Films of Christopher Lee

The Man With the Golden Gun
posted by Judy Harris

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The info in the table below is gleaned from Christopher Lee's autobiography, TALL, DARK AND GRUESOME, published in London by Victor Gollancz in 1997, updated from a W.H. Allen version published in Great Britain in 1977.  After he was demobbed from his RAF service in 1947, he visited his cousin Niccolo, Italy's first envoy to the Court of St. James since the fall of Il Duce.  When his cousin heard his impersonations of his fellow RAF officers, he suggested Lee try acting.  He introduced Lee to Filippo del Giudice, head of Two Cities Films with the Rank Organization, who sent Lee to see David Henley and Olive Dodds at Rank's London office.  Lee was put on a seven-year contract, with no previous acting credits or training, starting at ten pounds a week, more than he had made at any of his civilian jobs.  Everyone immediately told him he was too tall to be an actor, and later than he was too foreign looking.

Of the Rank "Charm School", Lee wrote:  "The Charm School at Highbury was a brave idea, even a good idea.  Learning acting techniques takes at least ten years, and most if it can't be taught, but that's no reason why a school shouldn't make a start. ... The Method acting was amazing.  Each in turn we'd hurl ourselves through a doorway and register horror, rage, love or resignation at the sight of a pair of spectacles (teacher Molly Terraine) in an otherwise bare room, simultaneously declaiming 'That is a red cash register'.  ... The permutations were infinite. ... Most usefully [Lee] learned a great deal about fencing on film from a first-class performer, Patrick Crehan."

"The sharpest prong in the trident with which Rank chivied [novice actors] towards perfection was really the best.  This was to send [them] down for two, and sometimes several, weeks at a time to a theatre in the coastal resort of Worthing for some real live stage experience. ... The theatre was the Connaught, one of the best half-dozen stock repertories in the region. ... All in all [Lee] went through [his] paces with them twenty-seven times.  Many of the plays [he] began to forget as soon as [he] stepped into the wings.  Some were seared in [his] mind indelibly. ... The first time [Lee] trod the boards at the Connaught was as Roberto the butler in THE CONSTANT NYMPH.  [He] went on believing that to be an actor you had to act.  All the time.  Non-stop.  [He] buttled unrelentingly, and stressed the Italianate nature of the character at every opportunity, throwing in some outbursts of "Madonna!" not in the script.  [He] acted everybody's else's part as well as [his] own, and endorsed all their emotions.  If someone shed a furtive tear, [he] wept into [his] handkerchief, if someone else laughed, [he] held [his] sides and  bellowed till [he] was puce.  [Lee] upstaged everybody and all but ruined the play. ... Gradually with practice [Lee] disgraced [himself] less frequently."

"The dueling and the stunts were arduous but exhilarating.  It was fascinating to feel the surge of adrenalin when the director called 'Action' - enough to make oneself capable of throwing somebody forty feet over a house.  Except when that somebody had a rush of blood and wanted to prove he was Hercules, the duels were straight-forward affairs, only requiring infinite patience and practice.  There was great satisfaction in getting them right.  Even the swashers must work in the end with a machine-like precision."

Lee "was more than happy to borrow the shoes of Chaney and Lugosi and Karloff and Rathbone and Veidt, considering the mileage of which they were capable and [his] fervid conviction that without exception these five men were among the most outstanding entertainment arts."

"The remake of a classic may be worth everbody's while.  The sequels rarely are.  [Lee] never had any sense of embarrassment over the first Dracula nor The Face of Fu Manchu, where [he] featured as Sax Rohmer's archvillain and deadliest of yellow perils.  Alas, in the follow-ups to both, there was much to make [him] look shifty and suck [his] paws.  Knowing this, [Lee] nevertheless repeated each character many times over.  [He] did this because they were [his] livelihood."

"Inevitably, audiences expected [Lee] to expire in exquisite pain, or at least make an ambiguous exit.  If [he] survived, the watchers had the hideous frisson of knowing that like a wounded animal in a cane brake, [Lee] was bound to be more ferocious than before when they came up with [him].  It had the makings of a cult for buffs to see in how many ingenious new ways [Lee] could dissolve, disintegrate, evaporate or turn to talcum before their eyes."

"Bullets, daggers, paper-knives, stakes, darts and lances were embedded in [him].  Poison, heart failure and old age attacked [him] from within.  [Lee] became dust - red, green or sooty.  [He] was drowned, asphyxiated and incinerated, and three times when [he] was burnt, the barn or studio went up too."

"In fifty years the longest period that [Lee] had been out of work was four months, and for [him] it was like being stretched ... on a rack."

"The closest of [his] friends, physically, was Boris Karloff.  He lived next door.  When [they] came out of [their] houses simultaneously, people expected to see body-bags dumped on the pavement. ... He was a versatile actor, like Bela Lugosi, with whom he'd often worked, and neither had the opportunity to show it."

"Dracula casts a very long shadow."  [Others have played the role subsequently,] "but [Lee] is still identified with him.  [Lee] appeared before the cameras in well over two hundred and fifty guises, but apparently to little avail.  Journalists still affect to be dismayed at the chilling, gaunt figure [Lee] cuts as [he] comes through the swing doors of some great hotel they've chosen as an arena in which to bait [him]."

The films which mattered most to Lee were:

Corridor of Mirrors
1948
Charles
Director Terrence Young "got round the difficulty" of Lee's being so tall by using him in a scene where he "sat down a a table in a night-club." Lee played Charles, "without a surname, who sat with four other nondescripts played by Lois Maxwell, Mavis Villiers, Hugh Latimer and John Penrose" and his sole contribution "was to comment on Eric Portman when he made his appearance":  "Take a look, standing in the entrance - Lord Byron." ... "This took place at the Pathe Studios at Buttes-chaumont in Paris.  It was bitterly cold, inside and out, for all the charcoal braziers." Nobody had wised Lee up "to the usual dodge of wearing a pullover beneath a shirt." Director Young advised Lee, "Time enough to consider Stanislavsky's Fourth Wall," when Lee "had the experience to walk about the set without bumping into the other three."
One Night With You
1948
Pirelli's Assistant

