If you have a minute, just take a gander at his IMDB.com profile. Even a casual glance might have you doing a double take. Born in 1922, Lee boasts his first professional gig at age 24 (two episodes in a program titled Kaleidoscope) … and then continued building his portfolio for the next seven decades! That in and of itself is amazing; couple with that reality how many thousands upon thousands upon thousands of other actors and viewers the man inspired, and methinks you’d be suitably gobsmacked.
Like the majority of us, I never met the man, but I’ve always had cause to know his work.
Back in my youth – during that formative period known as junior high school of the late 1970’s – I can remember the entire student body being called to the gymnasium for a Halloween event. We had no idea of what we were getting into, but the principal opened the whole affair by saying that we would be treated to one of the scariest films ever made. Of course, some of us immediately started speculating about what we’d see when the lights dimmed, and shades of every fright imaginable brought titters of delight to the minds of so many twelve- and thirteen-year-olds.
Though I can’t be absolutely certain, my research leads me to believe that we were shown Hammer’s Dracula: Prince of Darkness. It’s hard to tell because – as I said – it’s been more than a few years, and the mind’s a fickle thing. I remember some delirious flashes of blood on the screen, but what I remember best is Lee’s menacing, brooding silence in the moments leading up to his next cinematic attack.
Lo and behold, just last night I was working my way through my first season Blu ray DVDs of Space:1999. It wasn’t twenty-four hours ago that I enjoyed the master thespian playing the staunchly reserved Captain Zandor in an hour titled “Earthbound.” Lee brought great poise and patience to the delivery of even what others would’ve found a throwaway line, and I think that’s probably something that will be appreciated when those who tally just what his measure of a man has been.
The lights have finally dimmed for Saruman, and perhaps the least-understood Sith better known as Darth Tyranus has found a semblance of peace or whatever functions as such in an evil tyrant’s afterlife. That fabled Transylvanian count who fed on the blood of the living has closed his eyes one last time. Few have ever approached Christopher Lee’s theatrical greatness, but now perhaps even more will be drawn to its deserved study.