Christopher Lee: A Life in Movies
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On the morning of 11th June, beloved British actor Sir Christopher Lee passed away.
Aged 93, Lee’s career has covered both genres and generations, spanning a total of seven decades and including a filmography of over 250 roles.
Here, several of The Edge’s writers look back at his wonderful body of work and some the films, roles and scenes that have moved viewers the world over.
Frankenstein’s Monster (The Curse of Frankenstein, 1957)
Hammer’s first ever colour horror film helped to cement the studio as purveyors of fright cinema. Christopher Lee brilliantly brought to life Frankenstein’s monster thanks to some then-cutting edge prosthetic make-up and a performance tinged with pathos. Lee’s performance would cement this film as the go to for schools and horror lovers alike.Curse of Frankenstein boasted the dream team of Lee, Peter Cushing and director Terence Fisher, who later collaborated on Dracula and The Mummy. Frankenstein, though, was an early box office smash and helped make Hammer a success on the international stage.
Words by Natalie Fordham
Dracula (Dracula, 1958)
Despite being a noticeable face within the industry throughout the 1950s, it wasn’t until Lee began his tenure with Hammer Films towards the end of the decade that he became the star we know of today. Quite possibly the most definitive of all of his roles to date, Dracula was very much Lee’s breakthrough, terrifying audiences as the prince of darkness from 1958’s simply titled Dracula, all the way into the 1970s. Over the course of seven separate cinematic outings, Lee’s dominating screen presence proved his worth, relying almost entirely on physical performance (in many of the Hammer films, Dracula had no lines), making him a bonafide legend of the horror genre.
Words by Ben Robins
Lord Summerisle (The Wicker Man, 1973) After playing the Prince of Darkness for the final time in The Satanic Rites of Dracula, Lee was eager to explore fresh terrain. He did just that playing Lord Summerisle in horror classic The Wicker Man. Lee considered this one of his best films, and as the years have rolled by it feels like he’s been proved right. Dubbed “the Citizen Kane of horror movies” by magazine Cinefantastique, its cult status has grown and grown, and the film even spawned a Nicolas Cage-led remake and a belated ‘spiritual’ sequel, 2011’s The Wicker Tree, that Lee himself starred in. This horror still gives me the hereby-geebies. Words by Natalie Fordham Francisco Scaramanga (The Man With The Golden Gun, 1974) The James Bond franchise has certainly had some memorable villains, but that within it’s ninth outing, The Man With The Golden Gun, is remembered by many to be among the best. The film saw Lee (Bond author Ian Fleming’s real-life step-cousin) play the titular villain, assassin Francisco Scaramanga; an athletic, capable man designed to be Bond’s equal and one of the first to give the hero a proper run for his money. That he was; in fact, though the film remains among the least profitable and poorly received in the franchise’s history, Lee’s performance was met with something akin to critical acclaim. Scaramanga is, undeniably, incredibly cool. He charges a million dollars per hit and, shooting with his golden gun and bullets, is rumoured to be the only man capable of taking out MI5’s finest.
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