This is not an obituary or a career retrospective. This is simply one fan discussing his memories of an amazing man and tremendous actor — Sir Christopher Lee, who passed away earlier this week. There’s a popular meme making the rounds on Facebook detailing the accolades of Christopher Lee, ending with the line, “Now let’s see Chuck Norris top that.” I won’t discuss Lee’s absolutely badass life in great detail, but suffice to say he served in the military every year of WWII, was a highly ranked British officer, hunted Nazi war criminals, and was knighted for his contributions to the arts. This is about Christopher Lee the performer, a man born 93 years ago who had 281 IMDb credited roles and was probably the greatest screen villain in history.
Lee entered the fray of iconic villainhood for England’s Hammer studios in the 1950s. For over two decades he would play the Frankenstein monster, the Mummy, and of course, Dracula. Perhaps as famous as Bela Lugosi, Lee portrayed the classic vampire an amazing 9 times starting with 1958’s Horror of Dracula (as it was known in the U.S.) and ending with 1973’s Satanic Rites of Dracula. He was one of James Bond’s greatest villains, Francisco Scaramanga, the world’s highest price assassin who possessed the title weapon in 1974’s The Man With the Golden Gun.
Younger generations know him as a vital part of both Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings series as Saruman and the Star Wars prequels as Count Dooku. As a child born in the early 80s, my first memories of Lee were not in his piercing look and scowling face, but rather his deep menacing voice, as King Haggard in the animated The Last Unicorn. I still get chills thinking of him asking Almathea (the Unicorn) “What is the matter with your eyes? Why can I not see myself, in your eyes?”
My favorite role of Christopher Lee was in his favorite film of his storied career, Robin Hardy’s 1973 The Wicker Man. Not to be confused with the unintentionally hilarious Nicolas Cage remake, the original classic is one of the scariest films ever made. Lee starred as the leader of a Pagan cult on a mysterious island off England where a young girl has gone missing. Devout Sgt. Howie (Edward Woodward) is desperate to find her and Lee’s Lord Summerisle is the ungodly figure standing in his way. “Come, you must keep your appointment with the Wicker Man.”
It’s appropriate that Lee’s final film released before his death was the conclusion of Peter Jackson’s Tolkien universe, The Hobbit: Battle of the Five Armies. It’s only fitting that a man so epic went out with one last epic film. Whether you grew up watching Hammer horror and knew him as Dracula, or as a cult 70’s icon, or you’re younger and you first saw him engaging Gandalf and the Hobbits in the battles for Middle Earth, or perhaps dueling Yoda with his lightsaber… that’s becoming a run-on sentence. The point is – if you were alive and a lover of film, pop culture, or heavy metal music (oh yeah, I almost forgot mentioning his metal album about Charlemagne) over the past 60+ years, then you knew and loved Christopher Lee.
Celebrity deaths are commonplace and come in bunches. In one day we learned of the loss of Lee, pro-wrestling legend Dusty Rhodes, and musician Ornette Coleman. But Lee’s death, after a great 93-year run, made me sadder than normal. When I told my friends at work, their expressions turned sullen and they too became sad, and we reminisced about our favorite Christopher Lee roles. For me, he’ll always be frocked and wigged, and leading a frightened Howie to his doom on Summerisle. But part of me hopes that like the iconic vampire he played so often, Lee will rise from the eternal slumber and stalk our memories and nightmares for years to come.
Sir Christopher Lee was 93 years old. His legacy in films and entertainment can’t touch the legacy of the life he led overall.
Now let’s see Chuck Norris top that!
LOTR- Saruman’s Speech
Saruman delivers his speech to his army of 10 000 Uruk-Hai who look to assult the fortress of Helm’sDeep and destroy the people of Rohan!
Obi-Wan and Anakin vs Count Dooku – Revenge of the Sith
Obi-Wan and Anakin’s rematch against Count Dooku on Grievous’ ship in Episode III.
‘Dracula’ – Death Scene with Christopher Lee & Peter Cushing
The 1958 Technicolor remake of “Dracula” launched a series of Hammer horror movies, usually starring Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee, which were a world-wide success.