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A Tribute To Christopher Lee

My Opinion

When I was young Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee were two of my favorite actors (of course they both still are). If there was a movie on Friday Fright Night that had either of them (or Vincent Price) in it then I was determined to stay awake and watch it. Like the horror icons that came before them, Cushing and Lee took their work very seriously, even if at times the script didn’t measure up to their talent. I have great respect for the original horror movie actors (Lugosi and Karloff) but Cushing and Lee will always remain my true favorites and will always conjure those memories of watching their movies when I was a little kid.



Christopher Frank Carandini Lee CBE, CStJ (born 27 May 1922) is a two-time Screen Actors Guild Award-nominated, Saturn Award-winning English actor. He initially portrayed villains and became famous for his role as Count Dracula in a string of Hammer Horror films. Other notable roles include Lord Summerisle in The Wicker Man, Francisco Scaramanga in The Man with the Golden Gun, as well as Saruman in the Lord of the Rings film trilogy. Lee's most important role, according to him, was his portrayal of Pakistan's founder Muhammad Ali Jinnah in the biopic Jinnah. His most recent film is The Golden Compass, where he plays the Magisterium's First High Counselor. Despite a critically acclaimed career that spans over seven decades, Lee has never been nominated for an Academy Award.

Lee was born in Belgravia, England, the son of Contessa Estelle Marie (née Carandini di Sarzano) and Lieutenant-Colonel Geoffrey Trollope Lee of the 60th King's Royal Rifle Corps. Lee's mother was a famous Edwardian beauty who was painted by Sir John Lavery, as well as Oswald Birley and Olive Snell, and was sculpted by Clare F. Sheridan, a cousin of Sir Winston Churchill. Lee's maternal great-grandfather had been an Italian political refugee who sought refuge in Australia.

His parents separated when he was very young and his mother took him and his sister to Switzerland. After enrolling in Miss Fisher's Academy in Wengen, he played his first villainous role as Rumpelstiltskin. The family returned to London where Christopher attended Wagner's private school. His mother then married Harcourt "Ingle" Rose, a banker and uncle of the James Bond author Ian Fleming. Lee then attended Wellington College where he won scholarships in classics. Lee witnessed the execution of Eugen Weidmann, the last person to be publically executed in France, in June 1939. He volunteered to fight for the Finnish forces during the Winter War against the Soviet Union in 1939; however, as Lee admits in his autobiography, he and his fellow British volunteers were in Finland only a fortnight and kept well away from the Russian forces the whole time. He went on to serve in the Royal Air Force and intelligence services during World War II including serving as an Intelligence officer with the Long Range Desert Group. He trained in South Africa as a pilot but eyesight problems forced him to drop out. He eventually ended up in North Africa as Cipher Officer for No. 260 Squadron RAF and was with it through Sicily and Italy. Additionally, he has mentioned serving in Special Operations Executive, though all details of actions undertaken by members of the SOE are still classified. Lee retired from the RAF after the end of the War with the rank of Flight Lieutenant.

In 1946, Lee gained a seven-year contract with Rank Organisation after discussing his interest in acting with his mother's second cousin Nicolò Carandini, the Italian Ambassador. Carandini related to Lee that performance was in his blood as his great-grandmother Marie Carandini had been a successful opera singer in Australia, a fact of which Lee was unaware. He made his film debut in Terence Young's Gothic romance, Corridor of Mirrors, in 1948.

In 1948, Lee made an uncredited appearance in Laurence Olivier's film of Hamlet as a spear carrier (marking his first film with frequent costar Peter Cushing, who played Osric). Throughout the next decade, he made nearly thirty films, playing mostly stock action characters.

Lee's first film for Hammer, made in 1957 with his close friend Peter Cushing, was The Curse of Frankenstein in which he played Frankenstein's monster. That led to his first appearance as the infamous Transylvanian bloodsucker in the 1958 film Dracula (known as Horror of Dracula in the US). Stories vary as to why Lee did not feature in the 1960 sequel The Brides of Dracula. Some state Hammer were unwilling to pay Lee his current fee but most tend to believe that he simply did not wish to be typecast. Lee did, however, return to the role in Hammer's Dracula: Prince of Darkness in 1965. Lee's performance is notable in that he has no lines, merely hissing his way through the film. Again, stories vary as to the reason for this: Lee states he refused to speak the poor dialogue he was given, but writer Jimmy Sangster claims that the script did not contain any lines for the character. This film set the standard for most of the Dracula sequels in the sense that half the film's running time was spent on telling the story of Dracula's resurrection and the character's appearances were brief. Lee has gone on record to state that he was virtually 'blackmailed' by Hammer into starring in the subsequent films; unable or unwilling to pay him his going rate, they would resort to reminding him of how many people he would put out of work if he did not take part.