"Another crumb dropped off Terrence Young's table. ... This time it was so minute as to be almost invisible."  Lee opened his mouth "once only, to say 'Yes'." Otherwise, he "did a lot of nodding, in unison with other members of Charles Goldner's entourage.  [Goldner] was very funny and made the journey to Denham before dawn worthwhile."
Hamlet
1948
Spear Carrier
This was also a one-word part, "but the film itself had some prestige," being directed by Laurence Olivier.  Lee "was heard, but ... not seen" shouting out "Lights!" while standing in the dark.  Olivier never spoke to Lee, but he had "time to see him work and to study many other box-office draws deploying their techniques before the cameras."
A Song for Tomorrow
1948
Auguste
Lee "had another miniscule role as a night-club MC."
Penny and the Pownall Case
1948
Jonathan Blair
"An Ivory Production.  Ivory was an exotic name for the Charm School's own home movies.  Only the technicians, working with grim self-control, were pros in the proper sense.  Every other function, from direction to walk-on parts, was virtually up for grabs." Lee was "the lead in a B feature, though Z feature would describe it more accurately.  As the wicked Johnathan Blair in this thriller," Lee was "very saucy and madly attractive. ... For the first time [Lee] died on celluloid, ... shot by Ralph Michael. ... The prop man put down enough smoke to cover a whole platoon going in to the attack.  There was a long pause while [Lee] was enveloped in fog and the entire scene disappeared from [his] view. ... Very, very slowly and with immense dignity, and no expression at all on [his] features, [Lee] sank to [his] knees like a telescope into itself.  Disgust and disbelief were writ large on the faces of the technicians. ... From their sidelong glances [Lee] detected a need to polish up m[his] dying."
Trottie True a/k/a The Gay Lady
1949
Hon. Bongo Icklesham
Here, Lee "made the acquaintance of Roger Moore, Jean Kent and Michael Medwin."  Lee had to show "savoir-faire" as a "stage-door Johnnie."
Scott of the Antarctic
1948
Bernard Day
After the above "trials, it was like Christmas in Technicolor to be given a speaking part with a name in the credits." Lee represented "Australian Bernard Day who was in charge of the motor sleighs in the Polar expedition." His role was doubled when the production moved to Norway, but Lee "had the intense satisfaction of working for Charles Frend in a major film at Ealing. ... The set was a full-sized ship leaving a harbour in New Zealand.  Among many curiosities was James Robertson Justice as Petty Officer Evans, without a beard because he had to regrow it en route to the Pole.  Jack Cardiff did the lighting and the enormous banks of carbon arcs made an unbearable heat as [the cast] trotted to and fro in furs from head to foot.  Then the blizzards came along to choke [them], being made of salt and acrylic resin, minced in a sieve and blown across the set by an aeroplane engine."
Prelude to Fame
1950
Newsman
Lee's "part in it was almost the least important part about it, a reporter who has to sit in the front row at a concert waiting to interview Guy Rolfe as a brilliant conductor.  ... The shooting of the film presumed [Lee's] continuous, albeit silent, attendance beneath Rolfe's baton," scuppering his chances to rehearse the lead in the West End play THE FLAT NEXT DOOR.
They Were Not Divided
1950
Chris Lewis
Lee got "a trip to Germany with the faithful Terence Young ... to play an officer in the Guards ... in [this] mawkish film about Allied co-operation." Lee played "a tank commander who smoked a large number of cigars supposedly given him by Eisenhower."  Tank scenes were shot on location at Gmund-Eifel, "still strewn with live mines".  After this film, Rank declined to renew Lee's contract.
Captain Horatio Hornblower, R.N.
1951
Spanish Captain
One-eyed director Raoul Walsh interviewed Lee in a corridor at Denham, asking if he could speak Spanish and use a sword.  "A ship was built at Denham and soon Jock Easton and all the stunt men in England swarmed about the rigging.  As a Spanish captain who was outclassed by Hornblower but refused to strike his colours, [Lee] had little to say, and that little was in Spanish, but [he] did have a duel with the hero (Gregory Peck)."   Lee was impressed that important Hollywood star Peck and his mate Robert Beatty "automatically stood on either side of the camera to give [Lee] an eyeline for [his] close shot." 
Hans Christian Andersen Fairy Tales
1952
Various Roles
Hunting around for work after Rank dropped him, Lee ventured to Scandinavia where he participated in this series.  "A Norwegian company made the films.  [Lee] was in five altogether over two seasons.  [His] parts were all different.  In one [he] was an ancient, playing chess with a very young boy.  In another, a student helping a lovely but consumptive girl:  Boheme style.  In a third, [he] was the peasant husband of a beauty, played by Signe Hasso.  No sets were necessary because the Skansen Park reproduces houses in different styles over the centuries.  And nobody said a word about [Lee's] being too English, too tall or too unknown.  For a TV half-hour the production of Andersen's story The Nightingale was magnificent."  Lee played the Emperor.  While on location for this in the Chinese pavilion of the castle of Drottningholm, Lee met the King and Queen of Norway.
Paul Temple Returns a/k/a Bombay Waterfront
1952
Sir Felix Raybourne
Lee "was correctly suspected of villainy in a thriller spun off a well-known radio personage invented by Frances Durbridge."
Babes in Bagdad
1952
Slave Dealer
"Shot by the Danziger brothers with John Boles, Paulette Goddard and Gypsy Rose Lee ... in Spain, where [Lee] met some stars of the bull ring."
The Crimson Pirate
1952
Joseph - Military Attache
"Aide-de-camp to Baron Gruda, ... most of it made out to sea off Ischia. ... Despite the discomfort of wearing green velvet under the Mediterranean sun, [Lee] was delighted to come up resplendent as the waves."  Director Robert Siodmak "took stock of the material in forty-eight hours and turned it into a comedy."  Star Burt Lancaster "taught [Lee] a lot about screen fighting, and how to make something of a duel so that it is not just a flurry of movement; how to cheat, exaggerate the sweeps and time the pauses."
Moulin Rouge
1952
Georges Seurat
"Just be yourself,' John Huston advised" in this Parisian production.
Innocents in Paris
1953
Lieutenant Whitlock
Lee stayed on in Paris for a cameo as "a feeble and fussy officer in charge of a Marine band."
The Mirror and Markheim
1954
Visitant
A movie for TV directed by Orson Welles "based on a pungent story by R.L. Stevenson" with Lee as the Visitant or Devil.  "Undoubtedly a work of genius, nobody had seen it. ... The notion was of a play with a play, in which a repertory company step in and out of their roles in the story of Moby Dick ... shot as a movie in three London theatres, notably the Hackney Empire", the cast included "talented newcomers like Joan Plowright and Kenneth Williams in small parts.  Patrick McGoohan was the Mate.  [Lee] played Mr. Flask the second mate and Welles himself played Ahab."
Aggie a/k/a The Adventures of Aggie
1956
Inspector John Hollis
Directed under a pseudonym by Joseph Losey "shot at Walton-on-Thames".
Douglas Fairbanks Presents a/k/a Rheingold Theatre
1953-1956
Various
Lee appeared in 11 [according to imdb, 20 according to Lee] episodes of this 156- episode half-hour anthology series.  "Their stories included Americans, Chinese, Japanese, Germans, Russians, Swedes and Italians and almost by default, a few Englishmen.  [Lee's] peculiar accent as an Italian on a desert island made Douglas laugh in the read-through and opened the gate for [him].  It led to the kind of experience actors dream about.  They were half-hour movies made -- each in about ten days -- in the British National Studios at Boreham Wood.  [Lee] was successively a Swedish circus proprietor, a Russian lion-tamer with a clawed face, an American leading people to safety through the lines in the war, a Moroccan pimp, a half-witted Yugoslav soldier in a Dalmatian Laurel-and-Hardy act, a Mongol of the People's Army and many other descendents of Babel.  Of the twenty in which [Lee] appeared, moving gradually from support to lead parts, Douglas himself was in four or five.  One of the first was The Triangle.  Here [Lee] fought in the dueling ritual of the Mensur, as practiced by the students in old Heidelberg".  ...  There was the great occasion when Buster Keaton flew from American to Britain to do Gogol's Overcoat (The Awakening, 1954).  Lee "dubbed in Malay pidgin, and Japanese English, and Soho Italian, and Detroit Swedish ...Altogether it's impossible ... to overestimate the help that the Douglas Fairbanks jobs gave to [Lee's] professional grammar.  They led directly to only one role in films": Police Dog.
Monsieur Hulot's Holiday
1953
English dubbing
"Sometimes all the dubbers were [Lee] and [he] came on in a single file.  ... Luckily for [Lee] there wasn't a great deal of dialogue in the whole of Hulot, but there were testing moments, notably when an elderly couple potter through the shallows on the beach:  the old lady picks up shells muttering enthusiastically, while her bored husband accepts them with a Gallic grunt and discards them contemptuously behind her back."
At Night All Cats Are Grey episode of Colonel March of Scotland Yard
1954
Monsieur Jean-Pierre
Lee met Boris Karloff "at Southhall Studios, he was in his middle sixties and had been famous for a quarter of a century as the creator of festering souls in hideous shape. ... It did not bother him that he had become typecast.  Types, he said, are continually in work.  ... There was a lot, however, to be learned from Boris in the way of sheer technique, and his observations on how to survive under heavy monster make-up were extremely interesting. ... If I had a type at that time, I was cast right against it, in the character of a fruitily effeminate French designer. 
Police Dog
1955
Johnny, a Constable
Lee played "a dog handler frightened of dogs."
That Lady
1955
Captain
