Wednesday, 31 October 2012


The LOVELY people at HAMMER FILMS have given us all a great HALLOWEEN TREAT! Just click on this ink and you can watch Peter Cushing and Shane Briant in 'FRANKENSTEIN AND THE MONSTER FROM HELL for free! Thank you, Hammer and a Happy Halloween!

The film is available to watch UNTIL 6am GMT 1st Nov 2012! 

Tuesday, 30 October 2012



Thursday, 25 October 2012


For anyone recently watching the recent DVD release of 'HOUSE OF THE LONG SHADOWS' thinking, I wish this was available on Blu Ray....Wish no more, because it IS! Slipped out quietly this week. It's a release by KOCH MEDIA. The disc is in English / German. The extras are nothing to write home about, but you can add this 'bluey' to your Cushing Collection!

The American writer Kenneth Magee makes a bet with his publisher, to write in a single night, a horror novel. The publisher counters and sends Magee in an old country house where supposedly no one has lived for decades. The Haunted 'House of the Long Shadows' proves to be a collection of terrible events, as a hotbed of poison attacks, murder and manslaughter. Who is the brutal killer who takes a bloody trail of death through this house? Magee fears for his life, as already some corpses block the way to the exit, and he feels that he will be next. But suddenly, in the misty dawn, the ghostly night takes a completely unexpected turn!

Extras: gallery.

Director: Pete Walker
Cast: Christopher Lee, Peter Cushing, Vincent Price, John Carradine, Desi Arnaz Jr.

Genre / Theme: Horror
Sound: DTS HD 2.0: English, German DTS
Picture Format: 16:9 1.78:1; HD
Age group: 16
Distribution: Koch Media GmbH
No.: jk373698
Running time: 101 min
Price: 29 - CHF 


Tuesday, 23 October 2012


If you're fan of the horror films of Britain's Hammer Studios you tend to have to make a few allowances for elements that the passing of time has rendered a little old-hat, from the blaring brass crescendos that accompany shock moments to the parade of now over-familiar classical monsters. As horror cinema they rely on sometimes well-worn motifs and narrative arcs, and viewed from a modern perspective are no longer all that scary. There are a couple of notable exceptions, both made in the late 60s. The first was the 1967 Quatermass and the Pit, which was followed in 1968 by what was once hoped would be the first of a series of adaptations of novels by author Denis Wheatley featuring the character of the Duc de Richleau, The Devil Rides Out. Unfortunately (and mysteriously), the film flopped in the US, killing any plans for further de Richleau films. Which is a big damned shame, as while time has dulled the edge of some of the studio's output, The Devil Rides Out continues to shine as one of its very finest films.

Now it's quite possible that some younger viewers will not be familiar with the works of Mr. Wheatley. Although the author of over 70 books, many of them thrillers or adventure stories, it is his occult novels for which he remains most famous. In their day they were chart-topping best sellers, tales of the black arts written with an almost scholarly eye for detail and authenticity. Parents doubtless worried about the harmful effects they might have on their children, who frankly lapped them up. This, for most of us, was our first exposure to the whole concept of Satanism and the occult, and as written in Wheatley's books it seemed both plausible and frightening, a long way from the more fantasy-based monsters of much of Hammer's late 60s output. 

The story unfolds with breathless economy. Arriving from America, Rex Van Ryn (Leon Greene, but with Patrick Allen's voice) is met by his old friend the Duc de Richleau (Christopher Lee) for their annual reunion. Missing from the party is the younger Simon Aron (Patrick Mower), who has recently broken off contact with de Richleau and acquired a large and secluded manor house. The pair drive to his home and find him in the company of guests and preparing for an unspecified evening event. In the course of exploring the upstairs observatory, Richleau uncovers evidence that Simon has become involved in black magic and is soon to be baptised as a disciple of Satan. Fearing for their friend's safety, de Richleau and Rex kidnap Simon and flee the house, but the covenant leader Mocata has no intention of letting his newest recruit escape his grasp.