His performances in the following three films (1968's Dracula Has Risen from the Grave, 1969's Taste the Blood of Dracula and 1970's Scars of Dracula) all gave the character very little to do but were each commercially successful. Although Lee may not have liked what Hammer were doing with the character, worldwide audiences embraced the films which are now considered classics of the genre. Lee starred in two further Dracula films for Hammer in the early 70's, both of which attempted to bring the character into the modern day era. Neither was commercially successful. Lee's other work for Hammer included performances as The Mummy (1959), Rasputin in Rasputin, the Mad Monk (Lee apparently met Rasputin's assassin Felix Yussupov when he was a child), and Sir Henry Baskerville to Cushing's Sherlock Holmes in The Hound of the Baskervilles. He was also responsible for bringing acclaimed occult author Denis Wheatley to Hammer. The company made two films from Wheatley's novels, both starring Lee. The first, 1967's The Devil Rides Out, is generally considered to be one of Hammer's crowning achievements. According to Lee, Wheatley was so pleased with it that he offered the actor the film rights to his remaining black magic novels free of charge. However, the second, 1976's To the Devil a Daughter, was fraught with production difficulties, and was disowned by its author. Although financially successful, it was Hammer's last horror film, and marked the end of Lee's long association with the studio that brought him fame.

Lee also co-starred with Boris Karloff in the 1958 film Corridors of Blood. Like Cushing, he also appeared in horror films for other companies during the 20 year period from 1957 to 1977. Notable performances included the Jekyll and Hyde roles in I, Monster (1971), The Creeping Flesh (1972) and Lee's personal favourite The Wicker Man. Lee was attracted to the latter role by screenwriter Antony Schaffer and apparently gave his services for free as the budget was so small.

Since the mid 70s Lee has eschewed horror roles almost entirely, proving himself to be an extremely able and versatile actor. He played in the well-known James Bond series. Ian Fleming, author of the James Bond spy novels, had offered him the role of the title character in the first official Bond film Dr. No. Lee enthusiastically accepted, but the producers had already chosen Joseph Wiseman for the part. In 1974, Lee finally got to play a James Bond villain when he was cast as the deadly assassin Francisco Scaramanga in The Man with the Golden Gun.

Because of his filming schedule in Bangkok, film director Ken Russell was unable to sign Lee to play The Specialist in Tommy (1975). That role was eventually given to Jack Nicholson. According to an AMC documentary on Halloween, John Carpenter states that he offered the role of Sam Loomis to Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee before Donald Pleasance took the role. Years later, Lee would meet Carpenter and tell him that the biggest regret of his career was not taking the role of Dr. Loomis. In 1978, Lee surprised many people with his deft comedy timing and willingness to go along with a joke as guest host on NBC's Saturday Night Live.

Lee also appeared in the series of Fu Manchu films from 1965 to 1969, starring as the eponymous villain in heavy oriental make-up. In 1998, Lee starred in the role of Muhammad Ali Jinnah, founder of modern Pakistan, in the film Jinnah.

He auditioned for a role in The Longest Day but was turned down as he did not look like a military man (despite having served in the RAF during World War II). Lee acted in the 1970 movie Eugenie unaware that it was softcore pornography, because the sex scenes were shot separately and edited in with his own appearances afterwards. Lee has played roles in over 220 films since 1948. He has had many notable television roles, including that of Flay in the BBC television miniseries, based on Mervyn Peake's novels, Gormenghast, and Stefan Cardinal Wyszynski in the 2005 CBS film John Paul the Second. He played Lucas de Beaumanoir, the Grand Master of the Templar Order, in the 1990s BBC/A&E co-production of Sir Walter Scott's 'Ivanhoe.'

Lee starred as Saruman in the Lord of the Rings movie trilogy. (In the commentary he states he was approached to play Gandalf, but said he was too old. Gandalf was then given to Ian McKellen and Lee played Saruman.) Lee had met Tolkien once (making him the only person in the Lord of the Rings film trilogy to have done so), and makes a habit of reading the novels at least once a year. In addition, he performed for the album The Lord of the Rings: Songs and Poems by J. R. R. Tolkien in 2003. Lee had his appearance in the third film's theatrical release cut, resulting in a frosty friendship with Peter Jackson, however, it was reinstated in the extended edition.

The Lord of the Rings marked the beginning of a small revival of his career that continued in Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones and Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith in which he played Count Dooku, a name allegedly chosen to reflect his fame playing Count Dracula. His autobiography states that he did much of the swordplay himself, though a double was required for the more vigorous footwork. His good friend and frequent co-star, Peter Cushing, portrayed the equally icy Grand Moff Tarkin in Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope. In the fantasy movie Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Lee played the role of Dr. Wilbur Wonka, the strict father of the star character Willy Wonka.

He was slated to appear as a ballad soloist called The Gentleman Ghost in Tim Burton's film version of the Stephen Sondheim musical, Sweeney Todd. However, shortly after filming began Tim Burton made the decision to omit all chorus singing, as it did not work in the context of a film. As a result, his character, as well as the characters of eight other actors, were cut before they were filmed. However, according to Tim Burton, Lee, as well as the rest of the ballad soloists, were present for the recording session and did, in fact, record their musical numbers.

