R.I.P. Christopher Lee (1922-2015)

The legendary star of 'Horror of Dracula,' 'The Lord of the Rings' and 'Star Wars' has died at the age of 93.

William Bibbianiby William Bibbiani

Cinema fans have every reason to weep this morning. Christopher Lee, the man who was Dracula, Saruman the White, Scaramanga the Assassin and Count Dooku the Sith, has passed away at the age of 93. He was admitted to Westminster Hospital in London suffering respiratory problems and heart failure, and succumbed on Sunday, June 7, 2015.

Christopher Lee had been acting in movies and television for nearly 70 years, with over 280 credits to his name. But although his presence seemed nearly ubiquitous across a variety of genres, his presence would nevertheless become synonymous with evil after he redefined the role of Dracula as a sensual, elegant monster in 1958’s Horror of Dracula. It would be a role that Lee would return to multiple times, and would help typecast him as more iconic villains, including the three-nippled James Bond assassin Scaramanga in The Man with the Golden Gun and the one-eyed Rochefort in Richard Lester’s acclaimed 1973 adaptation of The Three Musketeers, and of course, Fu Manchu.

Christopher Lee The Wicker ManAlthough many of his films were genre films and even so-called “b-movies,” in later years, Christopher Lee’s formidable presence became an indelible part of multiple blockbuster movie franchises, including The Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit and the Star Wars prequel trilogy. But if you asked Christopher Lee earlier in his life which role was his favorite – as many fans and interviewers did – he would say it was the gregarious Lord Summerisle in the 1973 cult classic The Wicker Man. Robin Hardy’s eccentric thriller found Lee leading an isolated island of pagans who revel in free love and catchy songs, but who may have horrific plans to execute a ritual sacrifice. (The film was remade, incredibly badly, in 2006.)

Christopher Lee’s legacy as iconic movie villain was passed on to multiple generations of movie lovers, all of whom must be deeply saddened by the news of his passing. But few can ever hope to live a life as full and accomplished as Christopher Lee: actor, heavy metal musician and World War II spy who took the many secrets of his tour of duty to the grave.

There was no actor quite like Christopher Lee, and there may never be again. He will be greatly and forever missed.

 


William Bibbiani is the editor of CraveOnline’s Film Channel and the host of The B-Movies Podcast. Follow him on Twitter at @WilliamBibbiani.