My first experience of Christopher Lee was when I was staying at my Gran’s house. I was very young indeed. Very impressionable. And we were up very late. as we so often were, watching horror films. On this particular night, the film we watched was the spine-chilling Horror Of Dracula, where he played, of course, the eponymous supernatural villain. Everything about that role was mesmerising. The slicked hair, mode of dress, lanky shanks, massive hands, and darkling cape, all merged to make a startling impression… But the feature which gave Dracula undead life, was his sharp eyes and their piercing glare. You could dress anyone up as Dracula, but only Lee truly became Dracula.
And so it was with all of his horror roles; he became the character, completely.
As I grew older, and entered my early teens, my tastes began to mature. I found my interests moving to more psychological territory. The visceral fear of a monster attacking people, gave way to the paranoid dread that the monster was inside us. And, it was then, when I first watched The Wicker Man. Again, Lee breathed life into his character, Lord Summerisle. But, this time there were no fangs, no grimace. No relentless striding chase through castle interiors. And, perhaps most importantly of all, no way to cast away the shadow threat, with the welcome light of day. The glare was still there, but the threat was insidious, and hidden, and ultimately more terrifying than Dracula could ever be.
Since then, I’ve sought out everything Christopher Lee has done… Not an easy task given the length of credits to his name. I thought he was the perfect choice for Terry Pratchett’s DEATH, from the Discworld Novels. I thought he was the perfect choice to play Saruman in The Lord of the Rings. And, listening to him narrating audio books is an endless pleasure.
It was a dream of mine, to work with Christopher Lee. Alas, that can never happen. But, it would be silly to complain about that, as he has left so much of himself with us. We can commune with Christopher Lee any time we wish, by simply hitting the play button… including his unexpected work as a death metal vocalist!
“Dead but not forgot” is a series of articles where I’ll discuss some of the phenomenal artists who have inspired me through the years, and are sadly no longer with us.
Stay hoopy, Froods!
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