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 Post subject: Christopher Lee (1922 - 2015)
PostPosted: Thu Jun 11, 2015 9:37 pm 
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Prince Judah
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Christopher Lee died several days ago, on June 7, in Chelsea, London, England
Image < Lee at the 2013 Berlin International Film Festival


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 Post subject: Re: Christopher Lee (1922 - 2015)
PostPosted: Thu Jun 11, 2015 9:50 pm 
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Prince Judah
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Christopher Lee had a very long film career stretching back to bit parts in the late 1940s. He seemed to hit his peak as a Hammer Films horror star in the late fifties and sixties, but continued in many roles up through the first decade of the 21st century, including in the huge Lord of the Rings films and the Star Wars prequels. Though he was in his share of low budget clunkers to pay the bills - End of the World and Starship Invasions (1977) as examples, he was also in some cult classics like The Wicker Man (73), a subtle horror film highly regarded today. My personal favorite - Horror Express in 1972; Lee was entertaining as an arrogant scientist facing an alien monster on a train. Image As one can see in the picture, he starred with good friend Peter Cushing, the other Hammer Films star, though this was not a Hammer film. At that time, Cushing was grieving over the death of his wife and planned to quit the film; Lee convinced Cushing to stay on by reminiscing with him. Cushing passed away in 1994. Lee was in more films with Charlton Heston than most actors who co-starred with Heston - in Julius Caesar (1970), the Musketeers films in 1973 & 1974, and the TV film Treasure Island (1990). He was also in the disaster film Airport '77 - the one without Heston. R.I.P.

http://variety.com/2015/film/news/chris ... 201517194/
Christopher Lee, Dracula and ‘Star Wars’ Actor, Dies at 93
JUNE 11, 2015 | 05:09AM PT Carmel Dagan (here's the write-up at Variety; the pics are mine):

Christopher Lee, the second most famous Dracula of the 20th century — an impressive feat — and a memorably irrepressible villain in James Bond film “The Man With the Golden Gun,” in the “Star Wars” films and in “The Lord of the Rings” pics, died Sunday in London after suffering heart failure and respiratory problems. He was 93.

Lee appeared in 10 films as Count Dracula (nine if his uncredited role in the comedy “One More Time” is excluded).

His first role for famed British horror factory Hammer Films was not the Transylvanian vampire, however, but Frankenstein’s Monster in 1957’s “The Curse of Frankenstein.” His close friend Peter Cushing, with whom he would co-star in horror films frequently, starred as the Baron. Lee made his first appearance as the sharp-toothed Count in 1958’s “Horror of Dracula.” For reasons not quite certain, he skipped the 1960 sequel “Brides of Dracula,” but he returned to the role for 1965’s “Dracula: Prince of Darkness” — a movie in which he hissed a lot but had no dialogue, because the dialogue was so bad, Lee later claimed.
Image < Lee made the cover of this hardcover book about Hammer Films
Lee said later that he was reluctant to continue in the role but appeared in “Dracula Has Risen From the Grave” (1968), “Taste the Blood of Dracula” (1969) and “Scars of Dracula” (1970), hit films that are all now considered classics of the genre. In his last Dracula films for Hammer, Lee starred in the less-successful “Dracula A.D. 1972” and “Count Dracula and His Vampire Bride” (1973), which brought the character into a contemporary setting. (Lee also starred in “Count Dracula,” a film by cult exploitation director Jess Franco that was made in 1970 and released in 1973; in 1976, the multilingual Lee appeared as Dracula in a French film called “Dracula and Son.”)

Lee made horror films for Hammer that were not vampire-centered. He was the title character in 1959’s “The Mummy” and 1966’s “Rasputin, the Mad Monk.” He also brought Dennis Wheatley, an acclaimed author of occult thrillers, to Hammer, where two adaptations were produced, both starring Lee: “The Devil Rides Out” (1967) and “To the Devil a Daughter” (1976). The first is considered among Hammer’s best work. The second, although financially successful, was something of a disaster, with the author disowning the film, which was the studio’s last horror pic.

He also appeared in a number of non-Hammer horror films, including the “Fu Manchu” series of the late 1960s; “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” adaptation “I, Monster” (1970); “The Creeping Flesh,” with Cushing; and Lee’s favorite thriller effort, “The Wicker Man,” in which he played Lord Summerisle.

