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Christopher Lee: A Career in Clips | reviews, news & interviews

Christopher Lee: A Career in Clips

Christopher Lee: A Career in Clips

theartsdesk pays tribute to the iconic actor, who died this week

Christopher Lee: one of cinema’s definitive Draculas

Christopher Lee died this week, aged 93. It’s strange that an actor best known for horror films, for characters that were fiendish and diabolical, should be so cherished a part of the British cultural landscape. That fact speaks volumes for the charisma and charm, as well as craft of Lee’s performances, and for the intelligence, grace and wit of the man in person.

He made his name in horror films – first as a terrifying monster to Peter Cushing’s Dr Frankenstein in The Curse of Frankenstein, then more elegantly as one of cinema’s definitive Draculas in 1957’s Horror of Dracula, returning to the character several times. Lee rewrote the book on the vampire, making him handsome, sexy and magnetic, all the better to chill us when he bore his fangs; and make no mistake, his Dracula oozed evil.

The Curse of Frankenstein (1957)


Horror of Dracula (1958)


He made numerous horror films throughout his career, with notably turns as The Mummy, Rasputin and Fu Manchu, many for the production company Hammer, for which he and Cushing were the totem stars. Arguably his best is The Wicker Man, as the gloriously bouffant pagan Lord Summerisle – the pre-eminent presence in that deeply unsettling film. He also played a great Bond villain, in The Man With The Golden Gun, his Scaramanga one of the most plausible of the franchise’s baddies but, as the clip here shows, also one of the most threatening; in the real world, Roger Moore’s quivering 007 wouldn’t stand a chance.

The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes (1970)

 

The Wicker Man (1973)

Never out of work (his credits approach 300) though perhaps out of fashion for a time, he made a remarkable return to the spotlight in his Eighties – first as the evil white wizard Saruman in The Lord of the Rings trilogy (giving Ian McKellen’s Gandalf a run for his money), then as the equally treacherous Count Dooku in the rebooted Star Wars pictures. With these, a new generation of filmgoers have come to experience Lee’s inimitable, dark-eyed, mellifluous malevolence.

Other notable performances include his Mycroft, in Billy Wilder’s wonderfully leftfield The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes (Lee is apparently the only actor to have portrayed both Holmes and his brother) and as the founder of Pakistan in Jinnah, his own favourite of his performances.

The Man With the Golden Gun (1974)


Jinnah (1998)

 

The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (2001)

 

I met Lee once, in 2006, when he presented a special screening of The Man With the Golden Gun at the Bangkok Film Festival. He recalled playing golf with Ian Fleming, who was a second cousin, revealed his favourite Bond – not Moore, but Brosnan – and on the eve of Casino Royale wisely implored naysayers to give Daniel Craig a chance. He was sharp as a whip, with a dry wit and more courtesy than one might think possible from a legend.

These clips of the master at work conclude with a brilliant interview from 1975, in which he reveals his  intelligent approach to creating monsters, and his conviction in his material. "Satantic ceremonies," he casually asserts, "will be happening in Britain tonight."
 

Christopher Lee interviewed while filming To The Devil, A Daughter

 

A new generation of filmgoers have come to experience Lee’s inimitable, dark-eyed, mellifluous malevolence

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