Christopher Lee shared a birthday with Vincent Price. It was a well-known fact, but always felt note perfect that these towering figures of terror, princes of darkness, kings of horror should divide a day and lord over us all. They also shared a sensibility, a presence in classical, Gothic horror that defined their singular presences as the kind a film fan grew up with. Very likely, Christopher Lee was one of the first actors a budding admirer of genre or horror had a grasp of. We lost Price in 1993. Now, another sad day has come as Christopher Lee, at the age of 93, has passed.
Born May 27, 1922 in the Belgravia district of London, Lee began acting in 1947, following release from his duty in the Royal Air Force during World War II. Perhaps his true career began ten years later, with a pained, stirring performance as the monster in The Curse of Frankenstein. Hammer, a name now synonymous with Lee and the genre, was about to truly endeavor into horror. Lee became great friends with co-star Peter Cushing and the two would go on to star in several films together including, just one year later, The Horror of Dracula. Now a classic alongside Brownings, The Horror of Dracula presented Lee in his now most iconic role.
Lee would play Dracula, a fierce, captivating creature, nine times, while appearing in innumerable productions, many horror. He caught two doomed locomotives in Dr. Terrors House of Horrors and Horror Express, essayed mad villains Rasputin and Fu Manchu, worked with masters Mario Bava and modern greats like Peter Jackson and Tim Burton. Lee appeared in the James Bond, Star Wars and The Lord of the Rings series, rarely slowing down as he grew older; even boasting a healthy musical output.
Lee sang famously in folk horror classic The Wicker Man and ventured into recording with Kathy Joe Daylors Italo Disco track, Little Witch; narrating on Italian metal band Rhapsody of Fires albums; and of course, there was his own metal on the Charlemagne albums. In spoken word, he recorded readings of Edgar Allan Poes The Raven (like Price) and several times appeared in video games reprising roles contemporary and long past.
Lees work in life is staggering. The performer was knighted in 2009. He is both a comforting aura, and a dark demeanor. Dangerous as Dracula, and unbelievably suave as the Duc de Richleau in 1968s stunning The Devil Rides Out.
Rest in Peace, Christopher Lee, and thank you.
Top Photo: Sven Jacobsen