After 1977’s wretched “Meatcleaver Massacre,” for which, Lee claimed, the filmmakers had slapped on voiceover narration the actor had recorded for an entirely different movie, he largely steered clear of horror films, though Lee did appear, along with Cushing and Vincent Price, in 1983’s “House of the Long Shadows,” an American-produced horror comedy that in many ways brought the era of British horror pics to an end.

Christopher Frank Carandini Lee was born in Belgravia, Westminster, England, the son of a career military man and his wife, a famous beauty and contessa who was part Italian. They separated when Lee and his sister were still young, and their mother took the children to live in Switzerland. Lee volunteered to serve with Finnish forces against the Soviet Union in 1939 and then served with the RAF and British intelligence during WWII. After the war, Lee secured a seven-year contract with the Rank Organization.

His film debut came in Terence Young’s 1947 Gothic romance “Corridor of Mirrors”; the same year he had a brief uncredited role in Laurence Olivier’s film adaptation of “Hamlet.” Lee appeared in nearly 30 films, mostly forgettable adventure pics, over the next decade, although he did have an uncredited role in John Huston’s “Moulin Rouge” (1952) playing the painter Georges Seurat. The prolific actor — IMDb lists 281 credits — appeared in many films outside the horror genre even during his Hammer years.

Lee appeared in the studio’s 1959 “The Hound of the Baskervilles” as Lord Henry Baskerville; Cushing played Sherlock Holmes. (Lee later played Holmes in the non-Hammer “Sherlock Holmes and the Deadly Necklace,” then played the detective’s brother Mycroft in Billy Wilder’s 1970 film “The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes” and played Sherlock Holmes in a pair of British telepics in the 1990s). He appeared in a terrible 1970 adaptation of Shakespeare’s “Julius Caesar” that starred Charlton Heston, Jason Robards and John Gielgud and played a gunsmith in the British-produced Raquel Welch Western “Hannie Caulder.”

Even outside the horror genre, however, Lee’s characters were rarely virtuous, even if it was all too easy to root for them.

As the assassin Francisco Scaramanga in 1974 Bond pic “The Man With the Golden Gun,” he was a singular villain in the 007 pantheon — not a mad scientist or a megalomaniacal industrialist but an effortlessly sexy enemy who is perhaps James Bond’s dark reflection. (Ian Fleming is said to have offered Lee the part of Dr. No in the first Bond film, not knowing that the part had already been cast.) Image

He played Rochefort, chief henchman to Charlton Heston’s villainous Cardinal Richelieu, in Richard Lester’s highly successful “The Three Musketeers” and “The Four Musketeers” films; he didn’t have much to say but skillfully tackled the semi-comical swordplay. (Lee returned to the role in Lester’s 1989 “The Return of the Musketeers.”)

Lee did some American TV work, appearing in the miniseries “How the West Was Won” and Harold Robbins adaptation “The Pirate,” but largely appeared in adventure films. He showed a comedic side as guest host on “Saturday Night Live” in 1978 and in Steven Spielberg’s “1941,” in which he played a German officer.

He had a character arc on the British children’s sci-fi show “The Tomorrow People” in 1995 and was a series regular on the brief CBS drama “Street Gear” the same year. In 1998 Lee starred in the film “Jinnah” in the title role as the founder of modern Pakistan — his best performance, the actor declared at one point. He also appeared in a number of British or American miniseries, including “Ivanhoe” and “Gormenghast,” and had a small role in Tim Burton’s “Sleepy Hollow.” (Lee later did voice work for several Burton projects, including 2010’s “Alice in Wonderland,” and appeared in “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.”)

Burton presented a BAFTA Fellowship, a life achievement award, to Lee at the 2011 BAFTA ceremonies. Lee was knighted in 2009 and received a BFI Fellowship as well.

There was no reason to suspect, in short, that Lee would have his profile raised substantially during the 2000s, in his 80s. Lee was, however, the only actor to make substantial appearances in both the “Lord of the Rings” and “Stars Wars” film franchises. In the trilogy based on J.R.R. Tolkien’s books (Lee’s appearance in the third film was cut from the theatrical version but restored for DVD), he played the duplicitous and ultimately villainous wizard Saruman; he repeated the role in the three “Hobbit” movies.

In the “Star Wars” pics “Episode II — Attack of the Clones” and “Episode III — Revenge of the Sith,” he played Count Dooku (the name chosen almost certainly in tribute to Lee’s most famous character), who becomes the evil Darth Tyranus. The highlight of Lee’s appearance in the “Star Wars” films was the six-foot-five actor’s lightsaber duel with a fully digitized and diminutive Yoda.

