Sir Christopher Lee is awesome. I often say he is the greatest man in the world… like ever. People think I’m joking. I’m not.
Lee is the Dark Prince of Hammer; Hammer’s own Boris Karloff. He’s played all the great monsters: Dracula, the Mummy and Frankenstein’s Monster. Yet, as witnessed in Hammers like The Devil Rides Out (1968) and The Hound of the Baskervilles (1959), there’s far more to Lee than monsters. Outside of Hammer, he’s been in every major franchise you could think of; James Bond, Star Wars and Lord of the Rings to name a few. He just recently returned to the big screen in Scorsese’s latest masterpiece, Hugo, in a small but vital role. Here are five additional facts that prove that Sir Christopher Lee is undeniably the greatest man around:
1. At 89, he will appear in four movies this year. Madness.
2. Lee was a World War II hero. As part of the Royal Air Force, he reached the rank of Flight Lieutenant.
3. Lee met Tolkien, was friends with Dennis Wheatley and is somewhat related to Ian Fleming.
4. Lee and Peter Cushing were onscreen rivals, but real life best friends. He was also pals with Vincent Price, by the way.
5. Christopher Lee loves symphonic heavy metal. Yes, you read that correctly. Please watch below to have your flipping mind blown.
Christopher Lee is the hardest working actor in the business. He has been – or at least he claims to have been – in more movies than any other actor in the world. He seems to accept any job thrown at him, whether it be a Hollywood blockbuster or some dreck from Australia (The Return of Captain Invincible, anyone?), hell, he’s even been in Jess Franco movies. Old age has certainly not slowed this ex-titan of Hammer down, and he certainly looks far younger than 89.
In 1996, Christopher Lee gave his fans one of the most beautiful gift – a documentary entitled The Many Faces of Christopher Lee. I’m not really sure why this documentary was made or who made it, but it is clearly shot on video and I’m assuming was released on VHS. It appears that the documentary was filmed in Lee’s house. The Many Faces of Christopher Lee is very straightforward; Lee tells stories from his career, directly to camera, with clips interspersed. Often he talks about films you’d not expect him to, and he ignores many classics. The Many Faces of Christopher Lee is bizarre. Both hilarious and fascinating, Lee comes across like a child showing you all of his favourite possessions. Lee is as authoritative as ever, but his earnestness is hysterical. Each line is like a dramatic performance as his eyes bores down the barrel of the camera and his theatrical voice booms through the microphone. You know from the beginning of the video that you’re in for a treat when Lee opens with this:
The pride in his delivery of “dreaming to order” beams from his face (one of his many faces) and instantly had me giggling. My favourite thing about this documentary is that you often don’t know where Christopher Lee is taking you with his lengthy introductions and segues.
Something that has always intrigued me is how a man as intelligent and well-read as Christopher Lee could be in such crass films. Well, The Many Faces of Christopher Lee allows Lee to vent his distaste towards Hammer’s Dracula series.
A disdain similar to what Lee expresses when discussing Hammer’s treatment of “Bram Stoker’s words” can often be felt (unintentionally) projected towards the audience. “I don’t suppose that you have any idea about the identity of this lady”, Lee says pointing to an old photograph. While I think Lee is a modest man, there is a pompousness in his voice that can’t help but slip through. Best of all in the clip below is the dramatic reveal as to the identity of the lady.
Some of Lee’s stories are headscratchingly weird and often their point is unclear. Lee talks about his appearance on Saturday Night Live in one of the documentary’s odder sections. His description of SNL as America’s most important show is strange enough, but its the concluding “immodest” tale of Belushi’s claims that Lee is “the best in the biz” that cracked me up.
Lee really loves playing with props. At one point he even pulls out Fu Manchu’s moustache.
Best of all are the acting lessons. First there is his absolutely mind-blowing sword demonstration. To see Lee waving a rapier around and essentially demonstrating how to kill a man is a wild sight. Better still is his awesome claim to have been in more onscreen sword fights than anyone (a claim he repeated behind the scenes of Attack of the Clones).
If that’s not enough for you, he also shows how to properly cock a gun.
The Many Faces of Christopher Lee is absurd. I’ve watched it a few times, by myself and with friends, and it never fails to induce hilarity. Yet, I don’t feel as if I’m laughing at Christopher Lee. In fact, the documentary leaves me feeling even more respect for the great man. I love that Christopher Lee is excited to share the lessons he’s learned in life and the joy he has found in acting. And I’m really glad he goes about it in such an amazingly exaggerated and earnest way. As Mondo Exploito’s Matthew Revert described it, Lee comes across like some lost character from The Fast Show. Perhaps The Many Faces of Christopher Lee is simply just another great performance for Sir Christopher Lee to add to his already epic résumé.
For those interested in Christopher Lee’s achievements in the world of symphonic metal, I’d highly recommend checking out his album Charlemagne: By the Sword and the Cross. Yes, an entire album of symphonic metal from Christopher Lee! Better still, it doubles as a history lesson!
Check out the video below for samples of the madness within!