Tightly scripted by Richard Matheson and thrillingly directed by Terence Fisher, The Devil Rides Out hits the ground running and rarely pauses for breath. Two of the lead characters are introduced in the first minute of screen time and key information about the third is concisely outlined as they make their way to his home. Information is dispensed on the move and we are encouraged to read as much from what we see as what we hear: the striking international diversity of Simon's guests; the snippets of conversation overhead as de Richleau tours the room; one guest's concern there are more than thirteen present; the suggestively demonic design of the observatory's marble floor; de Richleau's alarm at the discovery of black and white cockerels concealed in a wicker basket. As de Richleau and Rex make their escape with the unconscious Simon, the pace is further accelerated by James Bernard's racy score, Arthur Grant's sometimes kinetic camerawork (the camera actually shakes when the manservant who tried to stop them is sent crashing through a table, as if physically responding to the violence of the action) and Spencer Reeve's scalpel-sharp editing (Reeve also cut Quatermass and the Pit and the Chimes of Big Ben episode of The Prisoner). 

With next to no build-up and the need to explain the details of devil worship to an audience for whom this was virgin territory (no pun intended), a fair amount of exposition is perhaps to be expected. But by keeping it brief and crucial to narrative progression, it never for a second plays like shoehorned-in explanation. It helps no end that de Richleau is played by Christopher Lee at his commanding and persuasive best, and that he delivers every line with the authority and conviction of a man who is utterly convinced of the truth and importance of his every word. 

And it just doesn't let up. As soon as one problem is resolved, another arises, adding to the sense that our trio – who later expand to include unbaptized circle member Tanith (played by French actress Nike Arrighi) and de Richleau's friends Marie and Richard Eaton (Sarah Lawson and the instantly recognisable Paul Eddington) – really are under relentless attack from diabolical forces. If the first half has a climactic scene, it's the open-air ceremony at which Simon and Tanith are to receive their satanic baptism, which although toned down by censorial restrictions – wild naked orgies were still a film no-no in 1968 British cinema – is realised on a surprisingly large scale. It also features one of the most memorable cinematic incarnations of The Devil, here in the shape of The Goat of Mendes (aka Baphometh for those with an interest in such things), a horned humanoid goat creature so impressive that all he has to do is sit on a rock and look regal to appear threatening.

Marshalling the dark forces is the all-powerful Mocata, a gorgeously judged performance of smiling malevolence from Charles Gray, who infuses even gentlemanly politeness with unspeakable menace. In one of the film's most compellingly staged scenes, he visits and hypnotises Marie Eaton (a sequence in which neither of the two blue-eyed performers blinks even once) to force her to reveal the location of Simon and Tanith, both of whom – in a superbly suggestive high-angle shot – he then silently commands to murder their unwary protectors. When his efforts are disrupted by the sudden arrival of Marie's daughter Peggy, he is shown smartly to the door, where he delivers what could be the best implicit threat in horror film history: "I shall not be back," he casually assures Marie with a confident smile. "But something will."

Astonishingly, this incident and action-driven first hour plays almost like a warm-up for a gripping third act in which de Richleau and his companions do battle with the forces of darkness from within a chalked circle in the Eatons' home, while Rex holds up in a barn with Tanith to prevent Mocata attacking the group through her. It's a relentless assault on the group's collective resolve that is shown exclusively from their viewpoint, which has the effect of trapping us in the circle with them, where we share their apprehension as the drop in the light level and their fear at the arrival of a giant spider and the winged Angel of Death. The special effects may not be as convincingly slick as top flight CG, but there is still something nicely organic about the results here, and the urgency of pace makes it hard to care too much about the odd flaw in the matte work. Only a thankfully brief shot in which the rearing horse of the Angel of Death is ping-ponged back and forth comes close to shattering the illusion, a curious decision whose artificiality borders on the comical. 

