Descended from the Emperor Charlemagne, and a veteran of WWII, Sir Christopher Frank Carandini Lee, CBE, CStJ was a linguist, an opera singer, a heavy metal rocker, a folk singer, and a voice artist. His acting career lasted sixty-eight years, from a bit part in 1947’s Corridor Of Mirrors and an appearance as a literal spear-carrier in Olivier’s production of Hamlet, to a most appropriate final role, playing “the boss of the universe”, in the not-yet-released Angels In Notting Hill.

In between there were, of course, some ups and downs…

Chris Lee himself may have had something of a love-hate relationship with his genre films, but there’s no disputing the man’s legacy. He was Dracula…and Frankenstein’s Creature, and the Mummy. He was Rasputin. He was the Duc de Richleau. He was Scaramanga. He was Lord Summerisle. He was Sherlock Holmes and Mycroft Holmes. He was Saruman. And yes…sadly, he was mod Dracula…and Jess Franco’s Fu Manchu…and he had the silliest character name in all the George Lucas universe…and he wore those damn sunglasses…

It was, in other words, a full, rich tapestry…


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1000 Misspent Hours and Counting The Bloody Judge The Bloody Judge confronted me with two things I never thought I’d see. On the one hand, it’s a 1970’s exploitation movie— a Harry Alan Towers-Jesus Franco exploitation movie, no less— that plays fairly on the whole with the historical record. And on the other, it’s a Franco film that for most of its length can best be described as stodgy!
And You Call Yourself A Scientist! The Curse Of Frankenstein (1957) And yet despite all this, Lee has an impact, building a sense of pathetic victimisation around this jumble of body parts. In fact, he probably cut his own professional throat here by demonstrating to Hammer what he could make out of a dialogue-less role. The Creature’s jerky, uncontrolled movements, reminiscent of a broken toy – particularly after his second resurrection – and its air of bewilderment and fear evoke sympathy from the viewer as well as apprehension.
And You Call Yourself A Scientist! Corridors Of Blood (1958) Resurrection Joe is an interesting early role for Christopher Lee, though coming as it does, after Dracula, it strikes us today as slightly odd. We judge that Lee was again cast chiefly for his physical presence, which is made even more intimidating via the scar on Joe’s face and his choice of wardrobe, all black, with his natural height emphasised and exacerbated by his top hat and long, button-down coat (both accurate for the period, including the quilting on the latter: see what I mean about attention to detail?). However, it’s a nice performance, too, particularly in the way it conveys a sense of Joe really enjoying his work: that unnerving Lee grin is in evidence at various points. The Cockney accent is a little disconcerting, though.
The Unknown Movies The Rosebud Beach Hotel (1984) Lee is totally wasted. In the first hour of the movie, his appearances can’t add up to more than a minute of the running time. Even when you add in his subsequent appearances in the movie’s last half hour, it’s pretty clear that all of his scenes were knocked off in two or three days of shooting at the most. In case you are wondering, Lee does try, in the first scene at least, to generate some laughs. But the attempt at humor falls flat, and the remainder of the movie doesn’t get that much better when it comes to comedy…
Jabootu’s Bad Movie Dimension
Teleport City The Return of Captain Invincible Lastly, it has to be said that the songs in Captain Invincible, if a bit lightweight, are at least competently written, a few of them having been composed by Richard Hartley and Richard O’Brien of Rocky Horror Picture Show fame. Indeed, I’d go so far as to say that it would be nearly impossible to understand the camp sensibility on display in the film—or its preponderance of dancers in revealing S&M attire—without some familiarity with Rocky Horror. Each exhibits a sensibility that is equal parts glam rock and cabaret, celebrating sex, rebellion and irreverence while at the same time being committed to providing a good time for all.

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