Christopher Lee as Rasputin

I may be wrong, but I think the first film that Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing both appeared in was John Huston’s biographical feature on Toulouse-Lautrec, the underrated Moulin Rouge (1952).  Both men play aristocrats.  Christopher Lee appears uncredited as impressionist artist George Seurat (Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte, this is the “dot” painting at The Art Institute of Chicago featured in Ferris Beuhler’s Day Off).  The two men combined for over 400 films (IMDb), and Christopher Lee is still working, returning as Saruman in The Hobbit (2012-2013). Watching Moulin Rouge, it’s clear that both actors had extraordinary range.  Like Bela and Boris before them, I preferred Lee as the villain and Cushing as the protagonist. But Cushing could play a nasty villain too as evidenced by his sublime performance as Grand Moff Tarkin.   In Rasputin — The Mad Monk (1965), Lee gives one of his most unbridled performances.  There’s really no film quite like it, although it’s been compared to Universal’s Tower of London (1939).  Lee liked the part and considered it one of his best roles:

Certainly one of the best parts I ever had. One of the best performances I’ve given…

Lee is in top form as the evil womanizing mystic Grigori Rasputin, and he carries the movie to an entertaining level.   He eats, drinks, cheats, loves, and condemns… He chops a man’s hand off, and throws acid on another guy.  Watch his hand gestures.  He reminds me a lot of Bela Lugosi in how he uses his hands.  I’m wondering if Lee (always a historian) may have patterned some of the hand gestures off images of Rasputin or perhaps Adolf Hitler?

Rasputin — The Mad Monk also features a fine Hammer stock cast.  I particularly like Richard Pasco as Dr. Zargo, who decides that Rasputin must be destroyed.  I like when Zargo exclaims, while lacing chocolates with poison, “He’s a PIG!”

T. Johnson and D. Del Vecchio, 1996. Hammer Films: An Exhaustive Filmography, McFarland. 410 pg.

3 Responses to “Christopher Lee as Rasputin”

  1. A great film about a great subject, Rasputin would have to be played by a charismatic personality like Lee. Although I believe Rasputin was a charlatan, it is undeniable that he had some kind of cultish hold over the ladies of the Russian court–a quack medical consultant. BTW, another great Hammer film “To The Devil A Daughter” will become available on Netflix on 04/22/11.

  2. I have enjoyed all his films, with Peter Cushing and Sir Christopher are unstoppable brilliant actors, they are the best cinema duo that deserve to go down in cinema history. i miss them both very much, today’s horror movies have not got class compared to Peter and Christopher’s. R I P gentlemen friends until we meet again in paradise.

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