The one and only, late and great Sir Christopher Frank Carandini Lee was born on this day, May 27th in the year 1922 so I thought that I would honor him, in my own way.
I’ve been a big fan of his for quite some time now, first coming across him when I was younger, on Star Wars and The Lord of the Rings but any horror fan will know him for his many iconic roles in horror movies, mainly for his portrayal of Dracula. But listing all of his roles in movies would be almost impossible. He has an impressive resume of 276 movie roles. Which is funny considering he struggled to get work early in his career as a supporting actor at first because almost all the male stars were shorter than him.
As if that was not enough, Lee dabbled in a ton of other things as well, like a full-length metal album in his 80s titled Charlemagne: By the Sword and the Cross for which he even won the “Spirit of Metal” award. (Lee is actually a descendant of Emperor Charlemagne of the Holy Roman Empire)
He also did a ton of narration which I’ve been a huge fan of, I covered a few of his readings on my Edgar Allan Poe posts. Somehow he is the perfect person who could have read gothic horror, I’m just sad that he never read any of Lovecraft’s work but I am far from complaining.
In addition to his impossibly extensive film career, Lee was also a world champion fencer, an opera singer, spoke six languages. At a time, he got offered a job as an opera singer.
He was also knighted and served in the army. At first, he volunteered to fight for the Finnish forces during the winter war, after that, he volounteered for the royal airforce but due to a damaged optic nerve he was not allowed to fly a plane so he decided to join the royal air force intelligence where he spent a lot of time hunting down nazis across Europe. He did not talk much about his time as a spy, but it’s safe to assume that it was wild:
Having achieved so much, he retired from the military at the old age of 25. Yep, he was 25 and had achieved all of that and more. Ignore the fact that I just turned 25 myself and feel empty now. But let’s focus on his career in horror.
Taking a deeper look at some of his most iconic roles we can see that he has pretty much tried everything. Dracula, Frankenstein, The mummy and even Jekyll and Hyde in another version of them in the movie “I, monster”. He has also appeared in a werewolf film, “The howling II: Your sister is a werewolf” but… even the title itself can tell you about the quality of the movie. This makes him one of if not the most diverse actor in the genre.
I could talk about his movies all day. I went through quite a lot of them, some I discussed on this blog, some I did not but all of them had something in common. He was masterful in all of them. I even rewatched Police academy: Mission to Moscow and even though it was a minor role his comedic side was awesome.
I honestly wrote quite a lot of paragraphs taking deep dives into the movies but I’ve already done that, I reviewed them already and even those that I have not I’d feel bad just talking about the films and their influence and not just him.
There was something about Lee, something that made him steal every single shot that he was in. He understood each of his roles perfectly. He was a master of his craft and I really respect him for that. There is no role that he took for granted. Yes he might have taken it for some other reason but he always gave it his all. For example he spoke about his multiple roles as Dracula, he did not want to take a lot of those roles but someone “reminded” him that a lot of the people who worked for those movies whom he regarded as friends would be out of work so he accepted them. But even so, he always tried to portray the characters he played as correctly as he could. This is why, the count has no lines in the second Dracula movie.
It’s safe to assume that his experiences in life had an effect on his performances. This and many more reasons is why I think he is a much more notable figure than Cushing or Price even though they are not to be downplayed, and although he is mostly remembered for portraying villains he will always be a hero.
Reading up on him I discovered one thing, I could write countless posts about him but nothing would do him justice, Sir lee truly is a one of a kind man.
Even if you set out to create a fictional character that has a cooler resume than him you will most likely fail. His influence on horror and cinema overall will be remembered for years to come and if there is a Mount Rushmore of horror icons he would definitely deserve a spot on it.
I feel like this post even doesn’t accomplish much but I am an enormous fan of him and in my own way wanted to give a tribute. Happy birthday Sir Lee.