A rare appearance with his head shaved to look bald can be seen in 1970 film The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes, directed by Billy Wilder. According to the Oracle of Bacon website at the University of Virginia, Lee is ranked second (just behind Rod Steiger) as the "Center of the Hollywood Universe" due to his large number of films with a correspondingly large number of different castmates.

In addition to more than a dozen feature films together for Hammer Films, Amicus Productions and other companies, Lee and Peter Cushing both appeared in Hamlet (1948) and Moulin Rouge (1952) albeit in separate scenes; and in separate installments of the Star Wars films, Cushing as Grand Moff Tarkin in the original film, Lee years later as Count Dooku. The last project which united them in person was a documentary, Flesh and Blood, the Hammer Heritage of Horror, which they jointly narrated. It was the last time they saw each other as Cushing died two months later. While they frequently played off each other as mortal enemies onscreen - Lee's Count Dracula to Cushing's Professor Van Helsing - they were close friends in real life.

Lee appeared on the cover of the Wings album Band on the Run along with other people, including chat show host Michael Parkinson, movie actor James Coburn, world boxing champion John Conteh and broadcaster Clement Freud.

Lee is also one of the favorite actors of Tim Burton and has became a regular in many of Burton's films, in 1999 he had a short appearance as a judge in the film "Sleepy Hollow".

In 2005, he played Stefan Wyszynski in the TV miniseries Pope John Paul II.

Voice work

Lee sings on the The Wicker Man soundtrack, performing Paul Giovanni's psych folk composition, "The Tinker of Rye". He also sings the closing credits song of the 1994 horror movie Funny Man. His most notable musical work on film, however, appears in the strange superhero comedy/rock musical The Return of Captain Invincible (1983) which Lee steals with a raucous song and dance number called "Name Your Poison", written by Richard O'Brien.

Lee provided the off-camera voice of "U.N. Owen," the mysterious host who brings disparate characters together in Agatha Christie's Ten Little Indians (1965). The film was produced by Harry Alan Towers, for whom Lee had worked repeatedly in the 1960s. Even though he is not credited on the film, the voice is unmistakable.

Lee appears on Peter Knight and Bob Johnson's (of Steeleye Span) 1970s concept album The King of Elfland's Daughter. Lee also provided the voices for the roles of DiZ (Ansem the Wise) in the video game Kingdom Hearts II and of Pastor Galswells in Tim Burton's Corpse Bride, then again as the narrator on The Nightmare Before Christmas's poem written by Tim Burton as well.

He contributed his voice, as Death, in the animated versions of Terry Pratchett's Soul Music and Wyrd Sisters and reprised the role in the Sky1 live action adaptation The Colour of Magic, taking over the role from the late Ian Richardson.

He is fluent in English, Italian, French, Spanish and German, and moderately proficient in Swedish, Russian and Greek. He was the original voice of Thor in the German dubs in the Danish 1986 animated movie Valhalla, and of King Haggard in the 1982 animated adaptation of The Last Unicorn.

Lee bridged two disparate genres of music by performing a heavy metal variation of the Toreador Song from the opera Carmen with the band Inner Terrestrials. Lee narrated and sang for the Danish musical group The Tolkien Ensemble, taking the role of Treebeard, King Théoden and others in the readings or singing of their respective poems or songs. Lee also appeared as a narrator for Italian symphonic fantasy power metal band Rhapsody of Fire, playing the Wizard King in the latest two albums, Symphony of Enchanted Lands II: The Dark Secret and Triumph or Agony. He narrates several tracks in the two albums, as well as singing a duet with lead vocalist Fabio Lione in the single "The Magic of the Wizard's Dream" from the Symphony of Enchanted Lands II album.Lee was the voice of Lucan D'Lere in the trailers for Everquest II.

Some thirty years after playing Francisco Scaramanga in The Man with the Golden Gun, Lee provided the voice of Scaramanga in the video game GoldenEye: Rogue Agent.

In 2007, Lee voiced the transcript of The Children of Húrin, by J.R.R. Tolkien for the audiobook version of the novel.

Lee reprised his role of Count Dooku in the animated film Star Wars: The Clone Wars but did not appear in the TV series.

In 2001, Lee was appointed Commander of The Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (CBE) by Queen Elizabeth II. Lee was named 2005's 'most marketable star in the world' in a USA Today newspaper poll, after three of the films he appeared in grossed US$640 million.


The Carandinis, Lee's maternal ancestors, were given the right to bear the coat of arms of the Holy Roman Empire by the Emperor Frederick Barbarossa. Cinemareview cites: "Cardinal Consalvi was Papal Secretary of State at the time of Napoleon and is buried at the Pantheon in Rome next to the painter Raphael. His painting, by Lawrence, hangs in Windsor Castle". Lee's great-grandparents formed Australia's first opera company, performing before miners in towns in the outback.

Lee is a step-cousin of Ian Fleming, author of the James Bond spy novels. He has been married to the Danish model Birgit Kroencke (also known as Gitte Lee) since 1961. They have a daughter named Christina (born 23 November 1963). He is also the uncle of the British actress Harriet Walter.


