a Sony release of the Columbia released Hammer films. The transfers are excellent. 
  2. The Hammer Horror Series (Brides of Dracula / Curse of the Werewolf / Phantom of the Opera / Paranoiac / Kiss of the Vampire / Nightmare / Night Creatures / Evil of Frankenstein) This is a collection of the Universal Studios released Hammer films. Be sure to buy the edition that was released in 2014 as those discs are single-sided. Double-sided DVDs are the pits.
  3. Horror Classics, Volume One Collection Four Iconic Horror Classics from Hammer Films (THE MUMMY / FRANKENSTEIN MUST BE DESTROYED / DRACULA HAS RISEN FROM THE GRAVE / TASTE THE BLOOD OF DRACULA) This recently released Blu-Ray set comes from Warner Bros. Here’s hoping for a volume 2. 
  4. Any Hammer release from Synapse. These come in Blu-Ray/DVD combo packs. These come from Hammers 70s period and feature movies such as The Vampire Circus and Hands of the Ripper
  5. The Vampire Lovers from Scream Factory. Sadly, the only Hammer release from Scream Factory, but you can pick this Blu-Ray up for cheap. Feature length audio commentary with Ingrid Pitt. What more can you ask for?

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Jeffrey Shuster 1

Photo by Leslie Salas

Jeffrey Shuster (episode 47episode 102episode 124, and episode 131) is an MFA candidate at the University of Central Florida.

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