Jun 11, 2015

Christopher Lee (1922 - 2015)

(This is a deep post in a literal sense, so don't hesitate to scroll down:)

“To be a legend, you’ve either got to be dead or excessively old!” 

Anything the Green Eyes have to add to this? They usually do. So, just for starters, John's last name, Lee, is not a coincidence, as we'll learn early on in Part II ("This is heaven"):

(Chapter 3, John narrating): Let me get this in before the plot thickens: it’s a good thing that Alice (“Dr. Dyke”) heads an emergency room, since only people who’ve seen it all are able to sit as if nothing has happened next to a forty-five year old man—slight, Caucasian, symmetrical features except for the nose—who’s wearing a pair of Bavarian leather shorts with an image of an aroused Christopher Lee (the actor, fangs) emblazoned on the crotch part of said garment. (I’m a bit disingenuous here. These shorts, I’ve seen them before with the image of Richard Wagner in place of Christopher Lee. They are part of a Richard-Wagner-themed merchandize line, Godehart’s business; he’s from Germany and family of the composer, somehow).

Godehart has noticed my glance, points with one index finger in the direction of his adult parts, and asks “Family?”

Somehow I don’t get it.
Lee,” he says, “Lee, isn’t that your aftername?”
“Dunno,” I say (I’m slow-witted under duress).
“Last name,” Alice says.
“You don’t have to prove it,” Godehart says. “Why don’t you say ‘yes’? It’s so much easier. Say so. Or?”
“He does resemble Christopher Lee a bit, doesn’t he,” Alice says.
“Everybody resembles Christopher Lee a bit,” Alex says.
“How do you know?” I ask, “with your amnesia?”
“Everybody resembles everybody a bit.” Alex replies. This is a bit Bud-Light, this logic, especially coming from a former student of computer science, but it’s enough to make Alice laugh and touch his bare triceps.

(Chapter 7 (the boys are about to usurp the festival website)): “Wait,” Alex says, “how about the jury.” Right. We forgot the jury. Professor Bienpensant will be on the it, by default, plus the mayor, we assume. Let’s think about this absurd guy from the Urban Dictionary, he’s here for the festival (why?). He likes neologisms and Godehart is sure to come up with a few, despite his best efforts. Anything else. “You,” Alex says.

“Yes, you, John Lee.” You descend from a long line of vampires, beginning with Christopher Lee, the actor, and meandering through the family of Robert E. Lee, the famous general who almost won the civil war, or Sophus Lie, the Norwegian mathematician, or Spike Lee, the director of “Driving Miss Daisy,” or Ang Lee, the director of “Brokeback Mountain.” You.
“I’ll be selling Godehart’s leather shorts,” I say, “there would be a conflict of interests.” Wear some disguise when selling the shorts, they say. Or ask Alex to sell them, he could take over from you. You. John Lee, aka Wile E. Lee. No, wait. What’s your middle name? Not sure I have a middle name. What’s the name of your father? John, also. Cool. John Lee jr.. Sweet. How about your grandfather? John, also, at least one of the candidates, my mother is somehow related to Jack Kerouac. Perfect. John Lee III, you should wear a tie. We’re in absurd territory anyhow, one more paragraph, red button, liftoff. It’s 4:54 PM. 

(Chapter 8 (John and Professor Bienpensant have already met, and John is now being "introduced" to her sister (whom he knows already)):
...what happened to sexuality? People are not gay anymore, Alex is just playing nice until another angel needs his love, like Juliette Bienpensant, the morning vamp without piercings, who wears less mascara now as she ambles all the way across the Surfside Field to ask more questions about ice cream and virginity. Or Professor Barbette Bienpensant, the renowned metaphysicist and festival jury member, who accompanies her much younger sister, pushing forty already, Barbette, but still hot enough to need Alex’s humongous dick between her shapely thighs.
“Hi,” Juliette says to me.
“You know each other?” the professor asks.
“Yes,” Juliette says, “although I don’t know his name. We met on the beach. On the boardwalk.”
“This is John, stupid,” Barbette says to her sister.
“How do you know?”
“He’s a Lee, stupid. He is a born Nosferatu.”
“Show me your fangs,” Juliette says to me.
“That’s so yesterday,” I say (timing a bit off).
“I need fags,” Barbette says.

