Even after years of such films as Rasputin and the Empress and Rasputin: The Mad Monk, the long-awaited Russian film Rasputin (aka Agoniya, which translates to Agony) manages to find freshness and nuance in a familiar story. Alexei Petrenko stars as "mad monk" Rasputin who insinuates himself into the royal court of Czar Nicholas II and Empress Alexandra by seemingly curing crown prince Alexei of his hemophilia. Rasputin's power and despotism grows, as does his capacity for liquor and sex. When a group of nobles set about to assassinate Rasputin, they find that the job is a daunting one: it takes poison, stabbing, gunshots, beatings and finally drowning to eliminate the apparently invulnerable "holy man." Director Elem Klimov took a "docudrama" approach to Rasputin, interspersing color reenactments of historical events with simulated black-and-white newsreel footage. He completed the film in 1975, intending it to be part of the upcoming 60th anniversary celebration of the Soviet Revolution. The Soviet officials declared the film "worthless" and consigned it to the shelf. It was finally shown at the 1981 Moscow Film Festival, then disappeared from sight again, resurfacing internationally in a severely edited version in 1985.
by Hal Erickson synopsis