Goregirl’s TOP 10 Favourite Christopher Lee Horror Films
Christopher Lee has more than 260 film and television credits and 60 + of those are horror flicks. I did a little blurb on Lee May 2009, so if you want to learn a little more about one of horror’s greatest icons click here. Picking just 10 films was a more daunting task than I expected! Sure, the top 5 were obvious enough but depending on my mood they might be ranked differently than you see below. Some of the honorable mentions that almost made the list are Katarsis, Dr. Terror’s House of Horrors, Rasputin: The Mad Monk, Scream and Scream Again, Taste the Blood of Dracula, Eugenie, The Gorgon, and Scars of Dracula. The great Christopher Lee is still working at the age of 87 and continues to pull off memorable performances! Bow before thy master!
#10 THE HOUSE THAT DRIPPED BLOOD (1971)
Directed By: Peter Duffell
Anthologies can be a lot of fun but there is usually a rotten egg or two in the collection. Not in The House That Dripped Blood. I actually found all four stories enjoyable in varying degrees. It is one of numerous films in which Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing both appear. There are a few Lee/Cushing flicks on this list but in this one they do not star opposite each other instead each is featured in their own unique story. Lee’s story Sweets To The Sweet is excellent and Lee does a stand out job in the role of the father of a young girl who may not be as sweet as she seems. My favourite story however is The Cloak, a story about a veteran horror actor who buys a cloak from a curious old shop. It also features the always-entertaining Ingrid Pitt. All four stories are creative, fun, creepy, well paced and well filmed with great performances all around. The only negative is the connecting story is a bit weak, but otherwise, The House That Dripped Blood is gold!
#9 HORROR HOTEL (1960)
Directed By: John Llewellyn Moxey
Horror Hotel is a really nice looking atmospheric black and white film that isn’t without a few clichés but still manages to be hauntingly effective. Horror Hotel also has a simply fantastic happy-unhappy ending that stayed in my head for days after. Lee’s role is definitely supporting but is an important part of the story and as always the man leaves an impression. The sets, atmosphere and overall mood of the film are certainly spooky but the film is just a bit quirky as well. There are some genuinely weird moments that I found wonderfully appealing. Horror Hotel is a nice looking film with decent acting, a little bit of wackiness and some serious intensity and scares that is entertaining as hell. Plus, I love a Witch theme! I happen to think it is a seriously underutilized horror sub-genre.
#8 DRACULA HAS RISEN FROM THE GRAVE (1968)
Directed By: Freddie Francis
There is always an argument as to which Dracula film is Lee’s best. Dracula Has Risen From The Grave is one of two Christopher Lee Dracula flicks that made the list but I like every last one of them in varying degrees. Lee’s Dracula is cold as ice and his emotionless intensity is effectively terrifying. I love how director Freddie Francis filmed Lee to appear even taller than he already is. The film style, of course, is pure Hammer-gothic and the atmosphere, sets and costumes are top-notch as always. The beautiful Veronica Carlson is one of my favourite of the innocent charming virgins in the Dracula
series and Barbara Ewing also stands out as the naughty Zena. I shouldn’t leave out Barry Andrews who also does a very nice job of playing the films hero. As a matter of fact, I think of the Dracula series this one might be the best-acted overall. Dracula Has Risen From The Grave is a great classic tale and a highly entertaining film.
#7 TASTE OF FEAR (aka Scream Of Fear) (1961)
Directed By: Seth Holt
When my dad switched over to DVD I adopted his entire VHS Hammer collection and this was among the gems. A young, neurotic, wheelchair bound woman begins seeing her dads corpse walking around and her family believes she is going crazy. Not the most original plot but it is well rolled out. There are clues throughout the story and twists and turns leading up to an excellent although not terribly surprising ending. Lee is quite young in Taste Of Fear and only has a supporting role as Doctor Pierre Gerrard but contributes nicely. The cast is excellent particularly Susan Strasberg who plays Penny Appleby.
