When I was asked by Jerry to say some things regarding the death of Christopher Lee(he knows how much of a Lee fan I am), I had no idea how difficult it would be. How do you articulate losing one of the cornerstones of the horror genre? To say that he was an icon is an understatement. To so many of us, Lee was the last living member of the memorable screen actors that have imprinted themselves in our lives. We wear him on t-shirts, hang his posters on our walls, pass on his films to younger generations. His presence is so engrained in our lives that losing him feels like losing the grandfather you adored who always told the most interesting stories when family got together. He was someone to every genre; Dracula, Saruman, Count Dooku, Francisco Scaramanga, Wilbur Wonka, Lord Summerisle, Fu Manchu and on.
Hammer Studios owes most of its legacy to Christopher Lee. From his first role as The Creature in 1957s THE CURSE OF FRANKENSTEIN, to THE MUMMY, to being the only one who rivaled Lugosi’s iconic status as Count Dracula, Lee was the only actor who portrayed more than two of the classic monsters (Karloff and Lugosi only played two each). You could argue that the man was the face of Hammer Horror. Even when playing the protagonist in films like (my personal favorite) THE DEVIL RIDES OUT, his was a presence that could not be ignored. Without Christopher Lee, let’s face it, there likely never would have been a revival of the classic monsters. Rarely can that be said of any actor in history. All of our favorite memories of the UK studio’s garish blood-soaked mayhem and brilliance are chained to Lee like the weight to Quasimodo.
After flipping on the television to watch anything to get my mind off the terrible news, I was shone a sign of just how prolific he was. Turning on a movie at random, I was stunned to see the name in the opening credits..Christopher Lee. Even when trying to just escape the pain of his death, I was reminded of how many films he left us with. While most sites will be doing quick rundowns of his legacy in cinema, it feels more appropriate to just simply recognize how prolific the man was; his place in film history cannot even be ignored when you’re trying to escape. With over 280 films under his belt, Lee was a part of nearly every major franchise we all hold dear to our hearts. While an insurmountable part of them are horror, the world nevertheless suffers the loss of one of the last perennial favorites of Hollywood history. Today is a shitty day. Yes, one of the last true classic icons of fright has left us.
Five Christopher Lee films you must see:
1. THE DEVIL RIDES OUT
Lee takes on a Satanic cult in what is possibly one of my favorite films of all time with him as the protagonist, for a change.
2. THE WICKER MAN
Before Nicholas Cage went all stupid and punched every woman in sight in the shitty reboot, the original, about a policeman trying to solve a mystery amongst the inhabitants of a strange cult, chilled audiences to the bone with its gut-punch finale.
3. HORROR EXPRESS
You can’t go wrong with Christopher Lee, Peter Cushing and Telly Savalas on board a train the houses a centuries old creature that mimics its victim’s appearance.
4. HORROR HOTEL
An eerie and atmospheric Gothic horror about a young woman who visits a small town to research its roots in witchcraft.
5. ANY OF THE HAMMER HORROR DRACULA FILMS
…because Lee was the only other Dracula who will ever matter and you can’t pick just one.
RIP Christopher Lee (May 27, 1922 – June 7 2015). You’ll be missed and your legendary films will forever carry on your incredible legacy.