Rasputin (United States, 1996)

Figure 1.--Tsarevich Alexis usually wore a sailor suit, except for formal occasions. After the War began in 1914, he began wearing army uniforms. He is pictured here in a dark middy bloude. Most photographs show im wearing a white middy blouse.

The story of the virtually illiterate monk Rasputin and the Russian royal family is one of the most often told tales of World War I. It is one of the many examples of actual history being stranger than fictional stories. This 1996 made for TV movie prominently features the Tsarevitch Alexis and the many uniforms that he wore. Alexis usually wore a sailor suit for normal wear. He occasionally dtressed up in elaborare formal uniforms. After the War began in 1914, he began wearing army uniforms eben going to the Front with his father.


"Rasputin" was directed by Uli Edel. It was originally broacasted on HBO March 23, 1996. The film was shot on location in St. Petersburg, Russia, at the Lenfilm Studios, St. Petersburg, and in Budapest over an 8 week period. Filmed in Russia, it includes visits to some of the most breathtakingly opulent palaces occupied by the royal Romanov family. Filming was completed December 1995. This portryal of Rasputin, the monk who is accredited by many with the collapse of the Russian Empire was generally well-reviewed.


The film portrays the life of Grigori Rasputin, known as the "mad monk". Rasputin as a child seemed to have the sence of second sight. He became an eliterate monk that violated enumeral Biblical prohibitions. Rasputin as an adult claimed that he had been touched by the Virgin Mary. As a youth, Rasputin developed anlmost instaiable desire for drink, wealth, and women. Depite his constant moral lapses, his reputation grew. Eventully he came to the attention of the royal family. When Alexei (Czar Nicholas and his wife, Alexandra’s, son,) seemed to be at the edge of death, Alexandra, hearing the great tales of Rasputin, summoned him.

Rasputin became a trusted adviser to Czar Nicholas II and his wife, Czarina Alexandra, the last rulers of imperial Russia. They referred to him as "Our Friend". The Tsar and Tsarna placed their faith in him, although his origins were as far removed from the imperial court as can be imagined. He was from the backwoods of Siberia. His personal hygine was in a word filthy. And in the refined imperial court, Fasputin was simply vulgar and uncouth. He was for some unknown reason the only person who could ease the pain of their young son. Alexei was a hemophiliac. At the time this was a virtual death sentence. Rasputin was introduced to the Romanovs by Bishop Hermogones (Peter Jeffrey), at a time when Alexei's left leg was horribly swollen and scabbed, Rasputin astoundingly made him well in one visit. Given Alexis' hemophilia this seems almost unvelievable. One interesting factor may well be that Alexei's doctors and indeed medicine itself could not effectively deal with hempphilia in the early 1900s. Thus by limiting their access to Alexi, he may well have had a very beneficial impact.

Figure 2.--The actor playing Rasptin received excellent reviews of his performance. It may well be that because of the competence of the imperial doctors that limiting their influence was good for Alexi.

Most scientists believe that one of Nicholas's worst decisions, and there were many bad ones, was his toleration of the peasant starets Rasputin. Spiritualism at the time was not confined to backward, Orthadox Russia. Robert Lees was prominent in Queen Victoria's court. Prince Albert would have nevered allowed it during his life, but Victoria wanted to contact him after hisc death. Rasputin served Empress Alexandra as a link into the supernatural world. At the turn of the new century, all the high-born Russians of St. Petersburg were obsessed with spiritualism, be it table-rappings or seances. Holy men, or staretses, were in vogue for their ability to prophesy or make clairvoyant predictions while in the throes of religious ecstasies.

Unmentioned in the film is Rasputin's bizarre belief that a person was nearest to God when feeling "holy passionless,"' and that the best way to achieve that beatific state was through the exhaustion that came after prolonged debauchery. He persuaded many women--including, as seen tonight, Princess Marisa (Sheila Ruskin)--to join him in his supposedly religious romps. As accurately dramatized here, Rasputin was almost impossible to kill. Noblemen who opposed his influence on the Romanovs first fed him little cakes laced with cyanide, then shot him several times, and finally dumped him into the River Neva. Incredibly, despite the poison and his wounds, the police verdict said the cause of his death was drowning.

The principal shortcoming of Rasputin is its relatively benign portrait of Tsar Nicholas, universally condemned by historians as inept and autocratic. As played by McKellen, he looks like a pretty nice guy who does nothing on the little screen to deserve his dethronement and death. Nicholas, Alexandra, their five children, four servants, and their doctor were all shot to death in Siberia by communists in 1918 to prevent their resuce by White Counter-Revolutionaries. Rickman does nothing to prettify the odious Rasputin, but he does everything to make it understandable that he could have risen from nowhere to a high post of overweening power and influence. Rickman does it almost all himself, with burning eyes and insinuating voice, since Peter Pruce's script makes no concerted attempt to delve into Rasputin's peculiar philosophy of life.

Figure 3.--The Tsarina, Tsar and Tsarevich at a grand reception. I have seen photographs of Alexei in a similar outfit, but usually during outdoor ceremonies. Sometimes he was carried by his faithful companion.


With Ian McKellen as Nicholas, Greta Scacchi as Alexandra, and Freddie Findlay as Alexei, Rasputin. Ian McKellam was incredible as Nicholas II, not only looking eerily like him, but again, mimicking the real Nicholas II in mannerisms and in the way he interacted with those around him. Alan Rickman gave an effective performance as Rasputin. He looks dark and sinister--just as we would expect Rasputin to look. As with actual hidtory, in the film, it is difficukt to tell just what mixture of soincerity and evil scheming Rasputin was. Greta Scacchi does an exccellet job of depicting a mother's plight. She is consumed with worry for her critically endangered son Alexei. She thus grows attached to Rasputin as a resuilt of Alexei and her devout religious beliefs. The film suggests more is involved, but here Hollywood is at work. The young British actor playing Alexis gave a very touching performance. One reviewer wrote, "I thought that the boy that potrayed His Imperial Highness the Tsarevich Alexei Nicholeavich Romanov potrayed his innocent, wonderous, and, thanks to his hemophilia, ongoing suffering."


The film was very elaborately costumed for a TV production. It featured many different uniforms worn by the Tsarevich Alexi. One noticeable problem is that some of Alexi's costumes do not fit him very well. Almost certainly, the actual Tsarvich would have had very well tailored clothes. He wears both sailor suits and fancy military uniforms.


Alexi as a small boy, like others boys atvthe time wore dresses. This practice had begun to decline, but was still quite common in the first decade of the 20th century. We have know information about his breeching.The movie, however is set when Alexi was an older boy.

Figure 4.--Alexi was probably photographed in a white middy blouse more than any other outfit. He wore it with both white and black pants. While Alexi did wear a middy blouse styled like this one, he never wore one so pporly fitted.

Sailor suits

Alexi was probably photographed in a white middy blouse more than any oter outfit. He wore it with both white and black pants. c After breeching, Alexi was almost always dressed in sailor suits, except for formal occasions. The sailor suits picture in the film appear o be accuate depictions of the ones Alexi actually wore.

Army uniforms

While Alexi normally wore sailor suits, for state occasions he would wear a very formal army uniform. I have seen photographs of Alexei in a similar outfit, but usually during outdoor ceremonies. After the War began he would commonly wear a green infantryman's uniform.


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Created: May 23, 2001
Last updated: 3:53 AM 6/24/2004