Lee is a known cigar aficionado with a love for the Cuban cigar brand Montecristo. He once said "What are these? I do not smoke cigars such as these, I only smoke Montecristo!" as an answer to an offer to smoke a different kind of cigar. His Montecristo of choice is the No 1, a Lonsdale.

Lee also has a longstanding personal interest in the occult, maintaining a library of over 12,000 books which is largely devoted to the topic. This is discussed in his autobiography, Tall, Dark and Gruesome.

Awards won

Screen Actors Guild Awards
Outstanding Cast - Motion Picture
2003 The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King
Other awards
Life Career Award (Saturn Award)
1979 Lifetime Achievement
OFCS Award for Best Ensemble
2002 The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers
PFCS Award for Best Cast
2001 The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring
2002 The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers
NBR Award for Best Cast
2003 The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King

From Wikipedia


1948 Corridor of Mirrors
1948 One Night with You
1948 Hamlet
1948 Penny and the Pownall Case
1948 A Song of Tomorrow
1948 My Brother's Keeper
1948 Saraband for Dead Lovers
1948 Scott of the Antarctic
1949 Trottie True
1950 They Were Not Divided
1950 Prelude to Fame
1951 Valley of Eagles
1951 Captain Horatio Hornblower R.N.
1952 The Crimson Pirate
1952 Top Secret
1952 Paul Temple Returns
1952 Babes in Bagdad
1952 Moulin Rouge
1953 Les vacances de Monsieur Hulot
1953 Innocents in Paris
1954 Destination Milan
1955 Man in Demand
1955 Crossroads
1955 Moby Dick Rehearsed
1955 Final Column
1955 That Lady
1955 Police Dog
1955 The Vise
1955 The Dark Avenger
1955 Tales of Hans Anderson
1955 The Cockleshell Heroes
1955 Storm Over the Nile
1956 The Adventures of Aggie
1956 Alias John Preston
1956 Private's Progress
1956 The Scarlet Pimpernel
1956 Colonel March of Scotland Yard
1956 Port Afrique
1956 Beyond Mombasa
1953 - 1956 Douglas Fairbanks, Jr., Presents
1956 Sailor of Fortune
1956 The Battle of the River Plate
1957 Errol Flynn Theater
1957 I'll Met by Moonlight
1957 Fortune Is a Woman
1957 The Traitor
1957 The Curse of Frankenstein
1957 Manuela
1957 The Gay Cavalier
1957 Bitter Victory
1957 The Truth About Women
1956 - 1957 Assignment Foreign Legion
1958 O.S.S.
1958 Ivanhoe
1958 A Tale of Two Cities
1958 White Hunter
1958 Dracula
1958 The Battle of the V.1
1958 Corridors of Blood
1959 William Tell
1959 The Hound of the Baskervilles
1959 The Man Who Could Cheat Death
1959 The Treasure of San Teresa
1959 The Mummy
1959 Tempi duri per i vampiri
1960 Tales of the Vikings
1960 Too Hot to Handle
1960 Beat Girl
1960 The City of the Dead
1960 The Two Faces of Dr. Jekyll
1960 The Hands of Orlac
1961 The Terror of the Tongs
1961 Taste of Fear
1961 Alcoa Presents: One Step Beyond
1961 Das geheimnis der gelben Narzissen
1961 Ercole al centro della terra
1962 Stranglehold
1962 Das rätsel der roten Orchidee
1962 The Pirates of Blood River
1962 The Devil's Agent
1962 Sherlock Holmes und das Halsband des Todes
1963 Katarsis
1963 La vergine di Norimberga
1963 La frusta e il corpo
1964 Il castello dei morti vivi
1964 The Alfred Hitchcock Hour
1964 La cripta e l'incubo
1964 The Devil-Ship Pirates
1964 The Gorgon
1965 Dr. Terror's House of Horrors
1965 She
1965 The Skull
1965 Ten Little Indians
1965 The Face of Fu Manchu
1966 Theatre of Death
1966 Dracula: Prince of Darkness
1966 Rasputin: The Mad Monk
1966 Circus of Fear
1966 The Brides of Fu Manchu
1967 The Vengeance of Fu Manchu
1967 Night of the Big Heat
1967 Five Golden Dragons
1967 Die schlangengrube und das Pendel
1968 Curse of the Crimson Altar
1968 The Devil Rides Out
1968 The Face of Eve
1968 The Blood of Fu Manchu
1968 Dracula Has Risen from the Grave
1967, 1969 The Avengers
1969 Light Entertainment Killers
1969 The Castle of Fu Manchu
1969 The Oblong Box
1969 The Magic Christian
1970 Scream and Scream Again
1970 Umbracle
1970 The Bloody Judge
1970 Count Dracula
1970 Taste the Blood of Dracula
1970 One More Time
1970 Julius Caesar
1970 Eugenie
1970 The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes
1970 Scars of Dracula
1971 The House That Dripped Blood
1971 I, Monster
1971 Hannie Caulder
1972 Death Line
1972 Nothing But the Night
1972 Dracula AD 1972
1973 Dark Places
1973 The Creeping Flesh
1973 Poor Devil
1973 Great Mysteries
1973 The Satanic Rites of Dracula
1973 Horror Express
1973 The Three Musketeers
1973 The Wicker Man
1974 The Four Musketeers
1974 The Man with the Golden Gun
1975 Diagnosis: Murder
1975 Le boucher, la star et l'orpheline
1976 The Keeper
1976 Killer Force
1976 Space: 1999
1976 To the Devil, A Daughter
1976 Dracula père et fils
1976 Albino
1977 Airport '77
1977 Meatcleaver Massacre
1977 End of the World
1977 Starship Invasions
1978 How the West Was Won
1978 Return from Witch Mountain
1978 Caravans
1978 The Pirate
1978 Circle of Iron
1979 The Passage
1979 Arabian Adventure
1979 Nutcracker Fantasy
1979 Jaguar Lives!
1979 Captain America II: Death Too Soon
1979 Bear Island
1979 1941
1980 Serial
1980 Once Upon a Spy
1980 Charlie's Angels
1981 The Salamander
1981 Evil Stalks This House
1981 Desperate Moves
1981 An Eye for an Eye
1981 Goliath Awaits
1982 Safari 3000
1982 Massarati and the Brain
1982 Charles & Diana: A Royal Love Story
1982 The Last Unicorn
1983 New Magic
1983 The Return of Captain Invincible
1983 House of the Long Shadows
1984 The Far Pavilions
1984 Faerie Tale Theatre
1984 The Rosebud Beach Hotel
1985 Mask of Murder
1985 Howling II: Stirba - Werewolf Bitch
1986 Un métier du seigneur
1986 The Girl
1986 The Disputation
1986 The Mind of David Berglas
1986 Shaka Zulu
1987 Shaka Zulu
1987 Jocks
1987 Mio min Mio
1988 Dark Mission (Operación cocaína)
1989 Murder Story
1989 La chute des aigles
1989 Around the World in 80 Days
1989 The Return of the Musketeers
1989 La révolution française
1990 The Rainbow Thief
1990 The Care of Time
1990 Treasure Island
1990 L'Avaro
1990 Honeymoon Academy
1990 Gremlins 2: The New Batch
1991 Incident at Victoria Falls
1991 Curse III: Blood Sacrifice
1992 Jackpot
1992 Double Vision
1992 Kabuto
1992 Sherlock Holmes and the Leading Lady
1992 The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles
1993 Death Train
1994 Police Academy: Mission to Moscow
1994 Funny Man
1995 The Tomorrow People
1995 A Feast at Midnight
1995 Moses
1996 Welcome to the Discworld
1996 Sorellina e il principe del sogno
1996 The Stupids
1997 Ivanhoe
1997 Soul Music (TV series)
1997 Wyrd Sisters (TV series)
1997 The Odyssey
1998 Tale of the Mummy
1998 Jinnah
1997 - 1998 The New Adventures of Robin Hood
1996 - 1999 Blue Heelers
1999 Sleepy Hollow
2000 Gormenghast (miniseries)
2000 In the Beginning
2000 Ghost Stories for Christmas
2001 Les Redoutables
2001 The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring
2002 Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones
2002 The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers
2003 The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King
2004 Crimson Rivers II: Angels of the Apocalypse
2005 The Adventures of Greyfriars Bobby
2005 Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith
2005 Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
2005 Corpse Bride
2005 Pope John Paul II
2007 The Golden Compass
2008 The Colour of Magic
2008 Star Wars: The Clone Wars
2008 The Heavy
2008 Boogie Woogie
2008 Monstermania!
2009 Triage
2010 Alice in Wonderland