"Terence Young almost did for me altogether.  He who got me out of trouble so often almost polished me off ... with the help of water. ... The film was made in Segovia, the lovely old university town of Salamanca, and Madrid, especially the banks of the Guadalquivir.  According to [Lee's] contract, [he] was to play the Captain of the Guard and other parts.  The underlined phrase kept [him] busy from dawn till dusk practically every day [he] was in Spain."  Lee played "masked assassins lurking in the Salamancan night, devious grooms in Segovia, and mad riders on Arab horses going at full tilt by the river.  [He] fought with swords against the Spanish Olympic sabre champion and also against Gilbert Roland. ... The horse [Lee] was on had never worked before a camera and shied [him] off.  [Lee] nearly drowned."  Paul Scofield played Philip II of Spain in his first film.  Lee had a long scene with Olivia de Havilland but "what came out on the screen was the back of my head and a full treatment of her reacting."
The Dark Avenger
1955
French Patrol Captain at Tavern
Lee "was savaged by Errol Flynn. ... In that film [Lee] was an officer in charge of French soldiers, required to interfere with Errol's plans.  [He and Flynn] had enormous broadswords, but [Flynn] was encased in gloves and [Lee] had bare hands.  It was a four-and-a-half-minute duel, in which {[Lee] mainly fought [Flynn's] double, ... falling in the fireplace, up and down stairs, breaking up the furniture and getting some of it back in [Lee's] face.   Errol threw himself into the fray like a giant refreshed, ... but he slipped and with the maximum possible zing struck [Lee] a shrewd blow on the little finger of [Lee's] right hand and nearly cut through it. ... The finger was bound up and [they] set to again, but it remained bent, for ever."
Cross-Roads
1955
Harry Cooper
"Cross-Roads gave [Lee] an uneasy spasm, because [he] was reported to Equity for misbehavior and sent home in the middle of shooting.  [Lee's] offense was to have laughed hysterically at a joke told ... by Ferdy Mayne.
The Cockleshell Heroes
1955
Submarine Commander Alan Grieves
Made in Portugal because the submarines were "the only ones antiquated enough to suit the period of the film."
Alias John Preston
1955
John Preston
Technically, Lee's first leading role, as a mad businessman who goes off his chump, beginning at the top of a table and finishing over a tombstone.   For this, [Lee] was paid the handsome and by no means atypical Danziger fee of seventy-five pounds."
The Elusive Chauvelin episode of The Scarlet Pimpernel
1956
Louis Longval
Lee played "Longval as more aristo than the aristos, more Catholic than the Pope.  ... [Lee] thought ... that the Devil should be given his due by an actor, in whatever guise he pops up, and audiences like a cultivated air in a killer." .
Sailor of Fortune
1956
2 episodes
Lee "played an officer of the Foreign Legion as [he'd] met them [himself] in the desert.  ... In another, [Lee] had to do a five-minute rant, full of fanaticism and foam, working up to a screaming climax, as a mad Arab who meant to be another  Muhammad.  At the end [he] collapsed against the tentpole from sheer exhaustion.  That was at Beaconsfield with desert by courtesy of Egham sandpits.
Port Afrique
1956
Franz Vermes
"The setting for Port Afrique was Ceuta in Spanish Morocco - sordid, verging on squalid.  Again [Lee's] direct contribution to the story was slight.  As Franz Vermes the artist, an innocent suspect of a murder charge, [Lee] was required to paint a picture in [his] lovely house on the hill over looking the harbour.  There was a howling gale at the time which made painting impossible."  The production moved to the capital Tetouan, where there was a bit of a terrorist problem, "and Arab political and religious murders were daily occurrences."  Lee was rooming with Anthony Newley, who played Pedro in the film, and was singing in the shower; "on the spur of the moment I played a cruel practical joke on him, pretending to be two Arab voices whispering in the room.  The singing stopped, [Newley's] quavering voice told [Lee] that he was suffering.
Private's Progress
1956
Major Schultz
Lee's "only strong moment as a German officer awaiting trial for war crimes was when [he] took cyanide and cheated the gallows."
The Battle of the River Plate a/k/a Pursuit of the Graf Spee
1956
Manolo
Lee "spoke nothing but Spanish as the owner of a waterfront cafe in Montevideo."
Beyond Mombasa
1956
Gil Rossi
"Another film that took [Lee] to Africa -- Kenya -- raised the highest hopes ... of a personal breakthrough.  George Marshall ... gave [him] [his] first big part, as a white hunter."  ... Lee "was called upon to do a full fall into an opencast mine.  The only double they could find ... tall enough was a Kenyan policeman who flatly refused to do it.  It wasn't a sheer drop, but there was a slide of forty feet or so.  The plot had [Lee] get shot in the back with a poison dart, and slither and tumble to perdition.  In the excitement of doing it at all, [Lee] forgot to mime the moment of receiving the dart, [and the director had him do it again].  On the second take, [Lee] ripped [himself] from wrist to shoulder on a jutting outcrop of quartz. ... In one scene in the river, in which [Lee] was shot, [he] had a temperature of 103 degrees from a spasm of malaria ... and [Lee] had still to confront a mechanical crocodile in the studios of MGM  It was programmed in its vicious metal innards to behave just as nastily as its saurian comrades out near Mombasa.  The wretched thing churned along at such a pace that it knocked [Lee] to the bottom of the tank, and carved [him] up with its wires and nuts and bolts and tin flippers."  The film's lack of success "was a grievous disappointment" to Lee.
The Errol Flynn Theatre
1956-1957
Various Roles
Imdb lists 4 episodes with Lee of this 26-episode 30 minute TV series.  Lee remembers a rematch "with rapiers...  [Lee] was a sort of Heydrich of the Revolution Robespierre and Fouquier Tinville and Camille Desmoulins and Danton, all rolled into one.  .. In the first rehearsal [Lee] had to do something virtually impossible.  That was to cut at [Flynn's] head and, when he ducked, pass [Lee's] sword through all six flames lit on a candelabra behind [Flynn] in such a way as to make them all go out.  ... through some miracle far harder to perform than spoon-bending, [Lee] sideswiped the branched candlestick with complete success.  The only trouble was that on the take [Lee] removed [Flynn's] wig at the same time. ... In another Flynn Theatre story, the whole series being based on classic stories, they altered the end of the Maupassant story  Love Token ... [so that] John van Eyssen as the lover crashed out through the bricks with a great roar and lo, we were once more straight into swordplay."
Assignment Foreign Legion
1956-1957
2 episodes
In one of those tales, As We Forgive [Lee] was a homicidal French gardener with a large walrus mustache and a limp who tended graves in a churchyard.  In another, The Anaya [Lee] played an officer of the Foreign Legion as [he'd] met them [himself] in the desert.
The Lady's Dilemma episode of The Gay Cavalier
1957
Colonel Jeffries
"Fighting with Christian Marquand was something else again.  Not only was he left-handed, and reveled in his southpaw dexterity with great smoothness in rehearsal, but he was taken over by another personality altogether as soon as the director cried "Take One - Action!"  It was then the real thing.  He interspersed the blows he'd agreed to in rehearsal with a few delivered from capricious directions of his own selection.  It was like fighting a human windmill, and literally fighting for one's life in front of the camera."
The Accursed a/k/a The Traitor
1957
Doctor Neumann
Another Danziger film, Donald Wolfit's screen debut.  Lee played "a German Jewish doctor."
Ill Met by Moonlight a/k/a Night Ambush
1957
German Officer at Dentists
Lee "spoke only German, to Dirk Bogarde in a dentist's chair, and was penalized for being a German SS officer by being shot at his feet and also, perhaps, by being cut from some versions of the film."
Fortune is a Woman a/k/a She Played With Fire
1957
Charles Highbury
Lee played "an idiot Welsh opera singer suspected of murder."  He mimed "to a record which was rather wounding (Lee being an opera singer himself) the largo al factotum from The Barber of Seville."
The Truth About Women
1957
Francois Thiers
Lee "had a damn good cameo as the cuckold in a French farce sequence with Eva Gabor as [his] wife, and Laurence Harvey as the lover whom [Lee] interrupts after doing calisthenics on the veranda, for which [Lee] was penalized by being shot in a duel.  That was a Betty Box comedy which [Lee] enjoyed",  made at Shepperton.
Bitter Victory
1957
Sergeant Barney
"Bitter Victory was utter chaos, though made by another brilliant director, Nicholas Ray.  The story was about a commando unit being parachuted behind the lines in the desert. ... [Lee] was greatly attracted by the invitation to work in Libya and the chance to see again the fantastic changing beauties of the sands."  The cast included Richard Burton and Curt Jurgens.  "Everybody (except the stars) got a part they either did not want, or somebody else coveted more than they did. ... [Lee] was in none too agreeable a mood after being told, as Sergeant Barney of the Guards, 'not to bring all this British Army nonsense into it.'"
The Curse of Frankenstein
1957
The Creature
"From the time we met on the set of The Curse of Frankenstein at Bray, Peter Cushing and I were friends.  Our very first encounter began with me storming into his dressing-room and announcing in petulant tones, "I haven't got any lines! " He looked up, his mouth twitched and he said drily, "You're lucky.  I've read the script."... I soon found Peter was the great perfectionist, who learned not only his own lines but everybody else's as well, but withal had a gentle humour which made it quite impossible for anybody to be pompous in his company.  ... Generally when I was fully encased in bandages I preferred to go in and harass Peter, singing opera to him through the crevices, and performing soft-shoe shuffles with him before the blank screen while we all waited for the rushes to come up.  The whole set was very small, a tiny grotto under the office of the producer. ... The atmosphere of the unit was the happiest I'd ever worked in.  Even the food was out of this world, ...[although the] make-up made it very hard for [Lee] to eat it.  [He] had to subsist on mash and mince and spinach and drink through a straw. ... Playing the Creature taught [him] to appreciate just how great the skill was that Boris had used in creating his Monster. ... [Lee] decided that [his] hands must have an independent life, and that [his] movements must be spastic and unbalanced.  It was absorbing work.  [Lee] was never so content.  The five weeks of the schedule flowed by, plus a sixth. ... Naturally disaster-prone, [Lee] had those crises which make an insurance company blench.  In the first of these the Creature was shot in the eye.  [Lee] had blood in the palm of [his] hand, the viscous, acrid stuff Hammer facetiously called Kensington Gore, and had to smack it up in [his] face and then take [his] hand away.  It got into [his] eye.  It was excruciating.  [Lee] shrieked with the shock and the pain of it.  [He] couldn't see anything.
