Time to give credit to the thing that kicked off my obsession, this episode of Screen Drafts, although I didn’t like their list. I will say that it is very hard to make one that isn’t totally bland or totally insane, but anyway, here’s my vastly superior list of the seven essential Christopher Lee movies. Not a best of list but a list of films to understand his career and what he was like as an actor, TV parts excluded since that’s what they do on the podcast.
- Penny & the Pownall Case (1948)
- Dracula (1958)
- The Hound of the Baskervilles (1959)
- The Whip and the Body (1963)
- The Wicker Man (1973)
- House of the Long Shadows (1983)
- The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (2001)
So make of that what you will. I’m available for any other kind of recs list of his movies you might need.
This instalment runs 50s-90s and also stars: Fran Drescher, Jayne Mansfield, Peter O’Toole, Omar Sharif, Olivia de Havilland, Malcolm McDowell, Gregory Peck, Kim Cattrall (twice), Naveen Andrews, Mark Hamill and SHASHI KAPOOR.
Definitely the craziest and longest collection of movies of all because it has everything I was too scared to watch sooner.
The Three Musketeers (UK/US, 1973)
It’s alright I guess, though none of the principals can (sword)fight at all. Christopher Lee is snooty and beautiful, briefly homoeroticises with Charlton Heston.
The Four Musketeers: Milady’s Revenge (UK/US, 1974)
The better movie despite the violence against women. Charlton Heston forces Christopher Lee to kneel for him which is pretty great.
Rasputin, the Mad Monk (UK, 1966)
AKA Christopher Lee hand porn, the movie. Deeply stupid and a-historical but kind of entertaining. Christopher Lee is surprisingly good at playing a nutty loose cannon.
Too Hot to Handle (UK, 1960)
Christopher Lee plays a scummy strip club manager. Pretty great but not as great as Kenny in Beat Girl. He looks like he’s having fun and also like he took this part so he could tell everyone he was in a movie with Jayne Mansfield.
Dracula, pere et fils (France, 1976)
Heavy-handed comedy with some satire about feudalism and modern society. Anyway, Christopher Lee hisses and growls in French, wears thigh-high boots and semi-forcibly impregnates someone sooooooooo.
Les Mains d’ Orlac (UK/France, 1960)
I really enjoyed this though it was very different from the silent and didn’t have its deeper meanings. Christopher Lee is delightful and hilarious as an evil vaudeville performer in a magic/puppet/burlesque show and casually slaps a random woman on the arse (!!!).
Rosebud Beach Hotel (US, 1984)
It sounds great but it’s unwatchably bad and very creepy. Christopher Lee was obviously only there for a day or less but he has some lovely red silk pyjamas (surely his own?) and satin sheets (definitely not his own).
Count Dracula (International, 1970)
Lauded as the most accurate Dracula, this confirms what I have always suspected, namely that you really only need minor adjustments to make the book into an effective movie. Hampered by the Jess Franco of it all but good as long as it sticks to the book (about 40% of the time). Christopher Lee looks so happy, poor darling.
The Rainbow Thief (France, 1994)
Normally I am not opposed to sexualising old Christopher Lee, but this gets at some surrealist psychosexual essence of it I hated. Otherwise, this movie was really bad except for the end which is great.
Cuadecuc, Vampir (Spain, 1970)
I can’t believe I’m saying this but this needed to be weirder and more experimental. I don’t see why it has a linear structure at all. Solid anti-Franco message and some lovely shots though.
Umbracle (Spain, 1972)
Yes, I do want to watch Christopher Lee wander around Barcelona as part of a non-linear, anti-narrative rant against censorship and fascism. Of course, because it’s Christopher Lee there’s also some weird sex stuff. I really, really liked this. Christopher Lee looks like he’s having a hard time of it but he does his best, the sweetheart.
Airport ’77 (US, 1977)
This has costumes by EDITH HEAD. A great piece of high camp, very entertaining. Christopher Lee’s not in it much but you do get to see him in a vest (did Edith Head design it???).