My Reviews

The Curse of Frankenstein (1957)- Hammer's first foray into horror and already they got it right. Peter Cushing is the overly ambitious Victor Frankenstein who inherits a fortune at a young age and hires a tutor who eventually becomes his lab assistant. They dabble in resurrecting the dead and then come across a way to make it work. And of course, Frankenstein goes too far and Christopher Lee as the Monster is created. Ego, edginess, science, and insanity are explored in this effective rewrite of the story. Hammer also set the standard for use of color, great sets, costumes, directing, writing, and acting in horror movies with this flick. If you like the Frankenstein story and dig Hammer films and haven't seen this one then it is a must see. Plain great old school story telling. A+.

The Horror of Dracula (1958)- By modern horror movie standards this is a slow mover but remove genre tags and look at this as just the telling of a story (which we should do with all movies anyway), and I think you have a really good one. Apart from the battle between Dr. Van Helsing and Dracula (good and evil) this movie follows little of Stoker's original novel. It's not a retelling but a rewriting of it and it comes across as being a very original and fresh interpretation of the story. Jonathan Harker goes to Castle Dracula as a librarian, there to sort and check Count Dracula's massive collection of books, or so we are told. We soon realize that Harker is undercover and knows who, or what, Dracula really is. When his plans go awry and Dracula begins looking for revenge, Dr. Van Helsing enters the fray. This was one of Hammer's early horror movies and it again showcases the great Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing who were both on their way to horror movie infamy. Hammer proved that you could have a great story, great direction, great sets, and great acting, all on a budget. A-.