Operation Firefly episode of O.S.S.
1958
Dessinger
Lee portrayed "a ruthless SS leader modeled on the Butcher of Czechoslovakia, Reinhard Heydrich." [Lee] called upon his wartime experiences to portray this character. ...  Naturally [Lee] could only expect a bloody ending in that."
This Hungry Hell episode of White Hunter
1958
Mark Caldwell
Lee played "an unethical rival in league with slave traders ... bowled over by a huge stuffed lion and after writhing about for a few seconds was pronounced dead. ... [Lee] grumbled a bit about the violence with which this thing was thrown at [him] and how [he'd] been badly bruised and almost suffocated by its massive weight and of course everybody present was put in a high good humor by [his] discomfort."
The German Knight episode of Ivanhoe
1958
Sir Otto from the Rhine
[The cast] "were using claymores, in Ivanhoe, when [Lee] was brought in as a sort of medieval hit man, a massive German knight swathed in chain-mail, to destroy the regular hero Roger Moore.  [They] hacked away with broadswords in a field for hours on end, under a hot sun.
A Tale of Two Cities
1958
Marquis St. Evremonde
"To offset the bemusingly sudden identification with horror [Frankenstein], [Lee] sought and obtained a part in the remake of another classic. ... This was a top-level swank villain, the Marquis de St. Evremonde, who was offhand and ruthless with peasants and paid for his sins with a knife in his chest while sleeping. ...  It was an undemanding part, but a magnificent showcase.  It was shot in Bourges and ... the cast was solid gold:  Dirk Bogarde, Dorothy Tutin, Paul Guers, Rosalie Crutchley, Donald Pleasance, Athene Seyler. ... And a neighbor, the photographer Tony Armstrong-Jones took some mesmerizing glossy stills of [Lee] in the course of a magazine assignment.
Dracula a/k/a Horror of Dracula
1958
Count Dracula
"It was the one that made the difference.  It brought [Lee] a name, a fan club and a second-hand car, for all of which [he] was grateful.  ... [Lee] deliberately chose not to [see the Bela Lugosi film] to avoid being influenced. ... [He] decided that [his] source would be Bram Stoker's novel, and [he] read it twice.  It was about a vampire not at all like [him] in physical character, but there were aspects of him with which [Lee] could readily identify -- his extraordinary stillness, punctuated by bouts of manic energy with feats of strength belying his appearances; his power complex; the quality of being done for but undead; and by no means least the fact that he was an embarrassing member of a great and noble family.  Naturally, [the production] did not follow the book exactly.  That was never done. ... We hadn't the money.  The whole thing cost eighty-two thousand pounds which would not stretch, for instance, to a shipwreck.  ... The same wonderful back-up Hammer team officiated ... And the real star of the picture, who could make sow's ears out of silk purses and vice versa, was the art director, Bernard Robinson.  On this occasional [Lee's] mishaps were the consequence of the contact lenses designed to give a blood-red effect.  They irritated [his] eyes so that [he] wept copiously, which was utterly out of character for the heartless Count.  Furthermore, they hindered [him] seeing where [he] was going, so [he] was constantly crashing into people and falling over things. ... The final sequence was a contrivance of genius by the writer Jimmy Sangster, brilliantly shot in one day by Jack Asher.  Flapping about like a bat, pinned by a shaft of sunlight, [Lee] disintegrated into dust.  There were many stages in the process. ... It was almost an honor to be so ably pulverized."  Lee's pay for the film was 750 BPS.  He was able to afford a used Mercedes.  "The film is said eventually to have grossed something like twenty-five million dollars. ... The profit/cost ratio was higher than for any other British picture ever made."
Corridors of Blood
1958
Resurrection Joe
Production of this was interrupted while Lee and Cushing flew to New York for a midnight showing of Dracula.  There was a billboard of Lee "several stories high -- some fifty feet of blood-thirsty Count holding a girl in his/my arms -- on a building beside the cinema in Times Square.
Missiles from Hell a/k/a Battle of the V-1
1958
Brunner
"Made near Brighton", Lee called this "a no-account picture",  in which he "played the part of an SS officer, an out-and-out baddie who has his head crushed by the hero with a rock, and had swaggered about a good deal in the full fig of an oppressor.  The uniform caused great alarm to the citizens of Hove."
The Manhunt episode of William Tell
1959
Prince Erik
Lee was "another sort of aristocratic killer.  ... [His] portion as Duke Erik was to hunt people with hounds, like Zaroff in The Most Dangerous Game.  Having provoked a certain meed of hatred from the audience, Mad Duke Erik ended his wicked career by stopping a bolt from Tell's crossbow."  The Mad Duke's "slavering hounds ... were actually bassets, shorter in the leg than the average canine terror.  Even made up, they still looked no more likely to tear your throat out than a couple of amiable beagles.  But they were extraordinarily strong.  At one point in [the] helter-skelter chase they veered off-course" -- ... and before Lee "could check them they'd hauled [him] through a bush and a hedge.  [Lee] hadn't the presence of mind to let go until it was too late and emerged the other side cut and bruised and [his] thighs as full of sharp spines as a pincushion."
The Mummy
1959
Kharis/The Mummy
"One could only breathe through the holes in the eyes. ... What a dear man Peter Cushing was and how fortunate [Lee] was to be teamed with him, how he was the only actor [Lee had] ever known to keep eighteen props in action a once, ... who could tear off a piece of paper, light his pipe, look out of a window, and remove his shoes, all while reeling off his lines. ...  [Lee had] been most horribly bruised and battered and bashed in this film, bursting through real glass windows, and a door that someone had bolted from the inside without telling [him] so that [Lee had] almost dislocated [his] shoulder, and had had explosive charges detonated on plates set within [his] bandages, to give the illusion of ... being peppered with a shotgun,"
The Hound of the Baskervilles
1959
Sir Henry
"One of Hammer's best money-spinners.  As Sherlock Holmes, Peter Cushing was wonderful.  There was villainy from the Hammer regular villain, Francis de Wolff, and comic relief from the regular Hammer comic, Miles Malleson.  ... Spiders head [Lee's] list of fearsome things  This one was a ghastly bird-eating spider from South America.  ..It was not at ease in the studio and shed its entire skin the floor. ... [Lee] said [he] hated the thing [and] wouldn't have it on [his] neck.  A compromise was agreed whereby it only strolled on [his] arm and shoulder.  This was enough to turn [Lee] green with nausea.  The realism of [his] performance was universally commended.  The dog was not at all realistic.  ... He was a Great Dane called Colonel, ... so amiable ... that he was a non-starter as a hound of hell. ... He stood a great deal of vexatious treatment from everybody without a bleat until suddenly, .... he lost his cool and hurled himself" on Lee, biting him through the arm.
Uncle Was a Vampire a/k/a  Tempi Duri per i Vampiri
1959
Baron Roderico da Frankurten
"A slavish parody of a success. ... The result was fairly jolly.  The pint-sized Italian comedian Renata Rascel [costarred], and the contrast between [them] was very amusing.  It was directed by Steno in the castle of the blond giant Prince Livio Odescalchi on Lake Braccinao.  ... [Lee] declined to be Dracula, but played a baron vampire in similar apparel -- played him straight in comic situations.
Pedigree episode of Tales of the Vikings 1959
Lord Roderick
Lee appeared in an episode of this Kirk Douglas-produced TV series for the chance to work with Wilfred Lawson about a bull as a symbol of concord between William the Conqueror and Norway.  Lee played "the Norman tyrant" with Lawson cast as the Saxon.
City of the Dead a/k/a Horror Hotel
1960
Alan Driscoll
Lee was "burnt to death in a monk's robe as a Satanist in an American Gothic with a Lovecraftian flavor."
Too Hot to Handle a/k/a Playgirl After Dark
1960
Novak
"Made in an alternative version for those who preferred Jayne Mansfield with her nipples painted out."
Two Faces of Dr. Jekyll/House of Fright
1960
Paul Allen
Lee played "a cad strangled by a python."
The Sorcerer episode of Alcoa Presents One Step Beyond
1961
Wilhelm Reitlinger
Lee was "cast as a Nazi officer ... [in] a far-fetched story about [Lee] as a far-fetched murderer, literally magicked eighty miles or so through thick walls, providing the perfect alibi, but much less painful than most of the crashing through walls that melodrama usually demands."
The Terror of the Tongs
1961
Chung King
Lee "tended to limit [himself] to speaking Cantonese.
Taste of Fear/Scream of Fear
1961
Dr, Pierre Gerrard
"Directed by  Seth Holt, ex-cutter and one of the best British directors ever.  the film was nearly Hammer's best. ... Jimmy Sangster wrote a strong story ... and [Lee] had a goody's part, as a family doctor with a French accent."
The Devil's Daffodil
1961
Ling Chu
Lee's part was "a Chinese detective called Ling Chu in this thriller by Edgar Wallace. ...  Contriving a Chinese accent when [he] spoke the German lines was a new problem.  Being fluent in German, [Lee's new wife] Gitte was able to hearken to me, though naturally the Chinese aspect was new to her as well.
Hercules in the Haunted World a/k/a Ercole al Centro della Terra
1961
King Lico
