Thursday, June 11, 2015

Christopher Lee - RIP

It has been sadly announced today that Sir Christopher Lee died on Sunday. He was 93 years old.

The legendary actor will forever be know for his breakout role as Hammer Films' version of Dracula. Though he didn't exactly relish the role in later features due to the lack of acting challenges, having no lines to speak and being emotional blackmailed by the studio, his handsome yet vicious interpretation helped revive the horror icon. He would participate in several other Hammer movies, often along side Peter Cushing, including The Monster in Curse of Frankenstein, the titled character in The Mummy, and Sir Baskerville in The Hound of the Baskevilles.

Though he suffered from being typecast as the villain in many films, including a ill-advised run as Fu Manchu, he was cast in some roles that gave him a worthy challenge. Beside Dracula and Frankenstein's Monster, fans of British horror will fondly remember him as cult leader Lord Summerisle in The Wicker Man. He would then make a big splash with American audiences as James Bond's latest adversary Lord Scaramanga in The Man With The Golden Gun.

He moved to America in the late 70's to avoid being further typecast. Though he was occasionally cast as a villain, Lee started to appear in more comedic roles. The Return of Captain Invincible, an odd curiosity piece from Australia, gave Lee the chance to do a musical number. He would mock the stiffness of British horror roles when he participated in the terrible/entertaining sequel The Howling II, playing a Cushing-like role as a paranormal investigator who was a-okay with going to rave parties. And for those who grew up in the 90's, many will recall his lighthearted turn as a scientist in Gremlins 2: The New Batch.

Lee experienced a revival in his popularity in recent years when he accepted the mighty role as Saruman in Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings trilogy. This then lead to his casting as Count Dooku in the Star Wars prequels and a working relationship with Tim Burton and his films. Though Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is a polarizing experience, his brief role as Willy Wonka's dentist father is one of the genuine great moments in the film.

His acting career and refusal to retire is only one part of this great man. He fought in World War II as part of the Royal Air Force, survived six cases of malaria in under a year, worked as a Nazi hunter, had to go through a great ordeal in order to try to wed a royalist, climbed Mt. Vesuvius days before it erupted, and sang in several heavy metal bands.

He will sorely be missed.

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