In the 2009 film “Triage,” Lee had an interesting and effective supporting turn as a Spanish psychiatrist with a dark past who helps a war photographer, played by Colin Farrell, suffering from survivor’s guilt.

Lee’s autobiography “Tall, Dark and Gruesome” was published in 1977 and republished in 1999; a revised and expanded edition called “Lord of Misrule” was issued in 2004. Lee was a step-cousin of Ian Fleming. He is survived by wife, Birgit “Gitte” Kroencke Lee, whom he married in 1961; a daughter; and a niece, British actress Harriet Walter.


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 Post subject: Re: Christopher Lee (1922 - 2015)
PostPosted: Fri Jun 12, 2015 9:44 am 
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Wonderful tribute Chrysagon, to Sir Christopher Lee's amazing career. Thank you for such a fine piece.


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 Post subject: Re: Christopher Lee (1922 - 2015)
PostPosted: Fri Jun 12, 2015 5:43 pm 
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Great, great actor. To me the best Dracula there ever was. Such a shame he didn't seem to like the part very much, he was so great playing him. I have even heard he wouldn't sign pictures with him as Dracula. His Bond villain was also one of the most memorable ones, I think. Everyone knows Scaramanga, the man with the golden gun!

What do you guys think about The Wicker Man? Quite honestly, it was one of the worst movies I've ever seen and can't for the life of me see the appeal of it. I like the story somewhat and the ending is great, but the film felt like such a mess and extremely poorly made.

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 Post subject: Re: Christopher Lee (1922 - 2015)
PostPosted: Sat Jun 13, 2015 1:36 am 
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James Byrne wrote:
Wonderful tribute Chrysagon, to Sir Christopher Lee's amazing career. Thank you for such a fine piece.
Thanks, James - I should point out, though, that most of the text was from an article on Variety.com; I thought the piece did a good job of summarizing Lee's long career and I copied all of it to here (see link to the article). My own thoughts were the top two paragraphs and I plugged in some photos. The Variety article pointed out that Lee's Fu Manchu films - there were 4 - were not from Hammer; so, maybe it's lucky I didn't write everything myself because I forgot that those films were not Hammer.

Lee was also good at playing pirates - The Pirates of Blood River (62), which also had Oliver Reed in an early supporting role. One other film I want to mention (not mentioned above) is another non-Hammer one, Night of the Big Heat (67), also known as Island of the Burning Doomed/Damned; it was the rare one which veered Lee away from pure horror and into sci-fi, about alien invaders. It still had its share of scary horror but in a science fiction story. Lee played the scientist hero in that one, though he still came across as cold and arrogant. Lee seemed to use his height and cold voice to almost always come across like this superior, unlikable sort, which I suppose was a daring way to go when not playing villains. He seemed to have no interest in the audience rooting for his hero in such films, instead presenting characters which reminded us of bosses or rulers in real life, the ones who give the orders. Night of the Big Heat was the follow-up to the even better Island of Terror (1966), which starred Peter Cushing.
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 Post subject: Re: Christopher Lee (1922 - 2015)
PostPosted: Sat Jun 13, 2015 6:15 am 
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Detective Thorn wrote:
What do you guys think about The Wicker Man? Quite honestly, it was one of the worst movies I've ever seen and can't for the life of me see the appeal of it. I like the story somewhat and the ending is great, but the film felt like such a mess and extremely poorly made.
I was surprised to read this, but I suppose it can't be everyone's cup of tea (just to be clear - we're talking about the original, right? - not the remake?). This was one of those films that was tampered with, cut down by 15 minutes from 102m to 87m, so that might be a problem, though I'm not sure what you mean about it being poorly made. There's also high expectations - if you hear it's a classic before watching it, it may let you down. I admit that when I first watched it many years ago - I must have been about 25 - I found it dull. But, I was into action movies back then.