Made with Reg 'Mr. Universe' Park as Hercules, and Lee as "the Satanic monarch of the earth's core, Lico of Ecalia, who turned to flame at the end and disappeared.  The posters billed [Lee] with Dracula fangs, borrowed by the artist from some other film [he had been] in, not unconnected with vampires." Director Mario Bava "looked like Toto and mugged before the camera before saying 'Cut!'"
Pirates of Blood River
1962
Captain LaRoche
"One of the top ten money-spinners of the year. ... Pirates was a fearsome film to work on. ... Black Park near Pinewood looked most appetizing.  It was a cruel deception.   In the middle of the park was a lake more stagnant and polluted than anything in Poe and through this filth and the hazards of sharp underwater obstacles [Lee], as the pirate captain LaRoche, had to lead my piratical stars and a cohort of piratical stuntmen.  The ooze and the sludge and the stench were appalling.  Poor Oliver Reed's eyes were so badly affected that he had to be treated in hospital." Lee's height helped but "was offset by seaboots which filled and made walking right across an immense muscle-racking strain." 
Secret of the Red Orchid a/k/a Das Rasel der Roten Orchidee
1962
Captain Allerman
Lee played "an FBI agent hunting gangs moved from American to London and fell out with the director openly ... because he struck [Lee] as a throwback to the manners of the totalitarian state.  Furthermore, he criticized [Lee's] American-German accent."
The Devil's Agent
1962
Baron Ferdi von Staub
"An Irish venture" with "German money behind it, ... made in England," including "Peter Cushing in the cast" (although Lee never met him).
Sherlock Holmes and the Deadly Necklace a/k/a Sherlock Holmes und das Halsband des Todes
1962
Sherlock Holmes
"Made in Spandau, with some location shots in Ireland. ... Terrence Fisher was over to direct, and a brilliant replica of 221B Baker Street was made on a German stage with everything so much in its place that Holmes's redoubtable housekeeper wouldn't have been able to fault it.  Thorley Walters made an excellent Watson.  ... [Lee] looked like [Holmes and] was naturally brusque.  The production were backed by many eminent German actors.  And the sum of it all was a mess.  The sound was unusable, ... they dubbed even the English version.  The music was awful, a jazzed-up anachronism."
Katarsis
1963
Mephistopheles
"Back to the Odescalchi Castle and Lake Braccino near Rome and characters spawned by Dracula.The film was "very hard for those involved to follow.  It seemed to be about drop-outs who find an old man in a castle, who turns into the Devil and seizes them. ... In an effort to find itself, the film forked into two films, the sequel being Faust '63.   [Lee] was Faust in the first and Mephistopheles in the other, which must have confused the people with the strength to see both."
The Whip and the Body a/k/a La Frusta e il Corpo
1963
Kurt Menliff
"Back to the wonderful Mario Bava. ... The thrills here depended largely on white flesh and whips and the uses made of them by me, as the Byronic Kurt  Menliff, in the imagination of the astonishingly lovely Daliah Lavi.
Horror Castle a/k/a La Vergine de Norimberga
1963
Erich
Lee played "a scarred SS man, ... where the leading female presence was of the Iron Maiden.  As [his] adored master, a tortured SS general who'd been turned into a living skull, the Yugoslav Mirco Valentin went through extraordinary tortures in make-up.  It was quite relaxing, for once, to be able to look at somebody else getting the sticky end of the wedge."
The Devil-Ship Pirates
1964
Captain Robeles
"On this pirate lark it was understood [his] boots stayed dry.  [Lee] was Captain Robeles, a satanic privateer with no redeeming features.  A full sized galleon was mounted on sub-surface cast-iron blocks in the reservoir by Egham sandpits.  ... The mighty vessel rode there proudly until the launching of the tea-boat. ... All hands flocked for their cuppa.  Their combined weight, added to the trolley, capsized the ship.  As she turned, the technicians and carpenters were hurled into the scummy, inky water.  ... [Lee] saved the continuity girl's typewriter.  The whole structure took several days to right, so that it could be blown up at the end in a glorious holocaust.  [Lee] died nastily, shot dead among flaming rigging, and as a bonus, [his] wig caught fire."
The Gorgon 1964
Prof. Karl Meister
"A fine cast made it a promising proposition, and [Lee] was a saintly Einstein figure.  Alas, like the amiable hound of hell who was meant to fray the nerves of the Baskervilles, the Gorgon in question wouldn't have thrown a scare into anyone. ... She was a sad anticlimax.  Patently the snakes in her wig were being run by a remote hand with an electrical kit."
Crypt of the Vampire a/k/a Maledizione dei Karnstein
1964
Count Ludwig Karnstein
"A confection of elements of Le Fanu's Carmilla, and here it was [Lee's] pleasure to be Count Ludwig von Karnstein, the noble father of a brood of lesbian vampires."
Castle of the Living Dead a/k/a Castello dei Morti Vivi
1964
Count Drago
"Another newcomer to the scene was the Canadian Donald Sutherland, who in the same film was at once very funny as a policeman and very scary as a witch.   Fellini's cameraman Tonti was there, waving his stick at everybody.  The doomed and clever young Michael Reeves was all the assistants from first to fifth.  [Lee] was something called Count Drago and [the cast] spent much of [their] working time in a shivery garden replete with statues of gods and demons."   Producer Paul Maslansky lost the sound for the entire film and the continuity girl never wrote anything down.
The Sign of Satan episode of The Alfred Hitchcock Hour
1964
Count Jorla
Lee was loathe to leave his family in Switzerland to fly to Hollywood for this prestigious series, because his wife had given birth only 12 weeks prior, and his daughter had a severe handicap with her legs.  He had never experienced fear of flying prior to this, but because of the reluctance to leave, he became "filled with an absolute horror of flying, ... gripped by a phobia which was never to leave [him] again."  While in the makeup chair there, he met one of his idols, Groucho Marx.  The episode was written by Robert Bloch, based on his story Return to the Sabbath.  "It was about an American producer in search of an actor to play in a macabre film.  One day he sees the man he wants in a piece of film about a Black Mass.  So he tells his henchmen to get him over to play the lead.  They get the actor, but the fellow won't collaborate on publicity  Every day he comes to work, and at the end disappears again to hole up incognito.  The reason is that the Black Mass clip was the genuine article and the coven are after his blood."  Lee did not meet Bloch but met Ray Bradbury at work in his basement; "he said he wanted [Lee] to play Mr. Dark, in Something Wicked This Way Comes.  That never came about, but [Lee] did get Leviathan 99 - his SF version of Moby Dick, on to the radio airwaves and played the Ahab figure in it."
Dr. Terror's House of Horrors
1965
Franklyn Marsh
"Directed by a first-rate cameraman, Freddie Frances."  Lee appeared in The Disappearing Hand story of this portmanteau film.
The Face of Fu Manchu
1965
Fu Manchu
The production "went to Ireland. ... The author's widow went too, and told [Lee that he] exactly resembled the man her husband had seen one night in foggy Limehouse, a tall and imposing Oriental, getting out of a Rolls with an elegant half-caste girl, who had given him the idea of the book.  North of Beijing ... the Chinese are often as tall as Texans.  The conditions were execrable.  The weather was bleak and miserable.  Everyone on the unit was croaking under the impact of flu. ...  [The production] worked in a number of ramshackle, dilapidated dwellings abandoned by their occupants and the water ran all the time down the walls.  [They] worked also in Kilmainham Gaol."  For his execution scene, Lee "lay in thin robes on the freezing ground with [his] throat upturned, to give an extra frisson. ... The makeup for Fu  Manchu was extremely complicated.  It took two and a half hours to put on and left [Lee] extremely uncomfortable.  [His] features were rendered immobile - [he] had only [his] eyes left with which to act.   And at that, [his] eyelids were fixed and [he] was unable to blink. ... The picture did well.  In America it was called Chop-suey Bond.  Once again tall posters of [Lee] appeared on the walls in New York. ... On polling day, Fu Manchu scored a considerable write-in vote.
She
1965
Billali
Lee and family departed Switzerland and returned to London, where Boris Karloff was a near neighbor.  He "got the part of Ayesha's high priest, Billali ... for the old gang, Hammer  She was a perfectly happy film.  Ursula Andress was charming. ... There was a scene on an extremely large set of a throne room where [Lee] stood while Roman soldiers, obedient to the tyrant, flung endless quantities of victims through a hole in the floor to the flames beneath" during which Lee experienced claustrophobia.  He ran off the set, without pausing to make any excuse.  He walked in the rain until the "hideous threat dissolved in the downpour" and then returned to the set.  Lee "had a violent fight with John Richardson in the story, and he thrust a torch into [Lee's] face, causing [him] to look like Al Jolson. ... [Lee] died to the best of [his] ability.  It was like old times.
The Skull
1965
Sir Matthew Phillips
"Based on a better story because it was by Robert Bloch.  [Lee's] lines were few,  however, and not Bloch's."
The Brides of Fu Manchu
1966
Fu Manchu
"Brides of Fu  Manchu was tosh, in which an extravagant publicity stunt almost sank the picture."  Lee toured European countries choosing a national beauty contest winner from each, who were not allowed to speak in the film as they were not members of Equity.
Rasputin the Mad Monk
1966
Rasputin
Lee felt this deserved to be a success.  "Healer and rapist, peasant and seer, Rasputin was a legendary enigma, a real actor's part, one of the best [Lee had] had.  From a mass of conflicting evidence, [he] tried to convey inspired wisdom and grotesque appetites.  And [he] had a long-drawn-out, exquisite death to get [his] teeth into."  Lee met Rasputin's daughter Maria in 1976, and she told him he had her father's expression.
Dracula:  Prince of Darkness
1966
Dracula