The Truth About Women (UK, 1957)
Not great, despite jaw-dropping costumes and great actresses. Christopher Lee’s barely in it but looks lovely, tiny waist and panther-y walk and all.
The Return of Captain Invincible (Australia, 1983) (header)
I get what this is going for but it doesn’t really work for me. I liked the songs (especially Christopher Lee’s) though. Christopher Lee plays this with the force of five atom bombs exploding at once, is yet again weirdly sexy.
The Passage (UK, 1979)
I watched this hoping to see Christopher Lee get tortured, had to fast forward through parts of it because it got too exploitation-y about Nazi atrocities, and then they didn’t even torture him properly. My just desserts, honestly.
Horatio Hornblower (US/UK, 1951)
Christopher Lee essentially has a cameo but I figured I might as well watch it because I used to have a friend who was in this fandom so I know it quite well. As far as I can tell, a good and fun adaptation, though it could be gayer.
The Gorgon (UK, 1964)
Unbelievably silly but Barbara Shelley is great and Christopher Lee’s character is AMAZING. All he does is sassily shout at people. I was on the floor laughing every time he appeared. Too bad he looks so stupid. Simmering homoerotic tension between Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing.
Jinnah (PK/UK, 1998)
Strangely whimsical yet hard-hitting biopic/parable about Indian history. Shashi and Christopher Lee are great together even though my brain couldn’t handle seeing them share a screen. Christopher Lee does a fantastic job and is like the actual Jinnah to an extent where it messed with my head but happily I was only slightly attracted to him, thereby preventing an existential crisis.
Double Vision (International, 1991)
This movie features a Christopher Lee/Kim Cattrall/Naveen Andrews love triangle (!!!). Almost killed me. It’s a stupid, trashy 90s thriller, everyone is smoking hot, Kim Cattrall has a crazy double role, what’s not to love?
For Better Or For Worse/Honeymoon Academy (US, 1989)
Boring spy comedy with more Kim Cattrall. Our man basically has a cameo, I’m not sure why I watched the whole thing. Hypnotised by Kim Cattrall, I guess, who was not good in this.
Murder Story (NL/UK, 1989)
Would be alright if it wasn’t so boring. Christopher Lee looks bored but cuddly. I enjoyed that they lampshaded the homoerotic aspect of the Rowsdower/Troy friendship he has with the protagonist.
The End of the World (US, 1977)
MULTIPLE PRIEST CHRISTOPHER LEES!!! Sadly, that’s the only good thing in this movie which is unwatchable but thankfully very fast-forward friendly. Our man is really good and sexy as ever.
The Stupids (US, 1996)
Weirdly cathartic to watch a movie mocking people who believe in stupid conspiracy theories. Boring though. Christopher Lee is once again in only one scene and once again bizarrely hot and also funny.
Circle of Iron (US, 1978)
Deeply ridiculous and insane martial arts fantasy film. I didn’t like it but a movie as wacky as this always has some things to offer. Christopher Lee wears a great dress I badly want to own.
La Chute des Aigles (France/Germany, 1989)
The most boring film in history with the most horrendous singing you’ve ever heard. If you want a lesson in 1940s fashion vs. 1980s 1940s revival fashion, compare Christopher Lee’s suits in this with the ones he wore in the actual 40s, which is what sustained me through this movie aside from how cute he looks.
Howling II: Your Sister Is a Werewolf (US, 1985)
Absolutely determined to treat werewolves like vampires which makes no sense. Too nasty and gross to be funny, though the movie itself certainly thinks it’s hilarious. Christopher Lee wears black leather gloves and ridiculous shades.
A Tale of Two Cities (UK, 1958)
Our man’s barely in it but he’s sassy, slinky and fabulous with his beauty mark and his satins. Decently entertaining movie otherwise.
Gremlins II: the New Batch (US, 1990)
I wasn’t really into this until it went off the rails towards the end, and then it was great. Christopher Lee is more attractive in this nothing role than he has any right to be and can genetically modify me any day.