RIP: Chris Lee, Last Of The Aristrocratic Monsters



NEW YORK TIMES: Mr. Lee was 35 when his breakthrough film, Terence Fisher’s British horror movie “The Curse of Frankenstein,” was released in 1957. He played the creature. But it was a year later, when he played the title role in Mr. Fisher’s “Dracula,” that his cinematic identity became forever associated with Bram Stoker’s noble, ravenous vampire, who in Mr. Lee’s characterization exuded a certain lascivious sex appeal. When the film was reissued in 2007, Jeremy Dyson of The Guardian wrote, “Lee’s count is piercingly rapt, a fierce carnal evil burning behind his flashing eyes.”

Even in his 70s and 80s, Mr. Lee, as evil incarnate, could strike fear in the hearts of moviegoers. He played the treacherous light-saber-wielding villain Count Dooku in the “Star Wars” christopher-lee-20060904-158384installments “Episode II — Attack of the Clones” (2002) and “Episode III — Revenge of the Sith” (2005). And he was the dangerously charismatic wizard Saruman, set on destroying “the world of men,” in the “Lord of the Rings” and “Hobbit” movies.

Mr. Lee could be philosophical about having been typecast. Of his roughly 250 movie and television roles, only 15 or so had been in horror films, he maintained in an interview with The New York Times in 2002. And they included at least 10 outings as Dracula (sequels included “Dracula: Prince of Darkness” in 1966 and “The Satanic Rites of Dracula” in 1973), as well as one as Frankenstein’s monster and one as the Mummy. MORE

Lee had a longstanding fascination with metal, which he channeled into his own music late in his life. Lee had been a fan of metal since the early Seventies when he first heard Black Sabbath. In a promotional video he told guitarist Tony Iommi, “You are the father of metal,” to which Iommi replied, “But you’re the one that started it, really, because we used to go watch Dracula and the horror films you did and that’s what influenced us.” […] Lee’s final real metal release was the 2014 EP, Metal Knight, a hodgepodge of standards recorded with storming beats and crunching riffs. Lee also enjoyed putting out high-volume Christmas carols; 2012 EP A Heavy Metal Christmas featured amped-up renditions of ChristopherLeeWithAGuitar“The Little Drummer Boy,” and “Silent Night,” and 2013’s A Heavy Metal Christmas Too contained the single “Jingle Hell.” His last holiday tune was “Darkest Carols, Faithful Sing,” a spoof of “Hark the Herald Angels Sing,” which came out last December.

Due to his many contributions to the headbanging arts, both through music and film, Lee received the “Spirit of Metal” award from Iommi at the Metal Hammer Golden Gods awards show in 2010. “I have a great belief that things, no matter what they are – music, literature, anything in life – should from time to time surprise people and that’s what I believe in: surprising people,” he told Metal Hammer last year. “Heavy metal has, since its very beginning, surprised in the best sense of the word, and people all over the world. To be involved in that, and to show people that even now I can still surprise my audience, it’s very important. I’ve spent my entire career taking risks. Acting is a risk, it has to be. I’ve never been afraid, and I’ve done my best to take those risks.” MORE