The Mondo Esoterica Guide to:

Christopher Lee

  About Christopher Lee:

Christopher Lee is one of the few actors to make the break from cult movies to big budget mainstream pictures and has appeared in over 250 films in almost every genre, working with many of the biggest names in cinema over the years. Born in England 1922, he spent time in the business world, before working for the RAF during the Second World War. After the war, he started work as an actor including bit parts in Powell and Pressberger films The Battle of the River Plate (1956) and Ill Met by Moonlight (1957), however his distinctive size and presence limited his ability to find work, most leading actors afraid he would overshadow them.

Lee's big break came in 1956 when Hammer Films cast him as the creature in Curse of Frankenstein (1957), the film proved a massive sucess, and although his role as creature was non-speaking and heavily disguised by made-up, he impressed the fans and producers enough that they cast him and co-star Peter Cushing again in Horror of Dracula (1958), The Mummy (1959) and The Hound of the Baskervilles (1959). Working heavily in the early 1960s, he appeared in future Amicus studio founders Milton Subotsky and Max J Rosenberg's first horror film City of the Dead (1960) and a variety of Hammer pictures including Taste of Fear (1961), before moving to work in Europe appearing in Mario Bava's Hercules in the Haunted World (1961) and The Whip and the Body (1963), Antonio Margheriti's Virgin of Nuremberg (1963) and re-uniting with Terence Fisher to shoot German production Sherlock Holmes and the Deadly Necklace (1962). He returned to Hammer to film Devil-Ship Pirates (1964) and was re-united with Peter Cushing in Hammer's The Gorgon (1964) and She (1965) and Amicus' Dr. Terror's House of Horrors (1965) and The Skull (1965). In the latter half of the decade he took the lead role in Harry Alan Towers' low budget five film Fu Manchu series which would see him working under infamous Spanish director Jess Franco. For Hammer he returned to his Dracula role in Dracula: Price of Darkness (1966) and a variety of sequels, and his sway with the famous studio allowed him to star in his pet projects Rasputin: The Mad Monk (1966) and The Devil Rides Out (1968). In 1970 he shot three films with Franco, including Eugenie: The Story of her Descent into Perversion (1970) and Count Dracula (1970) before returning to shoot a variety of horror films in the UK. Two final performances as Dracula followed for Hammer, as well as a distinctive turn as a sinister island leader in The Wicker Man (1973) and his first Hollywood performance, as Scaramanga in James Bond adventure The Man with the Golden Gun (1974). His final Hammer film role was To the Devil a Daughter (1976) that marked the end of the studio's horror lineage and the end of the European horror era that had kept Lee employed for so long.

Continuing to work, for the next 15 years he appeared in a long list of low budget, low quality films: including Kung-fu adventure Silent Flute (1978), talky crime film The Salamander (1981), low budget horror picture Howling II: Your Sister Is a Werewolf (1985), horror-comedy Gremlins 2: The New Batch (1990) and cheap TV action film Death Train (1993). The big comeback, that brought him back to worldwide fame, came with major roles in Peter Jackson's massive Lord of the Rings (2001 - 2003) trilogy, and George Lucas' big-money Star Wars prequels. Still continuing to work, the veteran actor does not look like giving up any time soon.
DVD Reviews: Films starring Christopher Lee

