A flower shop is the place for the mission proposal. Rasputin himself runs the duchy, “a sadistic charlatan” bent on creating “a cruel dictatorship allied with our enemies,” only his name is Vautrain.
The duchess is subdued into infirmity by a combination of “charm, psychology and drugs.” A loyal minister is helpless against her credulity.
Phelps and Paris are showmen supposedly in the minister’s employ. They exhibit an electric chair survived by the condemned, a stage effect seized upon by Vautrain to confirm his powers.
Paris’s resemblance to the monster is eked out with wig and beard, and in that guise he clarifies the true state of affairs to the duchess, after a confrontation with his double which he survives by another stage effect, casting doubt on which is which.
The significance for our time, in which snake oil salesmen peddle charisma and misery, is not lost on Shatner’s Star Trek V: The Final Frontier, where the grand commiserator is seen to be God almighty.