Sad news today. Christopher Lee, “Lord of the Ring’s” Saruman and arguably the greatest vampire to ever grace the silver screen, has passed away at the age of 93.
Lee broke through as Frankenstein’s monster in Terrence Fisher’s horror classic, “The Curse of Frankenstein.” After an impressive run under a multitude of villain and monster roles between 1957 and the turn of the new century, Lee portrayed Count Dooku in the “Star Wars” installments of “Episode Two – Attack of the Clones” and “Episode Three – Revenge of the Sith.” Perhaps the role which best introduced him to today’s younger generation of movie lovers was “Lord of the Rings,” in which he was cast as the evil wizard, Saruman.
I grew up watching the gruesome movies created by Hammer Film Productions, the brash London-based production company who dared remake and reinvigorate the all-time horror classics of the early twentieth century. Christopher Lee became the staple Dracula for Hammer, redefining the role into something truly frightening.
It is with great sadness that I say goodbye to a true legend in the horror genre. Rest in Peace, Christopher Lee. I’ll see you on the other side.
Christopher Lee: A Titan in Horror Cinema
Sir Christopher Lee, an icon in the annals of cinema, is celebrated for many roles over his vast filmography, but he is perhaps best remembered for his indelible mark on horror films. With a commanding presence, deep, resonant voice, and an uncanny ability to portray menace, Lee became one of the most recognizable and revered figures in the horror genre. Let’s delve into the remarkable journey of Christopher Lee in the world of horror movies.
1. The Hammer Horror Era
The late 1950s and 1960s were a golden period for British horror, thanks in large part to Hammer Film Productions. It was here that Lee’s association with horror truly began. Cast as the titular monster in “The Curse of Frankenstein” (1957), he presented a more tormented and tragic version of the creature than had been seen before.
However, it was his role as Count Dracula in “Dracula” (1958), known as “Horror of Dracula” in the U.S., that truly cemented his legacy. Lee’s portrayal was both sophisticated and ferocious, breathing new life into the vampire legend. Over the next 15 years, Lee would reprise the role of Dracula in several Hammer sequels, each time adding depth and gravitas to the character.
2. Varied Horrors
While Dracula was his most famous horror role, Lee’s contributions to the genre are far from limited to the Count. He portrayed other classic monsters, including the Mummy in “The Mummy” (1959) and Sir Henry Baskerville in Hammer’s adaptation of “The Hound of the Baskervilles” (1959).
Christopher Lee’s reach in horror wasn’t confined to Britain. He ventured into European horror cinema, working with directors like Jess Franco in “Count Dracula” (1970), which was a more faithful adaptation of Bram Stoker’s novel.
3. Collaborations with Peter Cushing
Another hallmark of Lee’s career was his frequent collaborations with fellow horror icon, Peter Cushing. Their on-screen confrontations, especially in the Hammer films, became legendary. Whether as foes, like in the Dracula series and “The Curse of Frankenstein”, or allies, as in “The Hound of the Baskervilles”, the chemistry between the two was palpable. Off-screen, they shared a deep and enduring friendship.
4. Beyond the Horror Genre
It’s worth noting that while horror was a significant part of Lee’s career, he was not confined to it. With roles in movies like “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy, “Star Wars” prequels, and many others, he showcased his range and versatility. Yet, it’s impossible to deny the allure and gravitas he brought to the horror genre.
Christopher Lee’s passing in 2015 left a void in the cinematic world. His contributions to horror remain unparalleled, with generations of actors, directors, and fans drawing inspiration from his performances. His portrayal of Count Dracula, in particular, has become a benchmark, with many subsequent portrayals drawing from his magnetic and chilling presence.
In the annals of horror cinema, Sir Christopher Lee’s name shines brightly. Through his roles, he not only scared but also enthralled audiences, presenting monsters as multi-dimensional characters with depth and soul. While the cinema world continues to evolve, Lee’s influence in the horror genre remains undeniable and will undoubtedly be celebrated for generations to come.
The Knighthood of Christopher Lee: From Horror Icon to Sir Christopher
Christopher Lee, already a titan in the cinematic world for his monumental roles in horror films, achieved a further distinction in his illustrious life when he was knighted by the British monarchy. This prestigious accolade was a recognition not just of his contributions to film, but also his service during World War II and his continued efforts in promoting the arts. Here’s a brief look at how Christopher Lee became Sir Christopher Lee.
Service in World War II
Before he became a household name in the world of cinema, Lee served during World War II. He was attached to the Special Operations Executive and the Long Range Desert Patrol, a precursor to the SAS. His wartime experiences were something he rarely spoke about in public, but they added another dimension to his already multifaceted life.
Recognition and Awards
Throughout his career, Lee was recognized with numerous awards and honours for his contributions to film. These culminated in his being appointed Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in 2001.
In 2009, the recognition of his stellar contributions to drama and charity over the years came to a head. Christopher Lee was knighted by Prince Charles at Buckingham Palace, making him Sir Christopher Lee. This knighthood was an acknowledgment of his outstanding career in film, his service during the war, and his charitable endeavors.
Sir Christopher Lee’s legacy is that of a remarkable actor, a war veteran, and a promoter of the arts. His knighthood solidified his standing not just in British cinema, but in the broader cultural landscape of Britain. It was a fitting tribute to a man who had dedicated his life to the service, arts, and the entertainment of countless fans worldwide.
The knighthood of Christopher Lee was a testament to an extraordinary life led both on and off-screen. From the battlefields of World War II to the cinematic clashes with monsters and villains, Sir Christopher Lee’s journey is a testament to talent, dedication, and resilience.