Thursday, 11 June 2015

Prince of Darkness


Nothing to do with Doctor Who (but wouldn't it have been great if he had done an episode?) but please indulge me for a moment.
A little bit of my childhood died today, with the passing of Christopher Lee at the grand old age of 93. Back in the 1970's, when I was really getting obsessed with Who, I used to stay up late on a Friday night for something called "Don't Watch Alone". Basically, last thing on Fridays, before Scottish Television closed down for the night we would get two horror movies back to back. The first would be a Universal one from the 30's / 40's, and the second would be a Hammer. Invariably, the highlight of these was one of the Christopher Lee ones. The first of the Dracula films, The Mummy and The Curse of Frankenstein were - and always have been - particular favourites.
He was to grow out of love with the Count over the years (though we didn't).
He was probably always destined for Horror Stardom, sharing the same birthday as Vincent Price.
You'll spot him in loads of old movies before he made the big time. Check out Scott of the Antarctic, where you'll glimpse him alongside future Who producer Barry Letts.
He was a Bond villain - only natural as he was a distant cousin of Ian Fleming, who wanted him to play Dr. No in the first movie of that franchise. We had to wait until The Man With The Golden Gun to see Lee meet Bond.
In the same way that Bela Lugosi became a sort of mentor to Ed Wood Jnr, so Lee became one for Tim Burton - director of the Wood bio-pic. Burton cast him in several movies - from the judge in Sleepy Hollow to Willy Wonka's father in the Charlie and the Chocolate Factory remake.
More recently, he played another Count whose name began with the letter "D" in the Star Wars prequels, and of course he was Saruman in both the LOTR and The Hobbit trilogies. He had always hoped to play Gandalf, but was too old by the time Peter Jackson came along.
Lee worked alongside dozens of Doctor Who alumni, like Patrick Troughton, but especially with the movie Doctor - Peter Cushing.
There's a lot of his stuff available on You Tube - not just the movies but his Heavy Metal songs (I kid you not - he did some Concept album stuff based around Charlemagne, from whom he was descended) plus some wonderful readings of the ghost stories of MR James.
Sir Christopher Lee - RIP.


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