#6 THE WHIP AND THE BODY (1963)
Directed By: Mario Bava
Mario Bava’s ‘The Whip and The Body’ is immensely entertaining! It is a hypnotic and haunting vision that should be a treat for Bava’s fans, lovers of gothic Horror and Lee fans alike. Christopher Lee is cold as ice as her brutal lover. Although he appears both vicious and callous, his character at times comes off slightly romantic and tragic. The stunning Daliah Lavi plays it like a storm is brewing between her legs that she cannot control. Her orgasms are practically a character
themselves! Lee and Lavi both have a strong presence and give outstanding performances. There is breath-taking scenery, incredible atmosphere, awesome sets, a haunting and effective score and the aforementioned excellent performances. But more than anything else it is strikingly beautiful. I greatly admire Bava’s cinematography but not being a technically minded sort, you’ll have to forgive me for my layman language. Simply put, nothing looks quite like a Bava film! Shadows and colour are overwhelmingly present in all his films although this one may be slightly more muted than others it is nonetheless a
sensual kaleidoscope. The Whip And The Body is an enthralling visual experience and a gothic masterpiece!
#5 HORROR EXPRESS (1972)
Directed By: Eugenio Martín
Lee and Cushing appeared in several films together and horror express was one of the last and in my opinion, one of the best. Most of the emphasis is on the two icons that make the most of the well-written dialog. The Trans-Siberian express is an excellent setting and director Eugenio Martin makes outstanding use of it. Horror Express is fast-paced fun with a great story, thrill, chills and a little humor and to top it all off, an exciting, and satisfying finale.
#4 THE HOUND OF THE BASKERVILLES (1959)
Directed By: Terence Fisher
Peter Cushing owns The Hound Of The Baskervilles and is just brilliant as Sherlock Holmes but Christopher Lee who plays Sir Henry also puts in a most admirable performance and gets to play one of his rare good guy horror roles. Sherlock attempts to save Sir Henry from the curse of the Hound of the Baskervilles and wastes no time getting down to business. The pace is energetic and the atmosphere is top notch. In fact, this may be one of the most atmospheric of all the Hammer films. The film and story are completely mesmerizing and as mentioned the performances are awesome. Mystery, intrigue, horror, romance and a
classic pairing of two horror icons.
#3 DRACULA: PRINCE OF DARKNESS (1966)
Directed By: Terence Fisher
My favourite of Lee’s vampire roles is definitely Dracula: Prince Of Darkness. The film picks up ten years after the death of Dracula, and let me tell you, his resurrection is definitely one of the films highlights! Lee has no dialog but manages to captivate regardless. The cast are strong, particularly Suzan Farmer who has a great seduction scene with Lee. The film has a great gothic presentation and an amazing mood and atmosphere. The ending isn’t quite as exciting as some of the others in the series, but it does win points for originality. While there might be an argument as to which Lee vampire role is the best I don’t think anyone can deny that he makes one mighty fine, menacing vampire.
#2 THE WICKER MAN (1973)
Directed By: Robin Hardy
Love it or hate it, you must admit The Wicker Man is original! The steadily building sense of dread is impressive and the finale is unforgettable. Most of the film takes place in the daylight and the sets, costumes and general look of the film is superb. Lee of course is excellent as Lord Summerisle but I have to commend Edward Woodward who is awesome in the role of the uptight Sergeant Howie. Howie’s faith is challenged more than once while investigating the town of pagans. The dancing, singing and costume wearing all sounds a little jubilant for a horror film, but these elements really add a special twisted creepiness. The Wicker Man, without a doubt, is one of the most unique horror films out there. It is a surreal treat that is clever, funny and macabre.
#1 THE DEVIL RIDES OUT (1968)
Directed By: Terence Fisher
The Devil Rides Out is my earliest memories of Satan-themed theatrics in film. It was also the first time I seen Christopher Lee play a good guy. Lee gives an inspired performance as the Duc de Richleau. The entire cast are excellent, particularly Charles Gray who plays the evil Mocata with devilish gusto and Sarah Lawson who plays the strong and intelligent Marie Eaton with casual confidence. Terence Fisher directs The Devil Rides Out with plenty of style and thrills and its perfect pace keeps the action moving along beautifully. A great story, fabulous set pieces, amazing atmosphere and an outstanding cast are the ingredients that make The Devil Rides Out an enduring classic. (I contributed a guest review to Basement Screams for The Devil Rides Out, to read it click here).