Sir Christopher Lee
27.05.1922 – 07.06.2015
I was genuinely saddened to hear that Sir Christopher Lee had passed away. Over the years Lee had become one of my favourite actors. Perhaps my absolute favourite. I certainly own more DVDs of his work than any other star.
My first encounter with Lee’s films would have been the brilliant, still unsurpassed The Three Musketeers (1973). Or perhaps his turn as one of the best Bond villains ever – in one the best Bond films – Scaramanga, in The Man with the Golden Gun.
It wasn’t until my teens that I was able to catch up with his work for Hammer (and Amicus), when ITV started showing old horror films way past the witching hour with the advent of all night television. I stayed up late, or recorded them all on the VCR to ensure I saw them all. Those classic British horror movies captivated me – and still do. Whether playing Frankenstein’s Creature, Dracula, The Mummy – Lee was central to their success.
Monsters had always fascinated me. I remember drawing them from an early age, though I wasn’t old enough to watch the films. My early horror experiences came from Marvel comics, and a few movies such as King Kong and Boggy Creek. Oh, yes – and the series of Fu Manchu movies shown on BBC2; again starring Christopher Lee.
The link to Hammer came from Star Wars. I loved the cantina scene – still do – with its bizarre creatures; after all, I loved monsters. Later, a connection from Star Wars would lead me to Hammer – I discovered that Peter Cushing wasn’t just Grand Moff Tarkin. It was inevitable that I would explore the Gothic creations of the great British horror studio. So I was understandably thrilled to find out that Christopher Lee would become part of the Star Wars family, as Count Dooku in Attack of the Clones.
Lee had something of a resurgence from the late 1990s. He started to work with Tim Burton and seemed like he’d found a new home. Sleepy Hollow (1999) was Burton’s love letter to the old Hammer movies, and Lee would return again and again to participate in the Director’s dark tales.
The fact that Christopher Lee found a new audience over the last decade and a half – with the Lord of the Rings films, even a return to Hammer with The Resident (2011) – is wonderful. And gratifying for those, like me, who’ve admired his work for a long time.
Let’s not forget the many other talents Lee displayed. How about releasing Heavy Metal albums in his nineties? Check them out – they’re great. And his wartime exploits (Google it) are worthy of a film in their own right. A life time of incredible achievement.
I had hoped, as people often do, to one day meet my hero in person. Unrealistic, I know – but Christopher Lee was always the top of my list for the old “three people you would invite to dinner” game. I would have loved to tell him how big a fan I am of the films he’s helped create. Alas, that will never happen now. It’s sad that tiny bit of a dream will never come true.
Thank you Sir Christopher Lee. Your constant creative progression is an inspiration. The impact you have had on our imagination – both dreams and nightmares – is your greatest gift.