But this is a minor blip in an otherwise fabulous concoction that showcases the inspired partnership of Hammer, Fisher and Lee at the absolute top of their game. The effects, religious reverence and the scary-eyed African aside, it has also aged handsomely, and is as fast-paced and incident-packed as any modern day horror work and a whole lot classier than most. Even the black magic rituals and Latin incantations having a consistently authentic ring, being the result of historical research rather than fanciful imaginings. Despite some stiff competition, The Devil Rides Out is probably my favourite film from a studio on whose output fed my developing teenage love-affair with cinematic horror, and it remains one of only a handful of Hammer films that have been afforded classic status.

the optical effects restoration

In a break from the previous films in the Studiocanal series, the restoration of The Devil Rides Out was carried out by Cineimage, and in terms of picture quality they've done a spanking job, something I'll expand on in the sound and vision section below. What does need to be addressed separately is their work on the film's optical effects, which while technically impressive, does re-awaken the old and valid argument about tinkering with films whose makers are unable to collaborate on, approve of, or object to the changes made. Here the work has involved stabilizing shaky composite shots, cleaning up matte lines and regrading elements to achieve a closer contrast balance between matted elements and the footage on which they have been composited.  

More controversially, Cineimage have also replaced one effect completely (the lightning strike on the satanic altar), added elements to another (a water splash on the spider), and completed one one effect that was deemed to have been inserted into the film in an unfinished state, a close-up of the Angel of Death that was shot against a blue screen but never composited onto a background. Cineimage have added the missing background image, but one of their own creation, which may or may not match the intentions of Terence Fisher and effects man Michael Staiver-Hutchins. It's all seamlessly done and definitely polishes up the quality of the effects work, but this does mean that the version here is technically not the one that Fisher signed off on, and not the one that some of us were privileged to see on the big screen. If alterations like this are to be made, albeit with the best of intentions, it would be nice to be offered the opportunity to also watch the film in its original, unaltered form.

Effects tinkering aside, the restoration work done here is consistently excellent, and the increased resolution and bitrate offered by Blu-ray enables a far higher level of detail and tonal richness than even the previously standard-setting transfer on the 2000 US Anchor Bay DVD could deliver. The film grain varies a little, but is for the most part unobtrusive, and the image itself is spotless, the result of restoration work that has removed over one and a half million instances of dust and dirt. The contrast is also very nicely judged, and while there is some minor quality variance, at its best – the open-air satanic baptism, with its vivid blue robes, inky blacks and crisp detail is a good example – the image quality is excellent.

The linear PCM mono 2.0 soundtrack has some inevitable minor restrictions in range – there is no punchy bass here – but is otherwise clear and free of distortion on even the louder music and effects. There is only a faint trace of a background hum, and you'll have to crank up the volume to hear it.

Audio Commentary with Christopher Lee, Sarah Lawson, & Hammer Films Historian Marcus Hearne
The commentary here has been ported over from Anchor Bay's twelve-year-old US DVD release, but you'll get no complaints from me. It's an excellent track in which Lee effectively holds court, appropriate given that he was the one who convinced Hammer that the time was right to make a film from one of Wheatley's novels. His extensive knowledge of the subject allows him to guide us through the origins of title sequence artwork and of the Latin used in the rituals, and he reveals that he was friends with Wheatley and that the author loved the film. Lee and Lawson share plenty of entertaining memories of the shoot, including the dubbing of Leon Greene's voice with that of Patrick Allen, to whom Lawson was married until his death in 2006. It's an information-busy and enthralling commentary, though Lee does enthuse repeatedly about the then proposed remake on the basis of its potential for more spectacular CG effects, which has repeatedly shown to be is a piss-poor reason for remaking any film of note.

Black Magic: The Making of The Devil Rides Out (33:34)
Another of the detailed and captivating retrospective documentaries that adorn the Studiocanal Hammer restorations, this includes interviews with usual suspects Marcus Hearne (who also directed), Denis Meikle and Jonathan Rigby, plus screenwriter Richard Matheson, actor Patrick Mower, Wheatley biographer Phil Baker, actor and writer Mark Gatiss (who admits that this was the only Hammer film that scared the pants off him), and Kitty and Dan Staiver-Hutchins, the children of special effects supervisor Michael Staiver-Hutchins. David Huckvale once again deconstructs the score and reveals that the final angelic chords were selected by composer James Bernard to be played at his funeral. An entertaining and informative half-hour.

