Thursday, 11 June 2015

Requiescat in Pace Christopher Lee, Master of the Fantastique

I don't want to sound gloomy, but, at some point of your lives, every one of you will notice that you have in your life one person, one friend whom you love and care for very much. That person is so close to you that you are able to share some things only with him. For example, you can call that friend, and from the very first maniacal laugh or some other joke you will know who is at the other end of that line. We used to do that with him so often. And then when that person is gone, there will be nothing like that in your life ever again.
 - Christopher Lee on the death of his friend Peter Cushing

I never met Mr Lee, but I think all of us who were touched by his performances will feel a little share of that same sadness. I can't really think of much to say about him that I suspect will be said by many over the coming days. Christopher Lee was an actor who enriched every production he graced with his presence. He never phoned it in. He never treated his roles with anything but commitment, dignity and respect, whether it was a Hollywood blockbuster, an intimate character drama, a lurid Hammer horror, or a screwball comedy. Like his friend and co-stars Peter Cushing and Vincent Price, he made every film he starred in better just by being there - because you knew while watching them that they cared about what they were doing. It was never a paycheck, never something to do for their CV, never anything other than the craft.

Dracula. Frankenstein's monster. Kharis. Dr Jekyll & Mr Hyde. Lord Summerisle. Scaramanga. Nicholas, Duc de Richleau. Henry Baskerville. Jinnah. Captain Robeles. Mycroft Holmes. Blind Pewe. Rasputin. Marquis St Evrémonde. Saruman. Lucifer. Fu Manchu. Dr Catheter. It's difficult to think of a film he starred in where he wasn't one of the best parts.

Christopher Lee was an actor who was very good at what he did, and loved what he did very much. For a man who is immortalised largely by his monstrous villains and foreboding menace, the world is a little darker in his passing.

Part of me wants to joke - only half-joke - that he isn't really dead: either that he has finally self-actualised and become undead, or that rumours of his death were greatly exaggerated - the man served in the secret service, after all. But with over two hundred and eighty films to his name, Christopher Lee will be with us all in some way as long as the medium exists. Whether his shade's in the next world or not, the shadow he cast on the silver screen will last forever.

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