Every Age Embraces the Vampire it Needs: RIP Christopher Lee

Sad news about the passing of Sir Christopher Lee. I had some lively discussions with Sir Chris Frayling at the BFI’s Gothic season about his portrayal of Dracula I remember. I took my PhD students Matt, Kaja and Jillian to an afterdark screening of the newly restored 1958 Dracula in the grounds of the British Museum where we were treated to glimpses of the iconic Dracula cloak as seen in the Hammer Horror films. Seems he parted with his cloak whereas Lugosi was buried in his! I always liked Lee’s macabre yet mesmerising Dracula. Looking back he was truly extraordinary as the Count. Stacey Abbott discusses the significance of the casting of Lee as Dracula in Open Graves, Open Minds, pp. 109-110. He was not portrayed as racially of culturally Other in the manner of Max Schrek or Bela Lugosi. Auerbach famously said that ‘every age embraces the vampire it needs’- I would argue every age gets the vampire it deserves.  I guess we want our vampires to be sympathetic others which is why as Depp observed they tend to look more like underwear models than hundred year old dead people now. Lee is a nostalgic reminder of how things were. He scared me out of my wits and I loved him for it.

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Some worthwhile articles and obituaries:

Firstly,  friend and contributor to the original OGOM conference and star of MMU Gothic Studies Centre, Xavier Aldana Reyes, lamenting the loss of his favourite Count . Jonathon Rigby is also worth reading on the Ten best Christopher Lee Movies. A nicely phrased tribute in The Telegraph (extract below)

The thing about Sir Christopher Lee being dead is that it doesn’t immediately strike you as being much of a career setback. For as long as he was an actor (which was a very long time indeed; his first film role was a one-line part in Terence Young’s baroquely strange romance Corridor of Mirrors, in 1948), his characters have often exuded – not immortality, exactly, but a kind of ennobled deathlessness. You always sensed they’d been around for longer than was perhaps entirely natural, and would more than likely outlast you.

BBC Looks Back at the Life of Christopher Lee

Jonathan Rigby’s obituary in Sight and Sound  (the best press one so far)

About Lucy Northenra

Senior Lecturer in Literature, University of Hertfordshire

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