The Mummy (1959)- In the late 50s Hammer was making a name for itself redoing Universal Monster movies from the 30s. They weren't just re-filming them though they were rewriting them as well. After a pretty creative take on Dracula and a very creative remake of Frankenstein they tackled The Mummy. Christopher Lee was again the monster and Peter Cushing again the hero, and despite this it didn't feel formulaic. The indoor sets and the color of these early Hammer films is second to none (the 'outdoor' sets leave a little to be desired except maybe the swamp scene) and again the story is very creative. An Egyptian priest is having an affair with a princess; when she dies during a journey he ignores protocol and has her buried where she died rather than where she reigned. He is then caught attempting to revive her and is sentenced to be buried alive with her and protect her for eternity. 4000 years later English archeologists have the unfortunate luck of finding her tomb and being the first to disturb it. Lee and Cushing always take their roles very seriously and deliver whatever dialogue is asked with them like the professionals they are. If you like Mummy movies, and I don't, you'll like this one. B.

Horror Hotel (1960)- More or less forgotten movie that would play an influence on many movies to follow including "Psycho", "Night of the Living Dead", and "Carnival of Souls". Christopher Lee is a professor studying witchcraft. He convinces a student of his to go to an old New England village to do some research. The few inhabitants are strange and the hotel she stays at is very creepy. Some effective scenes and good acting follow as a coven of witches runs the town. This is a classic made by Hammer Studio's biggest competitor of the day Amalgamated. A.

Gorgon, The (1964)- Strange little Hammer film which brings the Greek Gorgon/Medusa myth into more modern times, placing it in turn of the century Germany (I figure Hammer already had the sets and costumes at the ready). A town is plagued by a curse in which some people are found dead, turned to stone. The local doctor just writes the deaths off as heart failure, but that won’t due when some important people start turning up dead. Mainly, an artist whose rich influential father isn’t buying the story his son committed suicide after getting a local girl pregnant. The father shows up, and also dies a mysterious death, but not before writing a letter to his other son. The lid will soon be blown off the town’s secrets. Very little in the way of explanation is ever offered, the lines between good and evil, right and wrong are blurred and everything is played out like a Greek tragedy, which it is more or less based on, as love is what ends up getting everyone in the most trouble. Well acted and directed, the colors and sets and ‘feel’ are perfect early Hammer. This is only for those looking for the subtle atmospheric horrors, despite the subject material this is no monster movie, keeping that in mind I will give this a B+.

Skull, The (1965)- Classic British horror tale with Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee as competing collectors of occult objects. Cushing is given the opportunity to buy the cursed skull of the Marquis de Sade and asks Lee what he thinks. Lee tries to convince Cushing to never buy the skull, but Cushing can’t help it, and soon realizes his disbelief in the occult will not save him from it! A really good flick in the Hammer tradition (though not Hammer) that remains strong throughout with great performances by everyone; although the very end tries the old horror movie cliché pseudo-endings, which I hate. Chop off about the last 10 minutes and this is some great stuff! A

Dr. Terror's House of Horrors (1965)- Six strangers riding on a train. One happens to be well versed in the art of tarot reading and future predicting. So we get an Amicus omnibus, the first actually, from the Hammer copycat and it ain’t all that bad. Story one has a man return to his ancestral home to help the current owner remodel. Little does he know the current owner isn’t too happy with the previous owner’s family, and they have a history of werewolfism! Well told and well-paced, I’ll give it an A. Story two has a family returning from vacation to find a strange vine growing next to the house. They can’t seem to remove it so they call in some experts and they quickly realize that ‘a plant like that could take over the world’, especially if it figures out how not to be scared of fire. Campy but fun I’ll give it a B. Story three has a smart assed jazz musician play a gig in the West Indies. He comes back with the music he heard the voodoo practitioners play and despite being warned not to play it, he does so anyway and doesn’t get the results he’d hoped for. Not bad, played more for laughs and approached that way it works. A-. Story four involves a pretentious art critic who is always belittling an artist. The artist gets his revenge, but the critic is so humiliated he runs the artist over with his car, severing the artist’s hand. The rest is pretty easy to predict, complete with terrible FX. Christopher Lee is in this one as is Gandolf, but the FX are so bad it is distracting. C-. A young Donald Southerland winds up getting hitched to a young vampire in the fifth story and is convinced to kill her, and then, twist! I’ll give it an A-, well-acted and well-though out. So the wrap comes to a conclusion and you kind of think “Wait, so that wasn’t really anyone’s future?” Anyway, a pretty good flick if you like the Amicus omnibus approach, plus Cushing and Lee are both present! The grades average to a B+.

