Known for playing wise, powerful and sometimes immortal characters, Christopher Lee seemed to embody all of these traits as a person as well as possessing them as an actor. Undoubtedly one of the greatest presences in cinema history, infamous on screen and just plain famous off of it, Lee’s passing is most definitely a sad occasion for any film fan. Here are five of his best and most fondly remembered performances.
5: The Man with the Golden Gun (1974)
Before Roger Moore’s Bond era descended into campiness and extravagance, the 1974 classic featured Lee as one of the most memorable villains in the series’ history. Francisco Scaramanga was the equal to Bond in every respect, sadistic and suave simultaneously to such an extent that, as critic David Thompson wrote ‘he could just as easily have been Bond’.
4: The Lord of the Rings (2001-2003)
In the novel J.R.R Tolkien devotes an entire paragraph specifically to describing the voice of Saruman and when you read it, you realise how perfect Christopher Lee was in that role. In each film he goes from traitor to schemer to fallen and all three are executed with such an undying supremacy and manifestation that gives the giant red eye in the sky a run for its money as the most terrifying presence in Peter Jackson’s epic series.
3: The Devil Rides Out (1968)
One of the rare occasions in which Lee played the hero Duc de Richleau, an inductee to the occult who tries to disrupt satanic rituals that are being carried out. Though a commercial failure Lee spoke of it as a personal favourite as his intelligent, urbane and grounded performance elevates his heroic figure not to an arrorgant level, but one of quiet dignity, proving that he’s just as good at being good as he was good at being bad.
2: The Wicker Man (1973)
He proved that one of his later, and most impressive dives into the depths of horror. The tale of Lee as a cult leader of an ancient and isolated religion has been described by some as ‘the Citizen Kane of horror movies’. It’s intelligent and subtle in the way it terrifies its audience, becoming both memorable and shocking. Lee’s sheer strangeness complexity makes the deeds of his followers only seem more humane and for that reason more horrifying.
1: Dracula (1958)
A year after his Hammer Horror debut with the Curse of Frankenstein Lee was cast alongside Peter Cushing (one of many times) as Dracula. It would define the rest of Lee’s career, adopting a more fluid and exotic tone than Max Schreck and more animalistic than Bela Lugosi. The darkness, sensuality and sheer aggression of his performance is made all the more remarkable by the fact that he had just 13 lines of dialogue, using his elongated physicality to convey every blood-thirsty impulse the tragic hero exudes. He didn’t need red tinted eyes to make you believe he was a vampire.
So what’s your favourite your favourite Christopher Lee movie, leave a comment below and tell me just what it was that made him such a legend, and why we’re sure to miss him greatly.