Monday, April 12, 2010

Fan-Boy Icon #9

In wrestling, the "heel" is someone who plays the bad guy. He's the guy the hero gets to beat up and garner all the applause. In the horror genre, the heel is often also the hero. Case in point, Christopher Lee.

Lee is one of cinema's great villains. When you go to see one of his Dracula films, you don't root for the slayer, even if it is Peter Cushing. Lee's presence is so great that he spends a great deal of time with no dialogue. Even smiling, he can project this incredible menace. If he does not give you the creeps, please, for your own sake, seek professional help.

Now, he's not always the villain. He was the hero in The Devil Rides Out and Horror Express, but it is the baddies that you paid to see. Dracula, Scaramanga (The Man with the Golden Gun, in which he did some stunt driving), Count Dooku (Star Wars), Saruman (The Lord of the Rings)... He even played an evil wizard in Hercules in the Haunted World, and of course a series of films portraying Doctor Fu-Manchu. Currently, the IMDb lists him as have appeared in 266 films from 1948 through three films currently in production.

Really, there is nothing I could write about Lee that would do him justice. He's wonderful in films, and I understand a great person in general. Here are a few films to look at:
  • To the Devil, a Daughter
  • Scars of Dracula
  • The Wicker Man
  • Dracula, Prince of Darkness
  • The Three Musketeers/The Four Musketeers (one of my favorites, as he gets to be funny)
Recently I watched Jesus Franco's Castle of Fu-Manchu, which I hate to say was dreadful, but there was a funny story Franco told about Lee. While shooting Dark Mission, IIRC, Lee's death scene was shot, and he went back to his hotel in costume. He had been playing golf everyday, so the staff was used to seeing him. When he walked in all bloody and burned looking, the staff asked what had happened.

"Damned 18th hole."

Classic.

Also, apparently Lee like Franco's Count Dracula much better than the next Hammer film, Taste the Blood of Dracula. So, if you have to choose between the two, take Lee's advice.

2 comments:

Cal's Canadian Cave of Coolness said...

I have to agree with you. No matter what piece of crap he was in he twirled his mustache and chewed the furnature like a pro. I watched 'The Four Musketeers' the other day with him as Rocheforte and the battle between him and Oliver Reed was a brilliant piece of choreography. They don't make stars like that anymore.

Darius Whiteplume said...

True that even his worst movies still had him in them.

I do love him in the Musketeer films. He's funny and smarmy at the same time, and an excellent foil for Oliver Reed.

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