The Horror Honeys: RIP Christopher Lee: May 27, 1922 - June 7, 2015

RIP Christopher Lee: May 27, 1922 - June 7, 2015

A Horror Icon Tribute by Supernatural Honey Suzanne

I woke up early Thursday morning, worked out and was feeling pretty good when I left the house. It wasn’t until I got to work and got online that my day went straight to crap after reading the heartbreaking news that Sir Christopher Lee had passed away. The wind was literally knocked out of me. I realize that sounds a bit ridiculous. After all, the man was 93. Lee had a successful career, right up until his death, with more than 200 credits to his filmography, 3 metal albums, as well as an album of cover songs, has written two autobiographies, spoke eight languages, and was married to the same woman for 54 years. He was a Bond villain, Sherlock Holmes, a mummy, a monster, and a dark wizard. He starred as bloody-fucking Dracula more than any other actor ever. I could go on and on about his accomplishments, but I think you get the idea. He lived his life; but he was supposed to live forever.

I never had the honor of meeting the man. Frankly, if I ever had, I would have immediately turned into a soggy, ugly crying heap. Nobody needs that. Christopher Lee was an icon, loved by many, but for me, he was so much more than that. He, along with Peter Cushing, was the foundation on which my love of horror was built. I own every film in which he appeared with Cushing, as well as a myriad of others.

It would be virtually impossible for me to pick a list of favorites as I am excited for any appearance of Lee in film or TV. The following list consists of a few important films with a bit of trivia.

The Wicker Man (1973)
One of my favorite movies ever, Lee considered his role as Lord Summerisle to be one of his greatest and most would tend to agree with him. He actually appeared in the film for free.

The Curse of Frankenstein (1957)
Handsome and charming, Lee underwent extensive makeup, which was created the day before shooting and recreated each day of filming, to transform into Victor Frankenstein’s monster. Unlike the Universal version, Lee’s creature was not sympathetic, he was hideous and violent. This film would mark the first time Lee and Peter Cushing would appear opposite one another.

The Mummy (1959)
Yet another Hammer recreation of a Universal monster movie, The Mummy once again saw to Lee’s handsome visage covered, but this is a man who can act and convey emotion through heavy makeup and bandages. Lee was also badly injured during filming, which actually helped to develop his stumbling and stiff walk.

The Horror of Dracula (1958)
As I noted above, Christopher Lee has played the role of Dracula more times than anyone else in history. This is the film that started it all. The truth is, Lee hated playing the count and felt guilted into reprising the role. He rarely had lines and felt he was only there to look menacing. Personally, this is the film that made me want to be a vampire.

Of course, every film where Lee appears with his good friend Peter Cushing is special, twenty one films to be exact. Whether they are playing mortal enemies, as in some of the films listed above, or working together to the same end, their on-screen chemistry is mesmerizing. I recently saw a video of Lee at a dedication for Cushing where he described Peter as a circus performer because he had the ability to act while physically using his surroundings, something Lee was unable to do. This is probably the reason Lee is always the cantankerous straight man and Cushing added just the right amount of humor. They were the ultimate duo in films such as Horror Express, The Hound of the Baskervilles and The Gorgon.

Please, please make me a vampire. Please?
Christopher Lee was also a fixture in the films of Tim Burton. I remember clearly seeing Sleepy Hollow in the theater and almost having a public fit when he appeared as the judge. His roles were small, but important, and his presence on screen was magnetic.

When Peter Cushing passed away in August of 1994, it left me with a void that I relied on Christopher Lee to fill. He did just that. He was like a beloved grandparent that you want to stay with you forever, knowing in your heart they won’t, but refusing to believe it. I have now lost another huge part of my childhood and that leaves me with another void with no one left to fill it. Fortunately, he lives on in his films and so, in that way, he is immortal. 

Goodnight, sweet prince. May you rest in glorious peace knowing you have brought the world so much happiness and made an indelible mark on film nerds everywhere. If there is a heaven, I hope you and Peter are enjoying a laugh and a strong cup of tea.

We are not worthy.