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The Good, The Bad & The Badass: Christopher Lee

06.14.2015
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Last week, we took at look at the career of one of the best character actors of our time, Jeff Goldblum. This week's subject is a recently deceased legend with over two hundred film credits to his name...
Christopher Lee

They sure don't make em' like Christopher Lee anymore. Sure, there are prolific character actors out there, but Christopher Lee, man there was a guy who liked to work. With over two hundred IMDB credits to his name, right from his very first sword-fight opposite Gregory Peck in 1950's CAPTAIN  HORATIO HORNBLOWER up to his recent reprise of Saruman in THE HOBBIT: THE BATTLE OF THE FIVE ARMIES at age ninety-three, Christopher Lee literally worked non-stop.

Even if Lee had only ever played Dracula, he would have been one of the greatest horror icons of all time. Next to Bela Lugosi, he's the actor most associated with the part, and the one all others are judged against (with good cause, as he played the role eight times). But that's not all there was to Lee by a long-shot. He was also a formidable Bond villain, the star of dozens of Hammer horror classics, including turns as the Frankenstein monster, The Mummy, and memorably off-kilter roles in classics like THE WICKER MAN and THE DEVIL RIDES OUT, and that's not even counting his 21st century comeback in LORD OF THE RINGS and the STAR WARS prequels. He even found time to cut a couple of metal albums, becoming the oldest person to have a single on the Billboard chart at ninety-one years old for the song “Jingle Hell.”

Crazy enough, Lee's off-screen life was even more badass than in the movies. During WW2 Lee was an intelligence officer, spending five years waging war against the Nazis in North Africa, Italy, Finland and more. Heck, some have even suggested that with Ian Fleming as his cousin, he may have been the real-life basis for James Bond. Awesomely, when asked about his war record in a documentary in the 007 DVD's, Christopher Lee devilishly asked the interviewer if he could keep a secret. When the interviewer said yes, Lee leaned forward and answered (awesomely) “so can I.” A-mazing.

His Best Role

While Dracula is obviously the part he'll always be most famous for (although for a younger generation its probably Saruman), as far as I'm concerned the juiciest part of his career was Scaramanga in THE MAN WITH THE GOLDEN GUN. Now, I'm a huge Bond fan so I may be biased, but hear me out. I don't particularly like this Bond film. It's actually my least favorite of the franchise but oddly enough Scaramanga was one of the best villains. The best baddie in the worst Bond movie – go figure. Why is Scaramanga so good? It all comes down to Lee. In the seventies, he was struggling to emerge from his typecasting as Dracula. While Scaramanga was still a baddie, he was a sophisticated ladies man, and was even given a sympathetic back-story where he was a trick-shooter in the circus who developed a taste for murder after his revenge killing of a brutal animal trainer. It was a three-dimensional part, and it's probably the only Bond film where I found myself rooting for the villain thanks to a very poor showing for the usually great (that's right - great) Roger Moore.

His Most Underrated Role

THE THREE MUSKETEERS has been filmed countless times, but to me the definitive version in Richard Lester's swashbuckling two-film saga, THE THREE MUSKETEERS and THE FOUR MUSKETEERS. Lee plays the sword-wielding baddie, Comte de Rochfort, sporting a badass eye-patch and swashing his buckles with aplomb. The final showdown in the second film between him and Michael York as D'Artagnan is a classic. These movies are way too obscure considering how absolutely amazing they are.

His Most Overrated Role

In over two-hundred credits, I doubt Lee ever gave a bad performance. Even in trash like THE RETURN OF CAPTAIN INVINCIBLE, he made the film worth watching by belting out a great musical number. But, for all the later day fame it helped bring him, Christopher Lee was somewhat wasted in the STAR WARS prequels. While he gets to fight Yoda in ATTACK OF THE CLONES, he's written out of REVENGE OF THE SITH so quickly that it pretty much renders his character a secondary villain even though he's the only one in the entire trilogy to show any real menace (outside of Darth Maul). 