Dracula Has Risen From The Grave (1968)- The villagers still won't go to church and why? Because Dracula's Castle's shadow falls on their church in the evening. But Dracula has been killed everyone knows that. Well the monsignor will have no more of this. He forces the local village priest to go with him up to the castle to bless it and place a large cross on the door. Man does that plan backfire. As the title suggests, Dracula rises from the grave and is pretty pissed to find that big cross on his front door. The monsignor must pay for that one. And what better way to do it than take his eye candy niece? Pretty effective Dracula story and Christopher Lee hits his stride as Dracula. B.

Crimson Cult, The (1968)- Tigon tried to clone Hammer’s formula and comes close in this groovy 60s witchcraft, psychedelic, orgy, partying piece of nostalgia. Ahh, the 60s, they must have been fun, as long as you stayed away from Satanism and witchcraft! Christopher Lee plays his part straight as an arrow as the descendent of a witch burned at the stake, when antique dealer brothers show up in town, and Lee finds out they are the descendants of the judges who burned his ancestor, pay they must. Toss in witch expert Boris Karloff, who adds a little needed camp, and this turns out to be a pretty good one, despite the weak ending. Masterpiece? Not even close! But if you like the British 60s era horror then this is a good representative. B-.

The Oblong Box (1969)- Vincent Price is a member of a rich family with large land holding in Africa. After a terrible accident a curse is placed on his brother and they return home to England to live in isolation. His brother is determined to get out of that attic he's locked in and comes up with a pretty desperate plan that then backfires, sort of. Christopher Lee shows up as a doctor who becomes the victim of some blackmailing. All in all this is a pretty effective movie with some cool witchdoctor/voodoo scenes and pretty effective ending, and plot twist. Interesting, original, well filmed (except the day for night scenes) and well acted. The only exception would be the weak makeup job on the cursed brother. A-.

Scream and Scream Again (1969)- This is the only movie to have Vincent Price, Christopher Lee, and Peter Cushing, 3 of the greatest horror movie stars ever, in it. That's a drag. It's a drag because putting those 3 together could produce some good movies and also because this movie pretty much sucks. From the terrible 60s 'Spy Hunter' soundtrack to weird Nazi wannabe characters, to the much too long chase scene with the never-satisfactorily-explained vampire character, this movie just fails. Apparently scientists are developing super humans, kind of "bionic people". These Nazi types have a British spy plane pilot and want to see the case notes on these bionic people. Random stuff happens. The acting is pretty good, the directing is very dated as is the terrible music mentioned above. This is kind of sci-fi meets horror via James Bond. Fairly original but only because it's a bad idea, D-.

Taste the Blood of Dracula (1970)- Some old pretend to be pious rich guys are getting tired of the limited thrills visits to the local whore house can afford them. They want some real thrills so they enlist the help of the local disowned ex-royal brat who is known to run with some devil worshipping types. He comes up with a great plan, raise the Prince of Darkness himself, Dracula, from the dead. He knows how to do it too. With the help of some stuff from the last movie in the franchise (nice tie in). The old pretend to be pious rich guys bale before the ceremony is completed and the local disowned ex-royal brat dies. Dracula does come back though in a pretty effective scene and is pretty pissed that those guys left his servant to die. How to get back at them. Hhmmm... How about taking their eye candy daughters. That should do it. Actually I thought this was one of the more effective Dracula/Hammer films. Despite the material the participants take their parts very seriously and it all just works for me. Nice Hammer color and sets too. A-.

Raw Meat (1972)- This one is ALMOST a classic, as it stands though I would have to label it as an interesting cult favorite. When digging out London’s underground back in the 1800s there was a cave in, the company went bankrupt before they could dig the bodies out. Little did they know that the workers survived and set up a small community of cannibals underground. The last of their descendants is now trying to feed his pregnant and very sick wife. So why a classic (or almost), well for 1972 it feels pretty far ahead of its time with violence and gore (although not excessive by today’s standards for 1972 it was pretty intense), the plot also predates flicks like ‘Texas Chainsaw Massacre’ and ‘The Hills Have Eyes’ by several years, and the bleak British humor and Donald Pleasance’s ‘ironic’ performance all raise it above mediocre. Why ‘Almost’? There are times when it is interminably slow moving; long camera shots of almost complete darkness, crying and wailing by the cannibal, lengthy conversations. Had that been edited down and more of the conflict with Christopher Lee and Pleasance (which as it stands goes nowhere) explored, more background on the cannibals, more on the virus they apparently carry, or something, I don’t know, but damn! Anyway, if you’re interested in 70s horror like ‘The Hills Have Eyes’ etc and want to see an early entry in the ‘meat-flick’ sub-genre then check this out, I’ll give it a pretty strong B- and say again it was ‘almost’ a classic.