I enjoy the atmosphere of the film now. Note that it's filmed in bright sunlight, unlike most horror films. It's this veil of cheerfulness that masks the threat (or the evil, if you will). Lee, for example, is more cheerful here than in most of his roles, almost strange to listen to and look at. I always found the villagers to be a bit creepy; couldn't quite pin down what it was, and it's that sense of paranoia - that something is wrong, but you might just be imagining things. Maybe I just appreciate the film more now because I know what is going on, I'm not sure. Or, maybe this film is a type that works better after the fact, after you let the premise wash over you hours or days later. The horror is from an entire community, not just a lone killer, for example. They marked the victim from the start - the supposed hero was the victim even before he arrived on the island. I think it's chilling - that and how the community doesn't see itself as horrific; they're just adhering to their customs & religion, from their p.o.v. Crazy? Sure. It's like an island of cheerful psychopaths.
_____________ Image
I also read in other reviews how this reminded them of The Avengers British TV series of the sixties, some places that Steed and his partner may come across - a seemingly cheerful place but really just one of oppression and bizarre attitudes, hidden at first. Also, another Lee film, Horror Hotel from 1960. Again, I had no fondness for such concepts when I was younger, but they grew on me over the years. Here are more comments from a Kindle book I have on sf/horror films:
Quote:
Even in my jaded seen-it-all era, The Wicker Man packs quite a punch. But perhaps "punch" is the wrong word; this movie works like a crescendo, a slow buildup, weirder and weirder, increasingly ghastly. Some modern viewers claim that they can guess the various twists and turns of the plot, but I have feeling that most of these viewers are simply struggling mightily not to be disturbed.

It is famous as an intellectual horror-mystery film, almost an art film. It is very convincing, and all the more disturbing for that. It contains four or five musical numbers, including old-fashioned bawdy ballads, yet the music adds weirdness rather than cheer. It contains an extended nude scene
(Britt Ekland from The Man with the Golden Gun, or her body double), but the nudity unnerves as much as it entices. As a whole, The Wicker Man does a peerless job of conjuring up the paranoia of the incredulous stranger. Wherever our hero goes, people look at him funny, or act as if they are all in on a secret from which only he is shut out. I recommend Wicker Man to fans of emotional or arcane British shockers like Peeping Tom or Burn, Witch, Burn! It also reminded me of the famous Prisoner TV series from the 60s (beautiful island, sinister doings behind the scenes), and of the famous 1948 Shirley Jackson short story "The Lottery" (paganism in modern society).

Goldweber, David Elroy (2012-06-14). Claws & Saucers: Science Fiction, Horror, and Fantasy Film: A Complete Guide: 1902-1982 (Kindle Locations 77138-77159). David E. Goldweber. Kindle Edition.


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 Post subject: Re: Christopher Lee (1922 - 2015)
PostPosted: Wed Jun 17, 2015 1:20 am 
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Came across this blog, 22 Incredible Facts about Christopher Lee: http://io9.com/22-incredible-facts-abou ... socialflow

A pretty amazing life, including all the interesting and brutal events during the big war before he was 25 years old (which may explain his self-described shell that he had to place around himself)... Image Here's just one:
Quote:
17) The story has gone around a lot, but it bears repeating because it is incredible: During his death scene in Return of the King (only included in the Extended Edition to Lee’s disapproval), director Peter Jackson was describing to him what sound people getting stabbed in the back should make. Lee gravely responded that he had seen people being stabbed in the back, and knew exactly what sound they made.


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 Post subject: Re: Christopher Lee (1922 - 2015)
PostPosted: Sun Jun 21, 2015 8:41 pm 
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An unexpected mention of Charlton Heston on an audio commentary: yesterday, I checked out my copy of a British DVD of Night of the Big Heat (67) and listened to the audio commentary provided by Lee, two of the scripters and a moderator. Midway through, the scripters related a story of how the monsters in this film - meaning the special effects creations - were available to view at Pinewood Studios and how a large group of people , including some celebrities not in the film, went over to the spot to take a look at these things. This group included Charlton Heston; I had to rewind to make sure I heard this right. Indeed it was so. Lee, though the star of the film, was apparently not there on that day and, in the commentary, he asked what Heston was doing there, what he was working on? The reply was that it was Gordon in Khartoum. Ah, yes, Lee responded, and a good job he did of it.

As Lee himself has stated and all agreed, the film was very good until the end, when the alien creatures were shown; they didn't look good. Towards the end of the commentary, when the final scenes were playing, it was mentioned again how Heston was looking at the creations of the special effects men and had little or no expression; he wasn't impressed was the consensus of opinion. Heston really got around. He always seems to be popping up in these tales of the old times making movies, back in the sixties and fifties.


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 Post subject: Re: Christopher Lee (1922 - 2015)
PostPosted: Mon Jun 22, 2015 11:16 am 
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Very interesting and quite a coincidence.

This is a picture that has been circling the web ever since his death:

Image

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