The Power of Light: Restoring the Devil Rides Out (11:30)
And here is where Hammer purists are likely to have a few problems, as members of the Cineimage restoration team explain in detail how they have cleaned up and in some cases reworked the film's optical effects. Fascinating on a technical level, the issue of whether what can be done should be done is never really broached, despite the undeniable polish of the results.

Dennis Wheatley at Hammer (12:42)
Wheatley biographer Phil Baker leads a concise look at the three Hammer adaptations of Dennis Wheatley's work, from the 1968 double of The Devil Rides Out and The Lost Continent to the 1976 To the Devil a Daughter, a film Wheatley so despised that he apparently forbade any future adaptations of his work by the studio.

World of Hammer Episode: Hammer (24:50)
Another episode from the series World of Hammer, this one taking an overview of the studio and its more successful films. Unfortunately, like the episode on the Quartermaster and the Pit disc, the sound mix is a shambles, with Oliver Reed's narration confined to the left speaker and effectively drowned out by the full volume film extracts on the right. Without fiddling with the balance controls, you'll have trouble making out what Mr. Reed is saying.

Stills Gallery (5:00)
A rolling gallery, set to music, of posters, press materials, front-of-house and production stills.


Oh, this is a tricky one. A bona fife horror classic looking better than it ever has and with a fine collection of extras (save for that sound mix of the World of Hammer episode), it's a disc I'd be wholeheartedly recommending were it not for the enhancements made to the optical effects. I'll admit straight up that the work has been done carefully and respectfully and that it does not detract from the film in any way. But the simple fact is that these enhancements were undertaken without the involvement of the director or special effects supervisor, both of whom have long since passed on, and if I'm going to presented with an enhanced version of the film, I'd prefer it to be clearly labelled as such and have the option to view the film as it was released. Recommended, but with reservations.  

Monday, 15 October 2012


When a group of British archaeologists uncover the secret desert tomb of a child Pharaoh outside Cairo, they invoke an ancient curse and the murderous wrath of a mummy...

If the above synopsis sounds familiar, that's because it is. The Mummy's Shroud boasts a typical mummy movie narrative in which a group of stuffy British archaeologists go snooping around in a Pharaoh's tomb and one by one are violently killed by a mummy - in this case, the faithful servant of the child prince whose burial place they desecrate. It was the third mummy movie made by Hammer. Director Gilling and writer Anthony Hinds don't really bring anything different or unusual to the tale, as it unravels (sorry) in the most stringently conventional way. Gilling's prior Hammer titles The Reptile and Plague of the Zombies were much more interesting, offbeat and effective horror films that at least tampered with convention and expectations. While the predictability slightly hinders the plot, there are at least several effectively handled and atmospheric moments of tension throughout. The titular creature is relegated to the shadows for the most part, as are the various moments of violence.

It begins with a lengthy narration-heavy prologue depicting the early years of the child prince Kah-to-Bey, who flees into exile with his faithful servant Prem after his father is murdered in a bloody coup. When hiding in the desert, the prince's small band of followers eventually dies, including the prince himself who is buried by Prem. Throughout these scenes the film's low budget is obvious but not distracting. Once the story moves to the 1920s when the tomb of the prince is discovered, the action becomes somewhat sporadic and further diluted by the overly talky scenes that bookend it. Events shuffle along at a somnambulistic pace with scene after scene of characters standing around sweating in khaki suits, mopping their brows and uttering expository dialogue in an unmistakably British - re: stiff upper-lipped - manner. Despite this, the dialogue is as colourful and wryly humorous as what you'd expect from a Hammer production. The film also contains all the usual harbingers of doom you'd expect to find in a traditional mummy film, including crystal ball reading clairvoyant Haiti (Catherine Lacey, The Sorcerers) and her sinister son Hasmid (Roger Delgado), the guardian of the tomb. It is they who instigate the mummy's rampage by reciting text from a mystical burial shroud.

