Friday 12 June 2015

Christopher Lee: A perfect monster

This is my favourite scene featuring Sir Christopher Lee, who passed away at the age of 93 on Thursday. It's the climactic fight from Dracula (1958) between Dr Abraham van Helsing (Peter Cushing) and the titular Count (Lee). 

I'm not sure what impresses me more, the physicality of the two wonderful actors involved, the brilliant-for-the-time special effects as Dracula turns to ash, or James Bernard's breathless musical score. One thing I do know is that no actor played a monster better than Lee  not even Bela Lugosi or Boris Karloff. He looks genuinely otherworldly and inhuman here, with the kind of eyes that burrow into your soul, haunt your nightmares and have you believing evil is not only a palpable force but one that is likely to reach through the screen and tear out your heart at any moment.

It's easy to laugh at the fact you can kill off a major villain by, er, opening the curtains, but back when I first saw the film (in the mid-'70s when I was no older than eight or nine) this scene scared the life out of me. If I'm honest, it still gives me chills even now. Rest in peace, sir.

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