“It was a case of inventing a being who was neither oneself nor anybody else, but a composite piece of other people, mostly dead.”
— Christopher Lee, from his autobiography, Tall, Dark and Gruesome (1977)
2007 is the 50th Anniversary year of the release, on May 2, of The Curse of Frankenstein, the film that put Hammer Films of England on the map and rebooted the Frankenstein movie saga.
Christopher Lee played a gangling, spastic Creature, as if every part of him had a mind of its own. The makeup was a mess, but it worked. I saw the film in a second-run house in 1960. When the camera rolled up and Lee ripped the bandages from his face, everyone in the theater jumped a foot out of their seats, the combined effect of the sudden sight of Lee’s leering mashed-potato face and an entire row of teenage girls SHRIEKING on cue. The rest of the movie was watched from one’s seat edge, everyone in the house pumping adrenaline until the final scene unspooled.
It was one of those unique, memorable, communal film experiences. I never experienced anything like it again, with the sole exception of Alien, in 1979, which had everyone in a packed theater on opening night crawling out of their skins.
By the end of 1957, with The Curse of Frankenstein a stunning, worldwide box-office hit, Christopher Lee, his friend Peter Cushing, and director Terence Fisher reunited at Bray Studios on November 11 and began work on Dracula (aka The Horror of Dracula).
50 years on, Christopher Lee is still busy, and we’re all grateful for it. We’ll see him next in The Golden Compass, come December.