A number of strikingly lit scenes, such as those in the clairvoyant's creepy boudoir and Harry Newton's darkroom possess an infernal, Bava-esque atmosphere. Scenes play out in limited locations which heightens the sense of claustrophobia as the story progresses. By the time the archaeologists realise that they're in danger because of their involvement in the excavation of the tomb and their increasingly panicked attempts to buy their way out of the city become the driving force of the story, events hang heavy with a clipped and quietly sweltering desperation. After the majority of the group are murderlised by the mummy - which usually sneaks up behind its victims and crushes their skull/throws photo development solution in their face/flings them from a high window etc - the third act picks up the pace when the surviving characters finally take action and attempt to stop the killing spree.

The cast is populated by familiar Hammer faces such as Andre Morell (Hound of the Baskervilles, Plague of the Zombies, Camp on Blood Island) as the dignified but doomed leader of the expedition, Sir Basil Walden, and Michael Ripper (The Reptile, Plague of the Zombies, Curse of the Mummy's Tomb, Dracula Has Risen from the Grave) as the harassed and put-upon Longbarrow. Indeed, Longbarrow is the only character who evokes any kind of sympathy due to Ripper's effectively endearing performance. Other characters aren't given much to do, and the admittedly attractive hero and heroine (David Buck and Maggie Kimberly) are a little bland.

While The Mummy's Shroud sticks rigidly to convention, it still provides creepy entertainment with a touch of that unmistakable Hammer class; even if it is one of their lesser titles.

Images: Marcus Brooks


Christopher Lee: Grigori Rasputin, Richard Pasco: Dr Boris Zargo, Barbara Shelley: Sonia Vasilivitch, Francis Matthews: Ivan Keznikov, Suzan Farmer: Vanessa Keznikov, Dinsdale Landen: Peter Vasilivitch, Renee Asherson: Tsarina Alexandra, Derek Francis: Innkeeper, John Bailey: Dr Zieglov, Michael Cadman: Michael, Fiona Hartford: Tania
Director: Don Sharp, Screenplay: John Elder [Anthony Hinds], Producer: Anthony Nelson Keys, Photography: Michael Reed, Music: Don Banks, Music Supervisor: Philip Martell, Makeup:  Roy Ashton, Production Design:  Bernard Robinson. Production Company:  Hammer Films/Seven Arts.
PLOT: The wild and filthy monk Grigori Rasputin stumbles into an inn. Upon learning that the innkeeper’s wife is ill with a fever that no doctors can cure, Rasputin heals her with his hands. But immediately after doing so Rasputin drinks wildly, tries to force his way with the innkeeper’s daughter, severs her fiance’s hand after he tries to intervene and is forced to flee by an angry mob. When the villagers approach his bishop over this incident, Rasputin is ordered to leave the monastery. He heads to St Petersburg where he falls in with a disbarred doctor. In an inn Rasputin meets Sonia, a handmaid to the Tsarina. After having his way with Sonia, Rasputin hypnotizes her into contriving an accident for the young prince heir Alexei and then recommending him to the Tsarina. He is able to heal Alexei and is acclaimed as a result. Rasputin becomes a confidant of the Tsarina and uses this influence to gain advantage and manipulate the court. But when he callously discards Sonia and hypnotizes her to kill herself, her brother and others plot to kill Rasputin and bring down his diabolic influence over the crown.

In the late 1950s, Hammer Films exploded onto the world stage and created a revolution in horror with their bold, richly colourful revampings of the horror perennials with The Curse of Frankenstein (1957) and Dracula / Horror of Dracula (1958). This inaugurated a major British horror industry with Hammer at the forefront. In the next few years, Hammer remade most of the other Universal horror classics and covered fairly much all the major themes in horror. By the mid-1960s Hammer were starting to sequelize their Frankenstein and Dracula films as well as looking around for new horror themes.