His Most Memorable Scene

There's never been a Bond film where the makers so thoroughly ignored 007 in favor of a villain as in THE MAN WITH THE GOLDEN GUN, but then again who can blame them? A good illustration of the film's focus on Scaramanga is the opening teaser, where Bond is entirely absent. Instead, we watch Lee's Scaramanga face off against a mob hit-man (veteran character actor Marc Lawrence – maybe the only guy out there with more credits than Lee). It's a tense, exciting sequence, and the movie's highlight.

 
His Five Best Films

5. THE MAN WITH THE GOLDEN GUN
4. THE THREE MUSKETEERS/THE FOUR MUSKETEERS
3. HORROR OF DRACULA
2. LORD OF THE RINGS (Trilogy)
1. THE WICKER MAN

 

Up Next

While Lee's gone he'll never be forgotten. Every generation of genre fans discovers his work at some point and with the amazing range of parts he played Lee's film immortality is guaranteed. Rest in peace sir.

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Source: JoBlo.com

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9:24AM on 06/15/2015
It's hard to say anything about this man that hasn't been said before. His list of records is pretty impressive on its own. The first movie I ever say him in was Mio and the Land of Faraway. I was a very young kid at the time, and I didn't remember who the kids were (or that one of them was Christian Bale), but I remembered who played Kato, the Evil Knight. His Dracula is still probably my favorite, because Chrisopher Lee himself seemed so ethereal, with his 6'5" stature and deep, melodic
It's hard to say anything about this man that hasn't been said before. His list of records is pretty impressive on its own. The first movie I ever say him in was Mio and the Land of Faraway. I was a very young kid at the time, and I didn't remember who the kids were (or that one of them was Christian Bale), but I remembered who played Kato, the Evil Knight. His Dracula is still probably my favorite, because Chrisopher Lee himself seemed so ethereal, with his 6'5" stature and deep, melodic voice.

Horror Hotel a.k.a. The City of the Dead is a pretty effective horror movie from 1960 that plays kind of like Psycho with witches. I remember at the time (when the market was flush with bad horror remakes) it was the sort of movie that might could benefit from that treatment, but is worth checking out anyway.
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7:38AM on 06/15/2015
He had a screen presence most actors would sell their souls to the devil to get!
He had a screen presence most actors would sell their souls to the devil to get!
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6:38AM on 06/15/2015
The Howling 2 was the first movie I ever saw that had Christopher Lee in it. Though the film gets a bad rap, he actually makes the film more entertaining than what it should have been.
The Howling 2 was the first movie I ever saw that had Christopher Lee in it. Though the film gets a bad rap, he actually makes the film more entertaining than what it should have been.
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3:14AM on 06/15/2015
Very effin' badass indeed. Sir Lee is one of rare actors that can make any film at all enjoyable. Case in point: To The Devil A Daughter (starring him and Richard Widmark) - the story sort of going nowhere and makes no sense at times but Christopher Lee as the villain holds the film together. I'd say his best role is Dracula and his most underrated role is Scaramanga. Despite how The Man With The Golden Gun turns out bad and not as good as a Bond film, Lee's Scaramanga is the highlight of the
Very effin' badass indeed. Sir Lee is one of rare actors that can make any film at all enjoyable. Case in point: To The Devil A Daughter (starring him and Richard Widmark) - the story sort of going nowhere and makes no sense at times but Christopher Lee as the villain holds the film together. I'd say his best role is Dracula and his most underrated role is Scaramanga. Despite how The Man With The Golden Gun turns out bad and not as good as a Bond film, Lee's Scaramanga is the highlight of the movie.
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12:25AM on 06/15/2015
One of those actors who made any film better. He was in my 2 favorite film franchises (Star Wars and Lord of the Rings). Hopefully Jackson can work in a nice tribute to him for the next hobbit extended edition release.
One of those actors who made any film better. He was in my 2 favorite film franchises (Star Wars and Lord of the Rings). Hopefully Jackson can work in a nice tribute to him for the next hobbit extended edition release.
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11:29PM on 06/14/2015
The Man With The Golden Gun was the first film i saw with him at the age of 8 and i agree not the best Bond film but his performance makes the film worth wild
The Man With The Golden Gun was the first film i saw with him at the age of 8 and i agree not the best Bond film but his performance makes the film worth wild
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