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A view on Blu-ray by Gary W. Tooze

Rasputin the Mad Monk [Blu-ray]

 

(Don Sharp, 1966)

 

 

Review by Gary Tooze

 

Production:

Theatrical: Hammer Film Productions

Video: Studio Canal

 

Disc:

Region: 'B' (as verified by the Oppo Blu-ray player)

Runtime: 1:32:22 / 1:32:44

Disc Size: 48,462,254,453 bytes

2.35:1 Feature Size: 21,027,495,936 bytes

2.55:1 Feature Size: 19,607,199,744 bytes

Video Bitrate: 24.33 Mbps

Chapters: 13

Case: Standard Blu-ray case inside paper slipcase

Release date: October 22nd, 2012

 

Video:

Aspect ratio: 2.35:1 (2.55:1 option)

Resolution: 1080p / 23.976 fps

Video codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video

 

Audio:

LPCM Audio English 1152 kbps 1.0 / 48 kHz / 1152 kbps / 24-bit
Commentary: Dolby Digital Audio English 224 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 224 kbps

 

Subtitles:

English (SDH), none

 

Extras:

• Commentary featuring Christopher Lee, Barbara Shelley, Francis Matthews & Suzan Farmer

• Two brand new documentaries: 'Tall Stories: The Making of Rasputin the Mad Monk' (24:21) and 'Brought to Book: Hammer Novelisations' (14:32)
World of Hammer Episode 'Costumers' (24:47)
Gallery (3:15)

DVD available

 

Bitrate:

 

1) 2.35:1 Blu-ray - TOP

2) 2.55:1 - Blu-ray - BOTTOM

 

 

Description: Beware his deathly gaze for it will render you powerless! Beware his mystic touch for you will never be free from his evil grasp!

In pre-revolution St Petersburg, Russia, sinister monk Grigori Rasputin proves that he has the unearthly power to ease the deranged and heal the sick, but at what price? Aided by his hypnotic powers Rasputin begins his ruthless and depraved pursuit of power and wealth, determined to give God sins worth forgiving. He must be stopped, but how do you rid the world of a man who defies death?

Horror legends Christopher Lee (Dracula Prince Of Darkness) and Barbara Shelley (Quatermass And The Pit) star in a controversial film about one of history’s most notorious figures.

 

 

1) 2.35:1 Blu-ray - TOP

2) 2.55:1 - Blu-ray - BOTTOM

 

 

The Film:

Rasputin the Mad Monk (or, as the hilariously tasteless American television promos for the film pitched it: "Ras-poo-tin! The Maaaaaad Monk!") depends quite heavily on a fine central performance by Christopher Lee, this time in basso-profundo evil mode as the infamous, social-climbing Russian pseudo-monk, a turn-of-the-century Czarist Eve Harrington.

Excerpt from Slant Magazione located HERE

By 1966, Hammer films and Christopher Lee had a rock-solid relationship. Lee was recognized as the greatest Dracula since Bela Lugosi (and even better than Lugosi in the opinion of some fans), and Hammer was a company devoted to turning out period horror films with an intriguing mix of camp and polish. It was, quite honestly, a match made in heaven.

However, while Lee and the company were best known for their classic monster films (they tackled Frankenstein and The Mummy as well as the infamous Count), they decided to branch out and try something a little different. The result was 1966's Rasputin: The Mad Monk--one of Hammer's most interesting films outside the realm of its normal subject matter.

Lee tackles the main role, Russian monk Grigori Rasputin. Rasputin, a real historical figure, is hardly your typical man of god. He drinks, he beds women, and he uses his powers of hypnotism and healing not for the greater good, but for his own twisted purposes.

Excerpt from Epinions located HERE

Image :    NOTE: The below Blu-ray captures were taken directly from the Blu-ray disc.

Firstly, on the ability to watch the film in either 2.35:1 or 2.55:1 there is a text screen that states: 'Rasputin the Mad Monk was shot in 4-perf CinemaScope with anamorphic lenses, "squeezing 2.55:1 picture into a standard 35mm (1.37:1) frame. The film was always intended to be matted down to 2.35:1 and this was achieved by losing detail at the left (more) and right (less) of the picture. Studio Canal have restored the film 'open gate' at its entire shooting ratio, so that we can show more of the picture, as filmed. Although the film was never intended to be screened at the 2.55:1 aspect ratio, this version serves as a fascinating insight into both the composition of the original frame by cinematographer Michael Reed, and the overall production design (by Bernard Robinson) of Don Sharp's film, as often an almost perfectly symmetrically composition emerges when seen at 2.55:1 which is absent from the 2.35:1 matted version. The anamorphic lenses used to create a concave effect at the extreme left of the picture, which is sometimes clearly visible in the 2.55:1 version. The credit sequence of the 2.55:1 version has a vertical space at the left-edge, the credits being within the 2.35:1 frame.'