While the Hammer name is incontrovertibly intertwined with horror, less well known is their production of historical films. They made quite a number of these, including swashbucklers and historical adventure films like Dick Turpin – Highwayman (1956), Sword of Sherwood Forest (1960), The Crimson Blade (1963), The Brigand of Kandahar (1965), A Challenge for Robin Hood (1967) and The Viking Queen (1967); as well as various WWII films – The Steel Bayonet (1957), The Camp on Blood Island (1958), Yesterday’s Enemy (1959) and The Secret of Blood Island (1964). They seemed particularly fond of historical films that could be pushed towards horror or at least have an emphasis on the lurid and sadistic, as with the likes of The Stranglers of Bombay (1959) and pirate films like The Terror of the Tongs (1961), Night Creatures (1962), The Pirates of Blood River (1962) and The Devil-Ship Pirates (1964). Rasputin the Mad Monk sits somewhere here, although quite clearly one that has been mounted as far more of a horror film than it ever has as an historical film.

Rasputin The Mad Monk focuses on the true life character of Grigori Rasputin. Rasputin is a figure that holds an undeniable fascination in history, as much for the myth that surrounds him – his reputed healing powers, the intensity of his wild man presence (it was claimed that he never bathed), his reputation as an orgiast, his sinister influence over the Russian crown, his almost supernatural-seeming defiance of death – than any historical detail, which often disputes many of these claims. Rasputin’s origin and birthplace is uncertain. He gained a reputation as a holy man and healer of reputedly mystical powers. His fame came in 1905 when Alexandra, the wife of Nicholas II, Tsar of Russia, came to seek help with their son Alexei who suffered from haemophilia (the inability of blood to clot and cuts to naturally close over and heal). It is unknown how but Rasputin managed to heal Alexei. Both Nicholas and Alexandra soon readily sought Rasputin’s advice, even taking notice of the prophetic visions he made claim to. This gave Rasputin much influence over the court and he began to demand the firing and appointing of officials. Rasputin was also reputed to be engage in wild orgies and to bed numerous wives of the aristocracy, although many of these claims may have been made up by rivals who sought to blacken his reputation. This came to a head in 1916 when a group of aristocrats invited Rasputin over and attempted to kill him. Exactly what happened is debated but by their later published account several attempts were made to kill Rasputin – they feeding him poisoned cakes and wines, then shooting him and attempting to club him to death, all of which kept having no effect until he was finally dumped into the nearby river.

Rasputin The Mad Monk was directed by Don Sharp, who had made various Hammer films including Kiss of the Vampire (1962), The Devil-Ship Pirates and their last theatrical film The Thirty-Nine Steps (1979). At the time that he made Rasputin the Mad Monk, Don Sharp had then just come from the success of the lush period version of The Face of Fu Manchu (1965), starring Christopher Lee for Anglo-Amalgamated. Sharp is one of the less celebrated directors in Anglo-horror. Mostly his career was marked by dreary hackwork like The Curse of the Fly (1965), Jules Verne’s Rocket to the Moon (1967) and Secrets of the Phantom Caverns/What Waits Below (1984), although he did make a number of other minor ventures into Anglo-horror with the likes of Witchcraft (1964), the quite demented Psychomania (1972) and Dark Places (1972). When he was given a decent opportunity, as in Kiss of the Vampire and particularly here and The Face of Fu Manchu, which remain his two best films, Sharp showed that he could really do something. Indeed in these outings Sharp brought a touch that made him perhaps the one other director working in this era of English horror to closest approximate the lush floridness that Terence Fisher imprinted on the genre.

Sharp creates a fabulous and quite unforgettable opening to the film:– the doctor is seen departing from tending the innkeeper’s wife, shaking his head, whereupon Christopher Lee barges in through the inn door, looking like a wild man, and then goes up and touches his hands to the wife’s face and heals here, mostly it seems doing so with the piercing intensity of his eyes. And then he subsequently returns downstairs, getting drunk and dancing, taking the innkeeper’s daughter off to the barn to have his way with her, her fiance breaking in and tussling with Lee, where Lee manages to sever the fiance’s hand with a scythe and then immediately returns to force his way with the innkeeper’s daughter, before the angered locals return in a mob, forcing Lee to flee through the barn roof and away on horseback, where we then see him scale a wall to return to a monastery. The abrupt juxtapositions that these scenes require – between healer and drunken lecher, between wounding a man and returning to force his way onto the man’s fiancee, between the carnality we have just seen and the revelation that the character lives in a monastery – are really quite breathtaking. In the subsequent scene, Christopher Lee is brought before his bishop by the accusing villagers and offers up a superbly arrogant response: “When I go to forgiveness I don’t offer God petty sins, I offer sins worth forgiving.” The scenes in the Cafe Tsigani also have a superb dramatic power – the drinking competition between Rasputin and Richard Pasco’s discredited doctor; Christopher Lee turning on Barbara Shelley after she laughs at his dancing, demanding with piercing intensity: “You will apologize for laughing at me ... You will come to me and apologize.” And a couple of scenes later we see Lee on a balcony looking out over the city, seemingly commanding with his eyes that Barbara Shelley hear his call and return to him.

