Christopher Lee, 1922 – 2015

I find it hard to be upset about the death of Christopher Lee. For Vincent Price and Robert Bloch and Edward Gorey, I was distraught. But not for Christopher Lee. He was 93. He lived a long and creative life. It is hard to be upset about that.

Instead, I find myself reflecting on how surprising Lee was. The length of his filmography is surprising, as is its range. His love of bombastic, symphonic metal is surprising. His wink-and-nod comments as to his role in the SAS during World War II are surprising. Even his full name, which I just happened upon via Wikipedia is surprising: Sir Christopher Frank Carandini Lee.  I wonder if his close friends called him Frank. Can you imagine?

All of this puts a smile on my face, not a frown. So many roles, so many movies. Pick one to watch tonight. Celebrate Christopher Lee and his surprising life.

– Stu Horvath

One benefit to being a pop culture obsessive who’s getting older is the ability to appreciate movies from a different perspective as you re-watch them through the years. After watching Fellowship of the Ring back in 2001 that happened to me. I couldn’t shake that I’ve seen the actor playing Saruman in a million other things, like the many Hammer movies I watched with my dad as a kid. To IMDB I went, and what a discovery I made! This guy at the time was not only pushing 80 but had almost 200 acting credits. Not only that, but I saw many of those roles and just accepted him as “villainous (fill in the blank)”, since he was so amazing at becoming those characters. He was Dracula, Scaramanga, Saruman, Lord Summerisle and embodied so many other characters over many decades.

With this newfound knowledge I appreciated all of those movies from a new perspective, and I’m still making wonderful discoveries in his rich filmography to this day. Ultimately, Christopher Lee was a presence and an inspiration for how he lived his 93 years to their fullest. We can all be so lucky to be recording metal albums when we’re 91. Rest in Peace.

– Michael Edwards

While some might remember him as Saruman in Lord of the Rings or Count Dooku in the Star Wars prequels, I will forever know him for his stints as Dracula and as Francisco Scaramanga in my favorite Bond movie, The Man with the Golden Gun. It is sad to see such a great actor leave this mortal coil but at least he left, hopefully, knowing the impact he made on many of us. Here’s to an icon of horror and the original prince of darkness!

– Kenneth Lucas

Christopher Lee was one of those few people you presumed were going to be around forever, and had the sneaking suspicion that they had been around forever before you ever showed up on the scene. He may best be remembered for his iconic work in horror films, which includes being one of the few bright sparks of the Star Wars prequels. Yet what strikes me most about the man is here at the conclusion, we can look back on a long life that was well lived.

He had a keen mind and was fluent in more than a few languages. He was said to have fought the Nazis as part of the Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare. Devoted his time to numerous charities including UNICEF and Cinema for Peace. Christopher Lee produced a heavy metal album at an age most of us would quite rightly be wanting a bit of a rest. A consummate professional in all things, but not above having a good time. His career arguably culminating with the music video for She’ll Fall For Me.

His films and other work will persist far into the future. Writing this, what seems to hurt the most now is the loss of what I can only describe as the sheer humanity of the man. Yet if ever there was a shining example in how to navigate these turbulent waters, and come out the other side brimming with energy and enthusiasm, it was Christopher Lee.

May he rest in well-deserved peace.

– Corey Milne

If his pop culture impact had simply been lending some much-needed gravitas to some pretty uneven *Star Wars* films, it would have been enough. But in addition to Darth Tyranus, he was Dracula, Scaramanga, Saruman the White, the Jabberwocky, Willy Wonka’s father, Charlemagne, Lord Summerisle and Sherlock Holmes. He recorded multiple heavy metal albums as a nonagenarian. We should count ourselves lucky if we do half as much in twice the time.

– Don Becker

One of my most prized possessions is a Hammer coffee table book. Lee’s (often contemptuous) relationship with the sexy Victorian/Gothic style horror brand is simply legendary. Alongside Peter Cushing, he brought countless bloody affairs to life on the big screen. As he aged, he continued to be a part of subculture. Roles in the Tim Burton universe, Star Wars and Lord of the Rings solidified Lee as a legendary player in world I love so much. Let’s also not forget his most excellent love of heavy metal. His voice and his charisma will be sorely missed.

 – Erik Weinbrecht

My first two memories of Sir Christopher Lee are Horror of Dracula and Gremlins 2: The New Batch.

Sir Christopher’s portrayal of Dracula was the first time the Lord of the Undead frightened me. His eyes glared a malice neither Bela Lugosi or John Carradine could match. The fangs helped a lot too.

When I saw him as Doctor Catheter in Gremlins 2, I lost it. He played up the mad scientist trope brilliantly! He didn’t ham it up, he played it straight as an arrow. The thought of him carrying a human sized pea pod and running around a chaotic lab plagued by gremlins never ceases to make me laugh uncontrollably. Seriously. I’m laughing as I type this!

Every October, I find myself watching a lot of Christopher Lee movies in anticipation of Halloween and every year I would take comfort in knowing that he was still with us and still working. This year the chill in the October will cut just a bit deeper.

The world is a lesser place without Sir Christopher Lee. Thank you, sir.

– Ian Gonzales

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Editor’s Note – we asked horror writer John Langan to contribute to this obituary. He did, but he also gave it a rather nice formal title, so we’ve opted to run it as a separate story. Read it here.

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