As a young boy my obsession with the Universal Monsters began. I love everything about them. The characters, the sense of dread, the creepy set design and more opened the door for me to become the horror fan I am today. When I discovered Hammer though, my love for the monsters grew exponentially. The biggest reason is the man I am honoring today. The one and only Christopher Lee.
Christopher Lee was to Hammer what Boris Karloff was to Universal. The man was the essence of all things horror. No matter the role, he dives into it and just commands your attention. It doesn’t matter if he was playing Dracula, Frankenstein’s monster, the Mummy or anyone else. Christopher Lee is as much a true Legend of Horror as they get!
Christopher Lee is simply amazing as the bloodsucking Count. Where as Lugosi gave the role a level of creepiness and mystery, Lee decided to go an entirely different route. His version of Dracula has a more ferocious edge to him. He knows he is your better and will damn well prove it with acts of pure violence. Whether he’s showing you his more regal side or the beast he is, he’s always letting you know he’s the guy in charge. The fact that Hammer brought on screen blood and gore into their movies only helps sell that fact. Lee’s portrayal of Count Dracula is still one of the best that has ever been done.
Some of his Dracula films I recommend are: Horror of Dracula, Dracula: Prince of Darkness, Dracula Has Risen From The Grave and Taste The Blood Of Dracula.
Curse of Frankenstein was Hammer’s first foray into true horror and they knocked it out of the park. While Lee’s creature isn’t as prominent as Karloff’s, it is still an incredibly strong performance. The makeup effects at the time were state of the art and Lee managed to bring both malice and sympathy in the role. This was the only Frankenstein film that Lee starred in for Hammer and no doubt it was their best.
Note: While I’m not covering his Mummy film for Hammer in this column, it’s not due to a bad performance of Lee’s. I’m just not a big fan of Mummy flicks so I don’t think I’d be the best person to comment on any of them. If you are a fan, by all means check it out. His performance is, as always, top notch.
Saruman the White
Okay, I know this isn’t technically horror. But hear me out. There are many horror elements in the Lord of the Rings series. Saruman is behind a LOT of that. Much like his take on Dracula, Saruman is a strong, regal force that’s willing to shed a lot of blood to achieve his goals. He creates an army of Uruk-hai(man/orc abominations that live only to kill) to slaughter as many people in the name of Sauron(basically, the devil) as possible. Not to mention his lackey is played by the one and only Brad Dourif(Chucky). So yeah. This character deserves as much mention as anyone else. And it further proves that no matter how old Christopher Lee is, he is still the most awesome guy in the room.
This is the made scientist that unleashed the Gremlins in Gremlins 2. It was purely by accident, but his obsession with the sciences causes all sorts of problems. It’s because of this guy that we got the bat-gremlin, the spider-gremlin, the Brain, the lightning gremlin, the vegetable-gremlin and yes, even the lady gremlin. And although he doesn’t get a ton of screen time, every time he’s on he absolutely owns the scene. Just like always.
Trying to keep this list of my favorite roles and movies he has been in is pretty damn challenging. The man has been in so many great movies. While he may not be as current as a lot of other Legends of Horror, the man has left his stamp on the genre. Christopher Lee is an actor that anyone who wants to get into acting should look up to as a hero. Whenever you see his name in the credits, you know you are in for a terrific performance. The man is simply a true Legend of Horror.
Next week I’ll be discussing a director who has changed the landscape of horror multiple times. Here’s the clue. Whether it’s pure shock cinema or a beacon of pop culture, he will always haunt your dreams!