Lee "never said a word.  [He] hissed, [he] spat, [he] snarled, but no word escaped [his] ruby lips." Lee had realized that "it was impossible to write convincing lines" so "rather than say the lines written down, [he] said nothing.  ... The death prescribed ... was still a memorable piece of shooting.  It was based on the superstition that vampires expire if they try to cross running water."  Lee "had to slide down a piece of wood on a hinge, painted white to look like ice, and disappear through the crack into a watery grave.  But there was a malfunction."  Lee got stuck and his stunt double Eddie Powell was trapped under the ice when the hinge swung back, and nearly drowned.
Circus of Fear a/k/a Psycho-Circus
1966
Gregor
Made at Billy Smart's Circus at Winkfield.  Lee played "a lion-tamer and since [the production] dealt in real lions the only double ... was the real lion-tamer.  All the shots of him had to be close-ups because he was half [Lee's] height.  ... The story was fatuous and [Lee] was disguised for nine-tenths of the movie in a black mask.
The Vengeance of Fu Manchu
1967
Fu Manchu
This film took Lee to Hong Kong for some excellent golf, "more excruciating make-up and, as an economy measure while there, ... simultaneously made Five Golden Dragons.
Five Golden Dragons
1967
Dragon #4
Three of Lee's fellow Dragons were George Raft, Dan Duryea and Brian Donlevy.  "This syndicate of crime had little to do except fly in from all over the world" and look like themselves around a table.  Lee opined that a film of Raft's life "would have been better value."
Theatre of Death a/k/a Blood Fiend
1967
Philippe Darvas
Lee "howled snatches of opera at [Sam Gallu] between takes."  He played "a theatrical producer drowned for severity by one of his actors."
Victims of Terror a/k/a Victims of Vesuvius
1967
Narrator
"A nice, sensible, erudite documentary on the relics of Pompeii and Herculaneum."
The Torture Chamber of Dr. Sadism a/k/a Blood Demon
1967
Count Frederic Regula/Graf von Andomai
"A perfectly dreadful composite of The House of Legends, Eternal Life, The Hunchback of Notre Dame and The Pit and the Pendulum.   [Lee] was chastised by having a gold mask driven into [his] face with spikes attached to it, so that [his]  features resembled a green at the end of a major tournament.  [He] was also torn asunder by four horses, but joined up again to wreak undead havoc.  The conclusion, when [he] vanished like a pantomime king in a cloud of green smoke, can hardly have persuaded the audience that [he] was dead enough to stay away from their jugular veins when they put the cat out for the night."  Lee did not fancy erotica; "the effluvium that rose [from the bodies of nude women] as the lights grew hotter was like marsh gas, but [he] could not believe the picture incited to erotic indulgence."
Night of the Big Heat a/k/a Island of the Burning Damned
1967
Godfrey Hanson
This little science fantasy "dealt with the invasion of Earth by alien protoplasm.  Looking like fried eggs, they ruined the climax.  They were as bad a letdown as the Hound of Hell and the Gorgon's snakes.  They rode in from space on a heat ray." The cast worked in shirtsleves to give the illusion of heat, "except it was the middle of the night in winter.  To foster the impression of sweat [they] were drenched in glycerine."
Blood of Fu Manchu a/k/a Fu Manchu's Kiss of Death
1968
Fu Manchu
Lee played on some spectacular golf courses in Brazil.  "Fundamentally the weakness of the series was lack of trust in Sax Rohmer.  ... It is always a mistake ... to take a plot and try to [insert] an extraneous character just because he has box-office appeal.  The character must give rise to the story, so it's only logical to go back to the original author for the series.Chinese actress Tsai Chin, "Fu Manchu's deadly whelp ... provided a stark contrast as she walked beside [him]. ... She helped [him] with the Chinese bits."
Face of Eve a/k/a Eve
1968
Colonel Stuart
Made in Spain, Lee played "an explorer reduced to a wheelchair, and died of natural causes."
Dracula Has Risen from the Grave
1968
Dracula
"Dying as Dracula was usually worse than having a tooth out."
The Devil Rides Out
1968
Duc de Richleau
"After years of urging black-magic themes on Hammer, [Lee] had a break-through with The Devil Rides Out.  ... [Lee] appointed [himself] black technical adviser, as well as playing a goody, and spent many hours in the British Museum guddling for Satanic trout, and came up with a useful catch, notably the genuine prayer of exorcism ... used at the end.  And [Lee] had the friendship of Dennis Wheatley, the author of the story, who lived on the other side of the square. ... Charles Gray was tremendous as the Satanist, and Terence Fisher and Hammer made a superb job of it.  [Lee] was delighted.  It was a new venture for everybody, and it came off.  It did well then, and it had a strong reprise in a cult revival.  The terrible vibrations of Evil were clearly felt.  It was right to scare people, to put them off the sinister dangers implicit in dabbling with black magic."  Even in his old age, this film remained in Lee's imagination "as an ongoing project.  Here is a case for the special effects that were beyond anybody's scope at the time."
Curse of the Crimson Altar a/k/a The Crimson Cult
1968
Morley
"Karloff was in his eightieth year, and as many as five films he'd worked on had yet to appear when he died."
Castle of Fu Manchu
1969
Fu Manchu
This film introduced Lee to golf in Barcelona.
The Oblong Box
1969
Dr. Newhartt
The film where Lee met Vincent Price, "an extremely funny man, ... a dazzling all-rounder.  As a professional lecturer he toured in painting, sculpture and cookery. ... He was as much at ease in the theatre as in the cinema, a model of versatility. ... He could be acid and devastating, as could his wife Coral Browne, but they were never otherwise than sweet to [Lee]."
Eugenie...the Story of Her Journey into Perversion 1970
Narrator
Lee "only had the part as narrator in the Marquis de Sade's tale ... as a result of an emergency" due to illness by George Sanders.  He wore his Sherlock Holmes smoking jacket.  "Little did [he] know that the woman on the altar behind [him] was naked. ... Little did [he] know that the same scenes were reshot when [he] was back in London, and the actors then peeled.  Little did [he] know of the cross-cutting ... to scenes of debauch that would take place."
The Bloody Judge a/k/a Night of the Blood Monster
1970
Judge Jeffries
Lee "was the terrible Judge Jeffries, handed down all kinds of ruthless sentences against a mild background, and when the film was completed, found [himself] playing to scenes of extraordinary depravity in the stews.
Julius Caesar
1970
Artemidorus
Lee played opposite Sir John Gielgud as Caesar, Charlton Heston as Marc Antony and Jason Robards as Brutus.  Director Stuart Burge gave Lee the direction that Artemidorus was quite mad.
Taste the Blood of Dracula
1970
Dracula
"Three elderly gentlemen are desanguinated.  It had the best cast but after an initial burst the story drooped".
Count Dracula
1970
Dracula
"Made against the grain of this decline by Jess Franco in Spain, and outside the Hammer aegis, [this] was a damn good try at doing the Count as Stoker meant him to be.  ... Here the tragic, doomed Count was an old man getting younger as he imbibed the indispensable fluid.  ... It was a shadow of what it might have been, but nevertheless it had the right outlook on the protagonists.  The film also benefited from Herbert Lom as Van Helsing and Klaus Kinski ... as Renfield.
Scars of Dracula
1970
Dracula
"Truly feeble.  It was a story with Dracula popped in almost as an afterthought.  Even the Hammer make-up for once was tepid. ... [Lee] was a pantomime figure.  Everything was over the top, especially the giant bat whose electrically motored wings flapped with slow deliberation as if it were doing morning exercises.  The idea that Dracula best liked his blood served in a nubile container was gaining ground with the front office and [Lee] struggled in vain against the direction that the fangs should be seen to strike home, as against the more decorous (and more chilling) method of shielding the sight with the Count's cloak.
Umbracule
1970
The Man
From imdb: "Christopher Lee stars in this bizarre avant garde film commenting on censorship in Franco-era Spain that presents documentary footage along with surreal, overexposed scenes in which Christopher Lee walks around Barcelona, witnesses a kidnapping, visits a museum and has silent encounters with a woman." Lee found it "a bewildering project ... the expression of [the director's] personal feelings and ... a cry against the oppressive regime in his own country and the suffocation of artists."  Lee recited "a sizable chunk of Poe's 'Raven', sang without music excerpts from The Flying Dutchman and The Damnation of Faust, and had a long, silent, motionless close-up " lasting one and a half minutes, which most people assume to be a still.
The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes
1970
Mycroft Holmes
Made around and about the south shore of Loch Ness.  Lee's "first encounter in a major role with direction as a class act"Performing for director  Billy Wilder gave Lee "a glimpse of how to be so much better than usual. ... It was a witty and beautiful picture.  It was the nearest [Lee] had come to being in a movie where all the desirable qualities featured on both sides of the camera.
Hannie Caulder
1971
Bailey
Lee's only Western, when he was nearly 50.  "Shot in Spain to look like Mexico, with a tumultuous shoot-out and Raquel Welch, and [Lee] as a retired gunman, complete with cigar and straw hat."
Horror Express
1972
Alexander Saxton
"The train in question was meant to be the Trans-Siberian Express, but our location was just outside Madrid, in an unspeakable studio at Daganzo.  The food was deadly, salmonella the principal sauce.  Peter never used the restaurant.  He always ate the same meal, day after day, year after year, ... apple and cheese.  Afterwards he would smoke a cigarette wearing white gloves, because the stain might show on the screen.  ... [Cushing] was the gentlest and most generous of men.  It could be said of him that he died because he was too good for this world.
Dracula A.D. 1972
1972
Dracula
"At the age of fifty, [Lee] took the firm decision to Draculate no more.  The deciding factor" was this film and The Satanic Rites of Dracula.  Lee "was aghast at the plan to bring the story into modern times, but a compromise was effected whereby at least his Gothic homestead and the church were retained. ... At the same time, the hippy idiom used was already out of date when the film was made."