 

Rasputin: the Mad Monk gets a reasonably strong transfer to Blu-ray from Studio Canal in the UK. Both ratios offer similarly robust transfers and they are, predictably separate (not seamlessly branched). The disc is dual-layered with a supportive bitrate for the 1.5 hour feature. It is very inconsistent with impressively rich colors and appealing textures. There is surprising clarity and depth. I saw no noise in the darker sequences. The 1080P supports acceptable contrast adding some minor depth in the frame(s). There are no signs of manipulation and the source seems very stable.  It's also quite clean with damage or speckles I found no unforgivable flaws with the rendering. This Blu-ray gave me an adept and pleasurable 1080P presentation.

 

CLICK EACH BLU-RAY CAPTURE TO SEE ALL IMAGES IN FULL 1920X1080 RESOLUTION

 

 

1) 2.35:1 Blu-ray - TOP

2) 2.55:1 - Blu-ray - BOTTOM

 

 

1) 2.35:1 Blu-ray - TOP

2) 2.55:1 - Blu-ray - BOTTOM

 

 

1) 2.35:1 Blu-ray - TOP

2) 2.55:1 - Blu-ray - BOTTOM

 

 

1) 2.35:1 Blu-ray - TOP

2) 2.55:1 - Blu-ray - BOTTOM

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Audio :

Studio Canal utilize a linear PCM mono track at 1152 kbps. It is clear, flat but has minor punch. Don Banks (The Evil of Frankenstein, The Mummy's Shroud, The Reptile) score adds to the historical Russian village atmosphere and benefits from the lossless transfer. There are optional English subtitles and my Oppo has identified it as being a region 'B'-locked.

 

Extras :

Studio Canal add the commentary from the US DVD of a few years back featuring Christopher Lee, Barbara Shelley, Francis Matthews & Suzan Farmer - light, a group affair with some interesting reminiscences. More appealing are two brand new documentaries: 'Tall Stories: The Making of Rasputin the Mad Monk' runs just shy of 25-minutes with Hammer historians Denis Meikle and Jonathan Rigby as well as Andrew Cook author of To Kill Rasputin: The Life and Death of Grigori Rasputin. 'Brought to Book: Hammer Novelisations' is 15-minutes of looking at the paperback adaption initially seen as films. There is also another World of Hammer Episode 'Costumers' running about 25-minutes and looking at the wardrobe of various productions. There is a running gallery of posters and stills and the dual-format package contains a DVD of the feature.

 

 

BOTTOM LINE:
Rasputin the Mad Monk is a bit of a departure from Hammer's usual horror efforts. I enjoyed it immensely. It has a wonderful air of mystery and the historical setting is realistically portrayed.  It retains the Hammer charm that makes these films so special - I guess we can credit Christopher Lee with a lot of that gravitas. Certainly a classic from the studio! The Studio Canal Blu-ray provides solid a/v presentation and the aspect ratio option is a great idea and worth investigating your preference. It has relevant extras from the commentary to the documentaries. This is definitely a title I will cherish and revisit. Recommended! 

Gary Tooze

April 7th, 2014


 

About the Reviewer: Hello, fellow Beavers! I have been interested in film since I viewed a Chaplin festival on PBS when I was around 9 years old. I credit DVD with expanding my horizons to fill an almost ravenous desire to seek out new film experiences. I currently own approximately 9500 DVDs and have reviewed over 5000 myself. I appreciate my discussion Listserv for furthering my film education and inspiring me to continue running DVDBeaver. Plus a healthy thanks to those who donate and use our Amazon links.

Although I never wanted to become one of those guys who focused 'too much' on image and sound quality - I find HD is swiftly pushing me in that direction.

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60-Inch Class (59.58” Diagonal) 1080p Pioneer KURO Plasma Flat Panel HDTV PDP6020-FD

Oppo Digital BDP-83 Universal Region FREE Blu-ray/SACD Player
Momitsu - BDP-899 Region FREE Blu-ray player
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Tannoy DC6-T (fronts) + Energy (centre, rear, subwoofer) speakers (5.1)

APC AV 1.5 kVA H Type Power Conditioner 120V

Gary W. Tooze

 

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