As one can see this is the Rasputin story rather effectively mounted as a horror film. Indeed Hammer’s Rasputin is really another face on the character of the carnal demoniac figure that Christopher Lee incarnated in their Dracula films. Rasputin, like Hammer’s Dracula, is a diabolic force personified, with powers of supernaturally magnetic intensity and representative of a brutish animalism that bursts forth to disrupt polite society. (One of the most interesting dichotomies, one that remains unexplored in the rest of the film, is the contrast between Rasputin as a holy man with divine healing powers yet a pure devil figure in his deeds). There are probably few actors better suited to playing the role of Rasputin than Christopher Lee, who was one of the undisputed cornerstones of Hammer’s success. Lee, aside from physically looking the part, has a commanding regal power and a piercing intensity that is not unlike what the historical Rasputin is credited with having.

The latter half of the film is less interesting than Sharp’s superb opening. The machinations that go on among the Russian aristocracy are dreadfully standard British upper-class costume drama. Certainly Sharp makes the murder of Rasputin into a dramatic climax, passing through poisoned chocolates and wine, a syringe stabbed in the neck and Rasputin then thrown out of the window. The scene is well drawn out, although one feels that the film is somewhat pinned in by the adherence to the historical facts – watching Christopher Lee engorge himself on chocolates and wine is not a very dramatically intense climax. (Although even here the film does depart somewhat from historical fact).

The film is often called historically inaccurate. In fact though this is a case that has been overstated and the film adheres to the Rasputin story much more so than many might give it credit for. Aside from the aforementioned death scene, there are no outstanding scenes where one can see the film, at least in terms of what it does depict, blatantly fictionalizes the Rasputin story. Certainly the film regards Rasputin’s powers as actual, but in that nobody really has any clear idea of how it was that Rasputin managed to heal Prince Alexei and many did believe that he have such powers, this can be an acceptable dramatic licence. The biggest departure from history is the reasons for the murder of Rasputin. The film contrives a fiction that this was revenge by the brother of a woman that Rasputin hypnotized and made kill herself after he had finished with her, whereas in fact Rasputin’s assassins were a group of aristocrats who wanted to remove him from influence over the crown.

Rasputin The Mad Monk’s main problem however is not so much historical inaccuracy as it is historical omission. There’s no mention of Alexei’s haemophiliac condition, instead the film is happy to give the impression that Alexei is a perfectly healthy child that Rasputin sets up with an accident in order to get close to the royal circles. And perhaps as a result of a desire not to cross over into any issues concerning Communism, there is no mention whatsoever made of the Bolsheviks and the Russian Revolution that was occurring around the time, during which Tsar Nicholas was unseated and he and his family murdered. The Tsarina is also made into a fairly minor character – she only gets about two scenes – and we see nothing of Tsar Nicholas II at all.