Nothing But the Night
1973
Colonel Charles Bingham
Lee set up his own production company, Charlemagne, to make this film near Dartmoor with Rank.  He had the rights to all Wheatley's black-magic novels.  "That Charlemagne effort, based on a John Blackburn story about a possessed girl, failed because it was ahead of its time."
The Three Musketeers
1973
Rochefort
This "somehow bifurcated into two films, such was the quantity of celluloid in the can, with the second portion issued as The Four  Musketeers.  It was reasonable to do this, rather than waste the richness of the material. ... It wasn't exactly seamless, nor were they even in quality -- the Three is better than the Four -- but they were High Romance and only partly an irreverent view of everything that was everything in the thirties and forties."  The films were "a physically exhausting stream of battles with men twenty or thirty years [Lee's] junior:  Oliver Reed, Michael York, Richard Chamberlain.  Nothing was faked; [they] were all quite badly knocked about."  In his first duel, Lee "tore a ligament in my left knee which hindered running, jumping, fighting on ice and walking up or down stairs.  ... at 52 [he] could still do it, but it took longer to recover. 
The Satanic Rights of Dracula
1973
Count Dracula
Lee "reached [his] irrevocable full stop, ... [declaring that he would] never get on board unless the story faithfully followed the book, or alternatively if the account of Henry Irving and Dracula were set up. ... Being struck by lightning was the least of [Lee's] discomforts.  The worst was the time they discovered that vampires cannot abide hawthorns.  [Lee] had to crash through a tangle of hawthorn bushes with a crown of thorns on [his] head, with Peter Cushing on the further side waiting to impale [him] with a stake snatched from a fence.  They lacked the foresight to provide a dummy tree, and [Lee] had to tear a way through vegetation with spines two inches long, emerging for the coup de grace shedding genuine Lee blood like a garden sprinkler."
The Wicker Man
1973
Lord Summerisle
"Written by Anthony Shaffer ... [this] was the best-scripted film [Lee] ever took part in, and it turned out in the end to be a flawed masterpiece.  It was a terrifying story of the Lord of Misrule, a conflict between Christianity and paganism, worked out on a Scottish island in the spring, when the people respond to the urges of the sap rising, and pay their dues to the ancient gods of fertility for themselves and to reverse the trend of poor harvests.  The virginal and puritanical policeman from the mainland, enticed into a game of cat and mouse by the islanders, and burned alive in the Wicker Man as a sacrifice to the Druids, was beautifully played as an obstinate young bullock of duty-bound energy  by Edward Woodward, oblivious of the portents of his horrible fate until the great wicker totem appears before him, rearing up on a headland with the sun going down behind it."  Lee thought before it was written, the part of Lord Summerisle was intended for him.  The film was made in Ayrshire, Kircudbrightshire, Newton Stewart, the local Botanical Gardens and Culzean Castle in October when it "was very cold, and the flowers had to be attached from trucks. ... It was about growth, not decay.  ... Two versions of The Wicker Man eventually went out on the circuits, with twenty minutes more for America than Europe ... and there was not a squeak of publicity to be heard.  ... [Lee thinks]  it's mandatory for critics to know the film."
The Four Musketeers:  Milady's Revenge
1974
Rochefort
In his final duel, Lee "was run through, pinned to the Bible and died."
The Man With the Golden Gun
1974
Scaramanga
Ian Fleming was Lee's cousin through a stepfather.  They had golfed together and Fleming wanted Lee to play Dr. No, but that did not happen.  After Fleming died, Lee was offered the role of "a nasty piece of work called Scaramanga. ...It was fun, ... with a better-written script for Scaramanga than for any other Bond heavy bar Goldfinger." The role was rewritten from the book "with a more diverse character, some ambivalence about his own compulsive sexuality (mysteriously linked to his third nipple) ... an edge of humor and a sense that he is indulging himself in a great game."  Lee's bizarre sidekick was played by "a diminutive Frenchman, Herve Villechaize."  Made in Phuket and Pinewood Studios in England.  "A promotion tour on behalf of a major film such as The Man with the Golden Gun is harder than shoveling snow, and not so healthy. ... [Lee] "had a love/hate relationship with the Gun. ... which was like any other gun except for the pretense of being gold, and unable to function. ... [The gun] was 100 percent gadget.  An armourer's brainstorm.  It consisted of a cigarette case, a lighter, a pen and a cuff link, all complete and workable away from the weapon.  It was a cute invention, but taking them apart and putting them together again was exceedingly difficult."
In Search of Dracula
1975
Narrator
Lee traveled to Transylvania for this exploration of the Dracula legend "from the bat that punctures, then licks, to the monastery of Snagov where Vlad III, Knight of the Order of the Dragon, Voivode of Wallachia, known as the Impaler, who signed himself Dracula, Dracole, and Dragwyla, supposedly lay in his tomb for five centuries. ... The countryside was faithful to all [Lee had] read and beautiful beyond the book, with towering pinnacles of rock, cloud-capped peaks, mists coiling through valleys, and a strange unease and unreal cold when the moon flickered through the foliage"
To the Devil A Daughter
1976
Father Michael
Lee's company Charlemagne organized with Rank and Hammer this production, eventually made for 350,000 BPS with Richard Widmark and Natassja Kinski.
Airport 77
1977
Martin Wallace
First film made after Lee relocated to Hollywood.  He played "an oceanographer whose job is more interesting to him than his wife.  ... The passengers of a jet are trapped in an air bubble when their plane ditches and submerges. ... The list of famous players could be recited like a mantra:  Jack Lemmon, James Stewart, Joseph Cotten, Olivia de Havilland, George Kennedy, ... Lee Grant (who was [Lee's] wife in the story).  Lee was provided training for his drowning scene in two separate tanks at Universal and CBS.  "The scenes in the tanks were not quite fun but [Lee] was with Jack Lemmon."
Saturday Night Live
1978
Guest Host
Lee had his arm twisted to appear on this popular late night live 90-minute TV series as guest host, introducer and participant in sketches.   In his monologue, he listed some of his non-horror roles, as an introduction to a parody of 3 upcoming films.  He portrayed Professor Henry Higgins, using dialogue from the MY FAIR LADY songs, which were never sung, faced with the appalling difficulty of helping Baba Wawa speak distinctly.  Eventually proximity to her forces Higgins to talk like her, and declare his love. 
In another sketch Lee portrayed Mr. Death apologizing to a young girl for the death of her puppy.  Finally, he played a German accented apparent vampire hunter who stakes the memoirs of Richard Nixon so the ghost of Watergate will lie peaceful.
1941
1979
Capt. Wolfgang von Kleinschmidt
Lee turned down the doctor role given to Leslie Nielsen in Airplane! to appear in this comedy bomb directed by Steven Spielberg for the chance to appear with and meet Toshiro Mifune and Slim Pickens.  Lee played "the German observer ... required to speak only German. .... The outrageous things they say to annoy each other ... make a running gag.  There were no subtitles, except for the last outpourings from the Japanese commander when he uses karate on his tormentor, flings him overboard and grimly says 'Auf Wiedersehn,'and these were translated simply as 'Sayonara'.  ... At the end of the premier showing, "there was a rare and peculiar silence. [Lee] had never seen such harsh reviews"
Bear Island
1979
Lechinski
Lee played a Polish scientist, more or less simultaneously to 1941, in this Alistair Maclean thriller shot in Alaska, where he had to learn to walk on snowshoes and also flat on skis.  "The cold ... was at times intense enough to garble our speech, and Donald Sutherland once risked being impaled on [Lee's] skis when he remarked [that he didn't recognize an iced-up dialogue line of Lee's]... [Lee's] fate was to be struck down by a sabotaged radio mast. ... [He] returned to Pinewood for [his] death scene" where he fell asleep in his lovely warm hospital bed while Vanessa Redgrave and Richard Widmark recorded their dialogue.
Once Upon a Spy
1980
Marcus Valorium
A pilot for a TV series Lee would not have been in if it sold.  Ted Danson was the star.
Serial
1980
Luckman Skull
Lee played "a hard-headed businessman" with an American accent who "at weekends ... is the leader of a band of gay Hell's Angels."  Lee managed on the motorbike "except the wheelies and the drive up some stairs in a house.  The highlight ... was the dash across the Golden Bridge, in black leathers and Nazi regalia."
The Salamander
1981
Prince Baldasar, the Director of Counterintelligence
"Despite [his] character's name being changed from Borghese to Baldassare, and a muster of actors that included Anthony Quinn in the title role, Eli Wallach as [Lee's] collaborating carabiniere general, Franco Nero as a good person and Claudia Cardinale as the beautiful person, the film has never ... had a showing in Italy."
Charles and Diana:  a Royal Love Story
1982
Prince Philip
"In a blond wig and blond eyebrows, [Lee] played the Duke of Edinburgh opposite Margaret Tyzack as Elizabeth II. ... Alas, it was all terribly proper:  no tiger-shooting, no chastising of reporters, no gaffes and, as a result, unforgivably dull."
Massarati and the Brain
1982
Victor Leopold
"Another completely forgettable pilot for a TV series [Lee] would not have been in." He played "a Nazi war criminal."
The Return of Captain Invincible
1983
Mr. Midnight
"An off-the-wall gift" shot in Australia, which gave Lee a chance to sing on cameraLee was "once again a Fascist Beast, playing opposite but also singing a duet with the most diversely talented performer ... Alan Arkin.  The number, 'Name Your Poison', was written specially for [Lee] by Hartley and O'Brien, ... mixing the names of some thirty drinks into a barrage of temptations used by the villain to seduce the superhero back into the alcoholic ways he'd given up to save the world. ... The film, part rock, part opera, part musical comedy, had some good patches, but they didn't hang together in a seamless piece."