Airport '77 (1977)
Universal UK Region 2 DVD (Airport Terminal boxset)
Christopher Lee gives a good performance in this enjoyable, but rather over-the-top disaster movie.
Partly recommended, for disaster movie fans only.
Bear Island (1979)
Sony Pictures UK Region 2 DVD
Christopher Lee has a small but key part in this enjoyable thriller from an Alistair MacLean novel.
Blood of Fu Manchu (1968)
Kinowelt Germany Region 2 DVD
Simply a bad movie, this fourth entry to the series boasts a completely inane plot and terrible pacing.
Not recommended.
Brides of Fu Manchu (1966)
Kinowelt Germany Region 2 DVD
The second film in the series fixes many of the problems of the first with a decent storyline and generally enjoyable.
Partly recommended.
Castle of Fu Manchu (1969)
Kinowelt Germany Region 2 DVD
One of the worst films ever made, it suffers from bored acting, dull direction and a pointless storyline.
Not recommended.
City of the Dead (1960)
US VCI Region 1 DVD
The first horror film from the future Amicus owners, and a very effective and creepy film.
Highly recommended.
Curse of Frankenstein (1957)
UK Warner Brothers Region 2 DVD
Hammer's first horror film with impressive production and a fantastic leading duo. A very important film.
A strong film, highly recommended film to all viewers.
The Devil Rides Out (1968)
Optimum UK Region 2 DVD (Ultimate Hammer Collection boxset)
One of Hammer's best, with strong production, a good story, and a great Christopher Lee leading role.
Highly recommended.
Devil-Ship Pirates (1964)
Sony US Region 1 DVD (Icons of Adventure Boxset)
A classic swashbuckler but with a simple scipt, Lee impressively plays a sinister pirate
Partially recommended to all.
Dr. Terror's House of Horrors (1965)
Anchor Bay UK Region 2 DVD
Lee appears the best of five stories in the first Amicus Anthology horror film.
Eugenie (1970)
USA Blue Underground Region 0 DVD
Lee has a small but important and good role in this clever film with sadean themes and impressive direction.
Recommended for Lee fans but not great for newcomers.
Face of Fu Manchu (1965)
Kinowelt Germany Region 2 DVD
The first film in the series has a rather flawed storyline, but boasts some good action and production on a low budget.
Partly recommended.
Five Golden Dragons (1967)
Passworld Italy Region 2 DVD
Lee gets little more than a cameo in this well made Edgar Wallace thriller shot in Hong Kong.
Hercules in the Haunted World (1961)
USA Image/Fantoma Region 1 DVD
Christopher Lee gets a typically evil role in this daft but well directed film.
Recommended for an entertaining watch.
Horror Express (1973)
German VZ-Handels Region 1 DVD
Cushing and Lee team up again in this classic train bound gothic style horror.
Very entertaining and highly recommended.
The House that Dripped Blood (1970)
Anchor Bay UK Region 2 DVD
Not the best story, but Lee gives a good performance in part 3 of on of the best Amicus' anthology horrors.
The Mummy (1959)
UK Warner Brothers Region 2 DVD
An impressive film from the beginning of Hammer's gothic cycle. Well directed for a brooding atmosphere.
Recommended to all.
Pirates of Blood River (1962)
Sony US Region 1 DVD (Icons of Adventure Boxset)
An entertaining script allows for plenty of swashbuckling and there is some good direction and acting to help.
Enjoyable and recommended.
Rasputin the Mad Monk (1966)
US Anchor Bay Region 0 DVD
A stand-out Christopher Lee performance and impressive backing make this a very interesting film.
A recommended film for all Hammer fans.
She (1965)
UK Warner Brothers Region 2 DVD
Hammer's attempt at an epic suffers from the low budget, but Lee gives a good performance.
Partially recommended.
Terror of the Tongs (1961)
Sony US Region 1 DVD (Icons of Adventure Boxset)
Christopher Lee plays a sinister Chinaman in this enjoyable but rather poorly acted Hammer adventure.
One for Hammer fans.
The Snake Pit and the Pendulum (1967)
German E-M-S Region 2 DVD (a.k.a Castle of the Walking Dead)
Christopher Lee gives a short but key performance as the evil Count in this effectively made German gothic horror.
Recommended to gothic horror fans.
To the Devil a Daughter (1976)
Optimum UK Region 2 DVD (Ultimate Hammer Collection boxset)
Despite a decent performance from Lee, this is a simply terrible film overall, it was rightly Hammer's last horror.
Not recommended.
Vengeance of Fu Manchu (1967)
Kinowelt Germany Region 2 DVD
An interesting twist on the story line makes this third entry to the series one of the best and most enjoyable.
Partly recommended.
The Virgin of Nuremberg (1963)
US Media Blasters Region 1 DVD
A small, but important role for Lee in this well directed but rather muddled horror/mystery film.
Partly recommended.
The Whip and the Body (1963)
German E-M-S Region 2 DVD
Christopher Lee has the ghostly lead role in this well directed but poorly written horror film.
Not recommended.
The Wicker Man Director's Cut (1973)
UK Optimum Releasing Region 2 DVD
Christopher Lee gives a strong performance in this powerfully atmospheric and creepy highlight of the horror genre.
A must see film for all horror fans, and highly recommended.


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All text in this site written by Timothy Young - January 2006.
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