Need to know more? The GREEN EYES are out now, as a Kindle Book on Amazon ("click":)

Night Owl Reviews

Are you still there? Here's the obituary Lee-post from Coulthart's feuilleton, including a brief essay by Lee on his Dracula experience

(click for a larger image)

Coulthart: Impossible, not to say foolish, to attempt a brief summary of Christopher Lee’s incredible life and career. Rather than compete with the obituaries, here’s something you won’t find elsewhere, a short piece by Lee himself about his relationship to the role that made him famous. This is taken from The Dracula Scrapbook, a collection of Dracula and vampire-related cuttings assembled by Peter Haining for New English Library in 1976. The Lee piece was originally written for Midi Minuit Fantastique, Éric Losfeld’s film magazine which, we’re told, ceased publication in 1971. Haining dates Lee’s article as 1973 so I’ve left it undated, although it does seem to have been written around the time he was making (or had made) Dracula AD 1972. To compound the confusion, the poster above is for that very film but titled Dracula 73. Lee preferred Jesús Franco’s Count Dracula (1970) to the two final Hammer Draculas but the latter have their enthusiasts.

DRACULA AND I---by Christopher Lee

I should certainly he pleased to play the part of Dracula again on the screen (surely it is the immortal role par excellence?), although I have many times refused to accept it. Nowadays I think the public identifies me with this part, and if I have sometimes refused it, it was for fear that, like the unfortunate Bela Lugosi, I should spend the rest of my life unable to play anything else. However I would willingly play it again, always provided that the production and scenario of this great subject satisfied me to the full. In any case, I have no intention of playing it to gain some sort of cheap publicity or for the financial benefit of a group of individuals incapable of appreciating or understanding the great power and the classical style of this great subject.

The part is one which needs to be played with respect and dignity, although one must always consider the commercial angle, which nowadays cannot be ignored.

I wrote recently that a true actor ought to be able to play a great diversity of parts. I think I have proved this as far as I am concerned, and that consequently there is no danger for me of being ‘typed’. But I am first and foremost an actor and must earn my living, and if the occasion arises again I shall he delighted to play the part of Dracula again under conditions which satisfy me.

Above all I should wish my interpretation to be more faithful to the novel of Bram Stoker. It seems to me that in the film Horror of Dracula (which, by the way, was excellent and a great success) the scenario left in the shade some aspects of the novel which, if they had been retained, would have improved the film as a whole considerably. For example, the sequences with the wolves and the capital scene with Jonathan Harker and the mirror, not to mention the boat sailing for England. The omission of Renfield was also very regrettable.

I believe that these scenes were not shot for financial reasons; they would have made the film considerably longer and therefore called for a great increase in the production budget.

It may surprise you to know that I have not seen any of the other versions of Dracula. Most of them were produced when I was very young and my age did not allow me to go to see them. But I think this is an advantage in my case, for above all I should not like to be influenced in my approach to the part by those who preceded me, even by the great Bela Lugosi. It will always be a cause for great regret to me that I never met him, whereas I know Boris Karloff very well and have a great admiration for him.

My personal idea of the interpretation of Count Dracula was of course based on the novel which I have read over and over again, and within the framework of the scenario and the production I have tried to give my personal view of its interpretation.

Bram Stoker’s grand-daughter came to see me on the set during the shooting, and was kind enough to assure me that my interpretation was excellent, and that she was sure her grandfather would have appreciated it.

Of course there was a great difference between the scenario and the novel, but I have always tried to emphasise the solitude of Evil and particularly to make it clear that however terrible the actions of Count Dracula might be, he was possessed by an occult power which was completely beyond his control. It was the Devil, holding him in his power, who drove him to commit those horrible crimes, for he had taken possession of his body from time immemorial. Yet his soul, surviving inside its carnal wrapping, was immortal and could not he destroyed by any means. All this is to explain the great sadness which I have tried to put into my interpretation.

Another problem was involved in the interpretation, a problem of a sexual nature. Blood, the symbol of virility, and the sexual attraction attached to it, has always been closely linked in the universal theme of Vampirism. I had to try to suggest this without destroying the part by clumsy over-emphasis. Above all, I have never forgotten that Count Dracula was a gentleman, a member of the upper aristocracy, and in his early life a great soldier and leader of men.

Of course it was impossible, within the limits of the scenario, to show this, but it is still possible by one’s interpretation to suggest the facts of the past without actually showing them.

As I have already told you, I am quite in favour of the idea of playing the part of Count Dracula again, always provided that the period and the Gothic atmosphere of the novel are respected.

I believe it is perfectly possible for a production of a film on this subject to be made in a modern setting, but there is only one Dracula, and his period must not be changed under any circumstances.

I have not read the whole of Bram Stoker’s work; I have only read (apart from Dracula) The Lair of the White Worm and one of his shortest stories, The Squaw. The first could not be screened, but the second in a shortened form would make an extraordinary film. The Squaw is, moreover, one of the most terrifying stories that Bram Stoker ever wrote.

The part of Count Dracula was one of the great opportunities of my career, and earned me a worldwide reputation.

It is one of the greatest parts ever created, one of the most famous and fantastic…no actor can ask more. •

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