An interesting little film, with clever direction and strong performances not to mention a storyline based on facts rather than exaggerating the 'evils' of the 'mad monk'. The whole film, however, is elevated by the towering performance of Conrad Veidt. His Rasputin is a simple man with crude manners and a strong appetite for carousing and womanising but he also deeply spiritual and mystical with a gift for healing. His rise from troublesome peasant to Royal Adviser is swiftly dealt with, between bouts of partying and drunken lechery with the ladies eager to join in! His impending doom and his demise are handled with skill, and once more Veidt brings forth his amazing capacity for expressing depths of intense emotion. The death scene is one that will chill you to the bone.
This film is based on manuscript produced by Ossip Dymow, a writer who had known Rasputin, as well as some of his friends and enemies, and so this production sticks to the facts as much as possible. It is a world away from the fabulous MGM Barrymore filled "Rasputin and the Empress" (aka "The Mad Monk")(US, Richard Boleslawski, 1933) with Lionel Barrymore gloriously hamming and riotously scene stealing through the production. The idea of Rasputin as a cunning monster who used his hypnotic powers to fulfil his lust for power and women is one that endures, and makes a great film. But this is a very different film. Adolf Trotz keeps the whole story moving along, and gives emphasis where necessary but on the whole keeps everything low key. It would have been easy to have Veidt's eyes hypnotising and captivating everyone around him, but Rasputin's gift is subtly revealed and Veidt's eyes are utilised to their startling best in the end scene. The production is not flawless and the inappropriate music that interrupts the end of Rasputin's life is a serious mistake. The performance of Conrad Veidt is utterly spellbinding and whilst creating a very human Rasputin, his presence is mesmerising enough for us to understand why so many fell under his influence.
This Rasputin is sinister and sexy!
4 of 5 people found this review helpful.
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