Horror Express (1973)- Lee and Cushing together again, this time in a Spanish production set on a Russian train leaving China for France in 1909. The copy I have isn't so good. The picture is dark, the color and sound bad. Still I enjoyed the movie. Lee is a smug archeologist who believes he has found the 'missing link' between man and ape. Cushing is a somewhat jealous compatriot who wants to know what Lee is up to. Lee loads his find into a big crate and gets on the train with Cushing and several other colorful characters. Chaos ensues as the missing link turns out to be alive and thirsting for ... knowledge? Find the movie and watch it to find out what I mean. Over-all effective movie, especially the blind zombies at the end, stick some zombies in a movie and it'll almost always bump its grade a letter. Basically it's 'The Thing' on a train. Or maybe better "The Creeping Flesh" which came out the same year and also stared Cushing and Lee. Solid B.

Wicker Man, The (1973)- Another film that I'd heard a lot of good things about. It starts off with a very 60's vibe to it, and I don't mean that as a compliment. A policeman visits an island to investigate the disappearance of a young girl. He is determined to get to the bottom of what is going on, despite the strange doings of the locals who appear to be members of some old fertility cult. One twist leads to another until we meet The Wicker Man. If you can get through the terrible dated first half hour or so you're in for a pretty good ride. Well acted, well directed and believable (after those first 30 minutes or so that is). I'd give it an A but it just took too long to get started. B+

Satanic Rites of Dracula, The (1974)- I've read so much bad about these later Hammer flicks that my expectations were really low, so naturally I liked it. I think this is an underrated movie. Yeah, the plot is convoluted espionage 70s James Bond hokum and the terribly dated music reflects that angle but it still worked pretty well. Yeah, it is an excuse to get some damsels in distress and for another face off between Dracula and Van Helsing so at the end of the day there is nothing really new but it is an OK take on the characters. Dracula has enlisted the help of some scientists as he has decided to destroy the world with a new and more deadly strain of the black plague. But won't that kill Dracula too since there will be no food? Van Helsing thinks that just may be Dracula's plan. There are some odd senseless devil worshipping scenes complete with naked lady alter, probably to generate some controversy and free hype thrown in for good 70s measure. And another thing you really notice from these Hammer vampire stories. These vampires have a TON of weaknesses. I mean really all you have to do is pick up a couple twigs and hold them up in a cross and DON'T DROP THEM! Or have some silver, or garlic, or sunlight, or holy water, or ... A B+ may be generous but that's what I'm giving it since I expected total crap and got a decent story.

To The Devil A Daughter (1976)- Christopher Lee gives his all in what would sadly become Hammer Studio’s final film. In the late 50s early 60s Hammer was ahead of the horror game, but by the late 60s, with the release of films like "Night of the Living Dead" and "Rosemary’s Baby" and the early 70s release of "The Exorcist", Hammer’s gothic period pieces seemed pretty out of date. They proved they could make the modern horror film with hits like this, but the writing was already on the wall. Lee plays an excommunicated priest who feels that the devil (or in this case a demon) is the true god, so he’s devoted his life to ensuring the demon a human host in the guise of an eighteen-year-old girl, whose life was signed over to him at birth by her parents. Her father now regrets the decision and enlists the help of a novelist who has written about Satanism and cults. Although dated and slow moving at times this does prove to be a tense and effective horror vehicle, until the end when we get a puppet devil baby and a thrown rock. I’ll just leave it at that but suffice it to say, the ending was a disappointment! I’m compelled to give this a B-, but that might be a little generous.

End of the World (1977)- A year before this was made Christopher Lee's buddy Peter Cushing was in Star Wars. Christopher Lee probably thought this flick might be something like that. I bet he was pretty pissed when he realized it wasn't. This flick is about a group of aliens trapped on earth. They are able to predict natural disasters and use that ability to contact a scientist, instead of, you know, just contacting him. Anyway, they need his help to finish building their wormhole machine so they can get back home (apparently they have the power to destroy the planet but can’t get a crystal). But first, after realizing how bad humans suck, they are going to set off a chain reaction that will lead to earth's destruction. Sounds pretty exciting doesn't it? Well it's not. Sometimes slow moving movies amount to well-timed suspense; sometimes they're just slow because the director just couldn't think of any other way to stretch 45 minutes worth of material into 90 minutes. Here you have the latter of those two possibilities, rounded out with terrible dialogue, horrible acting, and horrendous effects. The first half or so is fun to rip on but after a while it just gets tedious as hell. I think I'll give it a D. Not fun enough to be craptacular, but at least Christopher Lee tries to bring the material up a notch.

The Corpse Bride (2005)- Animated Goth horror from Tim Burton. His "A Nightmare Before Christmas" is a masterpiece so "Corpse Bride" has a long way to go to measure up and of course it doesn't quite get there. Still, in context it is a great little flick. The story? A boy and girl are unhappy with the idea of their arranged marriage until they actually meet and then they realize they may be made for one another. The boy is too nervous at the rehearsal though and goes to practice his vows in the woods, where he accidentally marries a dead woman. She takes him 'home' and things become complicated for them both. The voices and characters are perfect for an animated feature as is the length. The songs aren't as good as "A Nightmare..." but everything can't be perfect. A-.