House of the Long Shadows
1983
Corrigan
Lee's last film with Peter Cushing, with Vincent Price and John Carradine, "billed by the press as the four masters of the macabre, and there wasn't a single marvelous speech to share between us.  The direction was a blank, and [the cast] agreed with the critics who shredded the film [a remake make of Seven Keys to Baldpate].
The Far Pavilions
1984
Kaka-ji Rao
Lee was struck with gut-rot on location in Jaipur, "with a bonus of asthma" brought on when his horse ran away with him in a large crowd scene, having been frightened by an elephant.  Sir John Gielgud was the only cast member unaffected intestinally.   "A film for television in three parts, ended up well as a wonderful romantic mix of the Raj and princely India.  Even the Indians thought it very good."
The Boy Who Left Home to Find Out About the Shivers episode of Faerie Tale Theatre
1984
King Vladamir V
Lee was "cast as the sorcerer .. [he] was amused to find a musician playing [his] malevolent hunchback retainer in the castle:  the late and much lamented Frank Zappa."
Howling II, Your Sister is a Werewolf
1985
Stefan Crosscoe
"The feeling of the blend of the real and the fantastic impressed me strongly .. as [Lee] stood beside the grave of Kafka in the Jewish cemetery on the outskirts of Prague, attempting to dispatch a werewolf with a silver bullet. ... The Bohemian castle gave it a family resemblance [to a fairy story], and the wolves walking around upright did give it a children's-theatre aspect. ... It failed to frighten or amuse. ... Fighting on the side of the angels with holy water and crosses, [a group] creep round the outside of the castle to surprise the evil wolves, and are ourselves surprised by an attack from a werewolf."
Jocks
1986
President White
A comedy shot in Los Vegas with many scenes in a casino "a nightmare for continuity, with random gamblers drifting in and out of shot.  The piece de resistance ... was a scene in which [Lee] realizes that the girl [he] madly loves, who has invited [him] to her room, is a man." Lee's body clock found it difficult to work all night "because there is never any light in Vegas casinos."  Lee won $600 playing craps.
The Disputation
1986
King James of Aragon
Lee's first role after recovering from his heart valve operationIt "proved fairly demanding, though the argument of the play is more vigorous than the action." Bob Peck played a Jewish convert to Catholicism.
Mio in the Land of Faraway
1987
Kato
"An authentic fairy story by the Swedish children's author Astrid Lindgren, with a great black castle surrounded by birds."  Lee found the food in the Soviet Union "was uneatable, the sanitation unspeakable, the political people ubiquitous. ... As the mournful knight in the castle who entraps the souls of boys and girls and turns them into birds, [Lee] wore a steel hand.  ... The boy in the tale whose soul [Lee] coveted had to face not only the steel hand but a sword in it, which [Lee] had to whirl down, just missing him, and cleave a marble table in two."
The Return of the Musketeers
1989
Rochefort
Lee was "brought back to life again and dispatched once more to Spain, to join most of the same crowd, now verging on fifty themselves, for some swashbuckling under the magnificent towers of Toledo.  The story was loosely connected to the Dumas sequel Twenty Years After. ... [Lee] was safely excused from sword-fights by a plot that had [him] coming out of the Bastille after seventeen years of no exercise."  However, Lee thought the film "should never have been made.  They attempted the impossible, trying to shoot a twelve-week picture in eight weeks.  Much worse than the failure of the film, however, was the accidental death of Roy Kinnear" from a fall from a horse onto cobbled streets.
Honeymoon Academy
1989
Lazos
Lee played a forger "doing a sort of eccentric waltz while bleeding to death".  Shot in Spain.
Murder Story
1989
Willard Hope
Shot in Amsterdam, it included a scene of Lee coming out of a porno shop.
Le Revolution Francaise
1989
Sanson
Lee's real life experience of seeing the last guillotine execution in Paris as a teenager came in handy in this bicentenary production, when he "played Monsieur de Paris, the public executioner Sanson, who dispatched Louis XVI on the guillotine.  Lee also had known the English hangman  Albert Pierrepont very well, having met in 1945 in connection with War Crimes InvestigationLee "spent two weeks on a scaffold with an exact replica of [a guillotine]. ... It was terribly cold except under the lights where [he] polished them off one after another. ...It was a grief to execute the King, and a shock to execute the Queen."
Around the World in 80 Days
1989
Stuart
Lee did his bit "in the Travellers' Club in Pall Mall. ... [He] had only to play whist ... and lay the crucial bet."
Treasure Island
1990
Blind Pew
Lee wore "overwhelming make-up of hideously scarred blind eye-sockets" opposite Charlton Heston as Long John Silver and Oliver Reed as Billie Bones with a strong Glasgow accent.
The Rainbow Thief
1990
Uncle Rudolf
"Peter O'Toole was the man who lived in the sewers, Omar Sharif his visitor and [Lee] was O'Toole's uncle, raving mad in a pleasant way.  Paralyzed from the waist down, [Lee] careered around mounted on a cowboy's saddle on a machine like a small car, singing Wagner.  As another part of [his] eccentricity [Lee] gave a dinner at which the guests ate dogfood while the chairs were occupied by dogs, eating food for people."  In Lee's last scene, he sang 'Plaisir Amour' "lying in a four-poster bed, cosseted by a dozen topless girls, and died of a heart attack."
Gremlins 2:  The New Batch
1990
Doctor Catheter
Director Joe Dante "subsequently became a much valued friend. ... The charming Mogwai and his fiendish destructive offspring that swell in a gelatinous ooze to terrorize a building, then a city, dominate the screen with their fantastic shapes and brilliant colours.  The film crackled with jokes and pastiches, a rare instance of a sequel improving on the original.  It was unnerving playing a scene with a gremlin since all you see is a dot of light on a table.  When you have a full-scale gremlin to react to, about three feet tall, there are four or five puppeteers hidden, controlling eyes, arms, mouth, body and legs with wires.  They were amazingly convincing, so real you almost felt that actors of flesh and blood would become redundant -- if not already sidelined by the departments of explosions and special effects."
L'Avaro
1990
Cardinale Spinosi
"A totally Italian rendering of Moliere's play" in which Lee's 17th century cardinal character was inserted"The aggravations here were a barrage of pinpricks -- practically everything except the fantastic sets in real palazzi in and around Rome, the sort of backgrounds you couldn't buy for a million dollars.  Among them was the Palazzo Farnese"  where Lee was plagued with echoes.  Lee thought it was the acoustics, but it was costar Alberto Sordi repeating every line Lee spoke.  "In Italy people talk non-stop during a take.  They smoke too, and the smoke goes wafting in front of the camera.  And they move around all the time, in your eyeline.  They have helicopters and fighter-bombers going past your window, and while those had to be ignored, the general commotion got to the point" where Lee leaped up and called for silence.  Lee got his silence for 20 minutes, but Sordi had the last laugh and put Lee's credits smaller than contractually obliged in the final print.
Cyber Eden
1992 Cedric
Made in Italy at Lake Como and Cinecitta in Rome, "it had basically to do with an old lady (Carroll Baker) who hits on a make-up formula for making people young.  [Lee] was her butler." The leading man spoke no English and learned his lines phonetically but spoke them in an unintelligible slur.  "The whole thing was a nightmare, what Jimmy Durante would call a 'catastrostroke'."
Flesh and BloodThe Hammer Heritage of Horror
1994
Narrator
Lee co-narrated with his great friend Peter Cushing this TV documentary about Hammer Films.  Lee recalled Cushing "was always busy with his hands, making row upon row of lead soldiers and painting them, so you'd talk to them amid the set pieces he contrived for battles, and planes dangling from the ceiling.  Or he'd make mock-ups in cardboard of theatrical productions. ... In Whitstable he became a kind of patriarch, with a pier named after him and a regular place for his meals in the Tudor Tea Rooms."  Lee and Cushing appeared in 22 films together, not always as a pair.  "Together, [they] knocked off a row of fantasy milestones.  Most often [Lee] was the menace, and Peter was the force from academe, a savant, devoted to putting a stopper on [Lee]. ... He was the most tolerant of men, expressing for instance nothing but pleasure when [Lee] sang arias to him in our dressing rooms.
Police Academy:  Mission to Moscow 1994
Commandant Rakov
Lee played "an old Russian general from the Stalin days, weighted down with medals and a soup-strainer mustache ... [who helped] Yeltsin out in his struggle to cope with his crime mafia by bringing over [his] American police pals.  Lee remembered "an exquisitely unreal moment when [he] stood on a rostrum, built smack in front of St. Basil's Cathedral in Red Square, with Lenin's tomb on [his] left, dressed in the full uniform of a Russian general and bowed down with decorations, to make a speech to several hundred genuine militia men.  The fairy-tale feel was not even marred when the militia band struck up 'Ta-ra-ra-boom-de-ay', followed by 'When the Saints Go Marching In'. "
Moses
1995
Ramses
Lee played Ramses II, pharaoh for sixty-seven years.
Princess Alisea a/k/a Sorrellina
1996
Azaret
"This was an Italian film, and [Lee's] blood boiled.  But there was a nuance of difference:  It was made in Slovakia, already separated from Czecho.
The Stupids
1996
Evil Sender
Lee played the archvillain, "the wretch attempting to corner the American garbage market" in Toronto in a record temperature of 105 with Robert Wise, David Cronenberg and other directors appearing as Petrol Pump Attendant or Man in Garden or Second Builder.
Ivanhoe
1997
Tiresias
Lee played "the Grand Master of the Knights Templar" in this TV miniseries.
Jinnah
1998
Mohammed Ali Jinnah
Lee played "the father of his country, Pakistan."

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