Villains are a necessary part of telling a compelling story. Without a villain, a hero has no one to measure the best of themselves against, and no one to push them to the absolute limit of what they think is possible in order to win the day. The elements that make a villain memorable — especially in the history of stories on celluloid — can often come down to a multitude of factors, and Sir Christopher Lee seemed to have them all in spades.
It was recently revealed that the legendary actor passed away late last weekend at the age of 93. While this is undoubtedly sad news, and while we extend our condolences to Lee’s family and friends, the legendary actor leaves behind a lasting legacy that will live on for decades to come as perhaps one of the greatest cinematic villains ever to grace the silver screen. Lee’s performances as Dracula in the hard-hitting Hammer Horror films between 1958 and 1973 singlehandedly revitalized a character that had lost much of his fear factor, making Bram Stoker’s iconic Count a potent figure of cinematic villainy once more.
Lee — who was the nephew of original James Bond author Ian Fleming — also provided perhaps the most memorable villainous role during the entire era of Roger Moore’s films with the British super-spy when he played Francisco Scaramanga, the eponymous character in The Man With the Golden Gun. Later generations would also come to know him as Saruman the White, the legendary wizard fated to be corrupted by the evil Sauron in both The Lord of the Rings trilogy and The Hobbit trilogy, further cementing his status as a legendary cinematic villain. He would then also take a role in another trilogy of the early 2000’s by playing future Emperor Palpatine’s accomplice, corrupted Jedi Knight Count Dooku, in the Star Wars prequel trilogy.
Beyond his talents as an actor, Lee also put his iconic and booming baritone voice to work in music. While having contributed to the likes of melody and opera, Lee’s most pronounced musical turn was the late actor’s contact with, and participation in “heavy metal.” He would provide his voice to narrate an albums featuring the band Rhapsody, before eventually releasing his own music in the genre with the album Charlemagne: By the Sword and the Cross. That offering was released in 2010, when the actor was in his late 80’s.
The world of film, of music, and of storytelling in general, have lost a multi-talented and universally interesting member of its community, but its very difficult to think of another life that was so well-lived, and that accomplished so much in so many different places. While we’re sad that his time on Earth had to run out, we also celebrate the life, career, and accomplishments of Sir Christopher Lee, who will certainly never be forgotten as we remember him today.
With a career of over 200 films spanning from 1948 until 2015, history demands that a man like Lee join the ages of timeless performers, and that’s likely exactly how he’ll be regarded for decades to come. Few are as deserving as the man who made us afraid of vampires again.
Sir Christopher Frank Carandini Lee, CBE, CStJ
1922 – 2015
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