Friday, 12 June 2015

Sir Christopher Lee

(Well, this isn't the post I wanted to return with after a few weeks off for the house move, unpacking and wondering where the hell everything is, but sometimes life doesn't give a monkey's about your plans. Actually, that's a lie. It never gives a monkey's).

Throw away the garlic flowers. Open the curtains to let the sunlight in. Put your Cross back in the drawer. Use your sharpened stakes as fence posts. Because Sir Christopher has left us.

I was about nine when I saw my first Hammer Horror. From what I recall, BBC2 had a brief season of Hammer films, opening with 1958's Dracula or Horror Of Dracula as it was known in the US. It was dramatic, exciting, creepy (something about the on location shots and how isolated they appear even though I know they were filmed in the Berkshire woods), and populated by frightfully posh people. I loved every minute of it, and within seconds of seeing the man descend the stairs and announce himself to Harker, I loved Christopher Lee as the Count. Roughly nineteen feet tall with a voice deeper than the oceans, he filled the screen, and was impossible to look away from. And when Harker foolishly stakes Dracula's bride first instead of going straight to the big man, I loved the delicious fear of knowing it would all go wrong in seconds. Sure enough, we have night coming in fast and...oh shit Dracula's not in his coffin anymore where the hell is he oh shit it's dark and the door's open and the camera's on the door long enough to shout that something's coming through it and oh God he's here he's at the top of the stairs and Harker's got no way out he's stuck he's stuck oh shit.

The film might have been the best part of thirty years old when I first watched it (which makes it almost sixty years old now) and the world of repressed Victorians and comely serving wenches might have been alien to a nine year old kid in the eighties, but none of that mattered. Good going up against evil, a bad guy who made Darth Vader look like a wanker in a silly helmet, and people who would do whatever it took in order to save the day...that's what spoke to me and still does.

Obviously, Sir Christopher had hundreds of other roles outside Dracula and let's not overlook the man's life beyond film. I could spend the next week writing about both. For now though, I'll mourn my Dracula and I'll celebrate one of the great actors who gave me - and countless other kids watching films that belonged to their parents - a new fear and a reason to love that fear.

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