Sunday, October 31, 2010

British Actor of the Month--Halloween Edition

I haven't blogged for months, and let's not even mention how long it's been since I've done British Actor of the Month, so I thought I'd better do one now before I get caught up in NaNoWriMo. And, who better to, shall we say, bring this feature back from the grave than

Christopher Lee

Lee will forever be remembered for playing the eponymous Count in Hammer Studios series of Dracula movies. The first film, a Technicolor reboot of Universal's take on Stoker's novel, was good though a little campy. The sequels get exponentially cheesier, but Lee's performance, which finds the right blend of suave, sexy sophistication and mise en mastication, saves the films from being really bad instead of just pretty bad. The chemistry between him and real life BFF Peter Cushing as Van Helsing in several of the films is the highlight of the series.

However, Lee played other villains for Hammer as well, including the Creature in Curse of Frankenstein and the Mummy in, well, I'm sure you can figure that one out. But, arguably, his best role (and Hammer's best film) was in the cult classic The Wicker Man where he played the affably evil (or morally gray area-ed, depending on your point of view) Lord Summerile, leader of a Scottish island that still follows the old ways.

Contemporary audience might recognize Lee from his role as Saruman in The Lord of the Rings trilogy. That's cool in and of itself, but Lee is a huge LotR fan himself since he reads it at least once a year and has actually met Tolkien. Now that's some serious nerd cred!

Normally I'm loathe to admit that the Star Wars prequels exist, but I have to mention Lee's role as Count Dooku (An evil count whose name begins with "D." I wonder where they got that idea?) in Episode II and III. Which is pretty cool in and of itself, but it gets cooler when you find out he did his own sword, er, light-saber work. And did I mention that he was in his 80s when he made the last movie?

Sure, you probably know that Lee played Bond villain Francisco Scaramanga in The Man with the Golden Gun, but did you know that he was in a super-secret special ops unit in World War II? Or that his cousin is Ian Fleming? That's right, Christopher Lee may very well be the real-life inspiration for James Bond.

Finally, Lee has one of the most distinctive voices in cinema. His rich, commanding tones have made him a voice-over staple for cartoons and video games like Kingdom Hearts. Plus, it makes him easy to spot in his many Tim Burton cameos and adds that little something extra to all the roles listed above. Apparently, he can sing, too, and has recorded a heavy metal concept album.

I'd like to wish all my readers a happy Halloween. Whether you're out trick-or-treating or bar crawling this night, stay safe. Don't accidentally cut yourself and bleed on unconsecrated ground. You never know who--or what--may have been staked there.