I love Bela Lugosi’s charming, aristocratic and seductive portrayal of Count Dracula in the Universal Studios picture. Those films were fitting for their time and there was more a sense of old world lust lingering over that version of the lord of vampires. The danger there is not terribly palpable, oh we know it’s there, we know death follows closely after, but it doesn’t seem like doom.
However, when Christopher Lee’s Count prowls the sets of the Hammer adaptations of Bram Stoker’s DRACULA it’s all about pain and terror and eternal damnation. Lee’s looming figure towered over everyone else in the picture, a silent danger in every scene—a shark in bloody waters. No one was safe and the seduction was only a means to an end.
And that is closer to Stoker’s vision of Dracula. He’s as much an animal as a man and more a tool of the devil than anything else. And Lee’s Dracula projected pain and longing and hatred—a man doomed to forever need and want and to never have, spreading death and destruction wherever he went. There is a soul in his Dracula, but it’s as Stoker meant him to be—tortured.
And Lee, himself, may have been drawing on his own feelings about the role. He didn’t care much for it. He refused the lines given to him by Hammer’s writers in the first film—instead he projected the sentiment and it lead to an atmospheric and powerful performance. One he did what he could with during his every film as the bloodsucker.
Here, Sir Christopher Lee reads DRACULA…
“We do, all of us, depend on the elements that have been there since the dawn of time, and without which we could not exist,” Christopher Lee mused while talking about the enduring power of The Wicker Man. “There is a touch of paganism in us all…”
Christopher Lee’s last role was narrating animator Raul Garcia’s anthology EXTRAORDINARY TALES’ adaptation of Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Fall of the House of Usher” which hit some art house theaters on October 23rd. Here’s a sample of Lee’s voice over the animation:
“People sometimes come up to me,” he once said, “and they say, ‘I’ve seen all your films, Mr. Lee,’ and I say, ‘Oh no you haven’t.”
Here, Lee reads THE FALL OF THE HOUSE OF USHER (1960):
Some really nice words about the fallen good Sir...
In lieu of a witchy song tonight,
I invite you to enjoy Christopher Lee
Reading Tim Burton’s Original Poem for
The Nightmare Before Christmas,
with nice animation…