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Lee, Christopher (1922-)


Main image of Lee, Christopher (1922-)

Christopher Lee is one of the more unlikely graduates of the Rank Charm School, J. Arthur Rank's training institution for young film actors.

He appeared in small roles in numerous British films from the late 1940s onwards before landing the apparently thankless role of the mute creature in Hammer's The Curse of Frankenstein (d. Terence Fisher, 1957). The success of this film led to Lee's being cast in the role that made his name, the vampire in Hammer's Dracula (d. Fisher, 1958). The film offered a more explicitly sexual version of vampirism than had earlier versions, and Lee's brooding performance was a vital contribution to its worldwide success.

Wary of type-casting, Lee refused to play Dracula again for several years and instead appeared in character roles until his vampiric comeback in Dracula Prince of Darkness (d. Fisher, 1965). This was the first of several increasingly poor Dracula sequels, and Lee himself later expressed some disappointment over the quality of the material he had to work with.

He appeared to much greater effect in The Devil Rides Out (d. Fisher, 1968), one of the best Hammer horrors, and was also a notable presence in the cult film The Wicker Man (d. Robin Hardy, 1973).

Since the 1960s Lee's career has been mainly an international one, but his star persona still has strong links with British horror, as his casting in Sleepy Hollow (US, 1999), Tim Burton's homage to Hammer horror, testifies. He was awarded a CBE in 2001.

Peter Hutchings, Encyclopedia of British Film

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Selected credits

Thumbnail image of 'Beat' Girl (1959)'Beat' Girl (1959)

Cautionary tale about a respectable girl turned sleazy stripper

Thumbnail image of Battle of the River Plate, The (1956)Battle of the River Plate, The (1956)

Last of the Powell/Pressburger partnership - a WWII naval drama

Thumbnail image of Curse of Frankenstein, The (1957)Curse of Frankenstein, The (1957)

Breakthrough horror that made stars of Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee

Thumbnail image of Dracula (1958)Dracula (1958)

Christopher Lee stars in the first colour telling of the classic vampire tale

Thumbnail image of Dracula Prince of Darkness (1965)Dracula Prince of Darkness (1965)

Christopher Lee's second appearance as Bram Stoker's vampire count

Thumbnail image of Face of Fu Manchu, The (1965)Face of Fu Manchu, The (1965)

Christopher Lee as the notorious oriental master criminal

Thumbnail image of Gorgon, The (1964)Gorgon, The (1964)

Hammer branches out with its first female monster movie

Thumbnail image of Hound of the Baskervilles, The (1959)Hound of the Baskervilles, The (1959)

Typically full-blooded Hammer Sherlock Holmes, with Peter Cushing

Thumbnail image of I, Monster (1971)I, Monster (1971)

Unofficial but surprisingly faithful version of the Jekyll and Hyde story

Thumbnail image of My Brother's Keeper (1948)My Brother's Keeper (1948)

Fast-paced thriller with Jack Warner and George Cole as fugitive convicts

Thumbnail image of Nothing But The Night (1972)Nothing But The Night (1972)

Creepy Peter Cushing-Christopher Lee vehicle about a mysterious orphanage

Thumbnail image of Penny and the Pownall Case (1948)Penny and the Pownall Case (1948)

Amiable if routine detective thriller with a very young Christopher Lee

Thumbnail image of Tale of Two Cities, A (1958)Tale of Two Cities, A (1958)

Dirk Bogarde stars as an idealistic lawyer in this Dickens adaptation

Thumbnail image of To the Devil a Daughter (1976)To the Devil a Daughter (1976)

Occult horror starring Christopher Lee and Nastassja Kinski

Thumbnail image of Trottie True (1948)Trottie True (1948)

Lavish, Technicolor romance with Jean Kent as a rising music-hall star

Thumbnail image of Wicker Man, The (1973)Wicker Man, The (1973)

Cult favourite about the pagan inhabitants of a remote Scottish island.

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Thumbnail image of Fisher, Terence (1904-1980)Fisher, Terence (1904-1980)

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Thumbnail image of Hammer Film ProductionsHammer Film Productions

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