The film has been beautifully shot on rich sets (and given a superb restoration on the dvd release). The sets one might note are also the ones that Hammer used around the same time in Dracula – Prince of Darkness (1965). In particular, the mansion exterior with its iced-over lake where Alexei falls and Rasputin meets his end is the same one where Christopher Lee’s Dracula was finally despatched in Prince of Darkness.
Other screen incarnations of the character of Rasputin include:– the silent German Rasputin The Black Monk (1917), the silent German Rasputin (1928), the Hollywood version Rasputin and the Empress (1932) starring John Barrymore, the German Rasputin, Demon with Women (1932), the French Rasputin (1938), the French Rasputin (1954), the French The Nights of Rasputin (1960) starring Edmund Purdom, the French I Killed Rasputin (1967) wherein one of Rasputin’s assassins Prince Felix Yusupov played himself, the Russian-made Agony: The Life and Death of Rasputin (1981) and Rasputin (tv movie, 1996) starring Alan Rickman. Rasputin has also appeared as a supporting character in the historical film Nicholas and Alexandra (1971) where he was played by Tom Baker, as a black sorcerer in the animated Anastasia (1997) and as the chief villain in Hellboy (2004). There was also the Australian Harlequin (1980), which updated the story of Rasputin to the modern day and had Rasputin played by an appealingly ambiguous Robert Powell. Other oddities include the Boney M disco song Rasputin (1978) and one of the mutants in Marvel’s X-Men series who is named Peter Rasputin aka Colossus.

Review: Richard Scheib
Richard's Site Here
Images: Marcus Brooks

Sunday, 14 October 2012



BAFTA nominated director Tom Harper (The Scouting Book for Boys, Channel 4’s “Misfits”) has signed on to direct The Woman in Black: Angel of Death, the next installment in the series of the worldwide box office hit The Woman In Black.  The announcement was made today by Simon Oakes, President & CEO of Hammer and Vice-Chairman of Exclusive Media, Guy East and Nigel Sinclair, Co-Chairmen of Exclusive Media (Hammer’s parent company), Brian Oliver, President of Cross Creek Pictures and Xavier Marchand Alliance Films’ President of Worldwide Distribution.

The Woman in Black: Angel Of Death will be brought to the big screen by the same production team behind The Woman In Black. The film will be produced by Exclusive Media, Talisman, Cross Creek Pictures and Alliance Films, in addition to Roy Lee who will serve as Executive Producer.
Screenwriter Jon Croker (Desert Dancer) wrote the screenplay, based on an original story by Susan Hill (The Woman in Black).

Alliance Films will co-finance the film.  Tobin Armbrust, Exclusive Media’s President of Worldwide Production and Acquisitions, will again oversee production. Sales are being handled by Alex Walton, Exclusive Media’s President of International Sales and Distribution.  Alliance Films will once again distribute in the UK (Momentum Pictures), Spain (Aurum Producciones) and Canada (Alliance Films).

The Woman in Black: Angel Of Death will continue the story four decades later. Seized by the government during World War II, the sudden arrival of a group of evacuated children at Eel Marsh House awakens its darkest inhabitant.
the-woman-in-black-movie-image-daniel-radcliff-03Simon Oakes, Vice-Chairman of Exclusive Media and President & CEO of Hammer Films said: “We are assembling a terrific team to bring The Woman in Black: Angel of Death to the big screen and Tom is a great addition to that family.  His unique visual approach and storytelling style perfectly compliments the smart, sophisticated horror movies that Hammer is championing.”

Xavier Marchand Alliance Films’ President of Worldwide Distribution and Managing Director of UK distributor Momentum Pictures, said “We know audiences in the UK and across the world love being terrified by The Woman in Black so we’re excited to be partners in bringing them the next episode of Susan Hill’s haunting story, under Tom’s expert direction.”

Director Tom Harper said, “I am thrilled to be a part of The Woman in Black:  Angel of Death.  This will be a great opportunity for me to collaborate with a brilliantly talented team on the next installment in this exciting series.”

The Woman in Black, starring Daniel Radcliffe and directed by James Watkins (Eden Lake) has become the highest grossing British horror film of the past 20 years, grossing over $35 million in the UK and over $130 worldwide.

Tom Harper is repped by Josh Varney at Independent Talent Group in the UK and by WME in the US.

Thursday, 11 October 2012




Eight year old Paul Worrall of Sheffield, the winner of a "Dr Who Monster Competition organised by the BBC's Blue Peter childrens programme, meets Dr Who himself in the form of actor Patrick Troughton




Patrick Troughton and the Blue Peter Team, John Noakes, Valerie Singleton and Peter Purves plough through viewers suggestions for a new DR WHO creature in the BBC BLUE PETER production office 

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