A hor­ror icon

Los Angeles Times - - CALENDAR - By Oliver Get­tell oliver.get­tell@la­times.com Twit­ter: @oget­tell

A look at a half-dozen mem­o­rable films from the late Bri­tish ac­tor Christo­pher Lee.

Christo­pher Lee, the courtly Bri­tish ac­tor who died at age 93 this week, was a pro­lific per­former who made more than 275 movies stretch­ing back to the 1940s. And while he played such di­verse char­ac­ters as Sher­lock Holmes, Ge­orges Seu­rat and Muham­mad Ali Jin­nah, Lee will for­ever be re­mem­bered as an ex­pert in evil. With his im­pos­ing 6-foot-4 frame and sonorous voice, Lee brought some of cinema’s most mem­o­rable vil­lains to life, im­bu­ing them with a unique com­bi­na­tion of men­ace and charm. Here are six to be­hold. The Crea­ture: “The Curse of Franken­stein,” 1957

Lee was an un­known char­ac­ter ac­tor when he played Franken­stein’s mon­ster for hor­ror pur­veyor Ham­mer Films. He didn’t have any lines, but evoked sur­pris­ing pathos via fa­cial ex­pres­sions and pan­tomime. An in­ter­na­tional hit, “Franken­stein” was the first of his many Ham­mer films. Count Drac­ula: “Hor­ror of Drac­ula,” 1958

A quar­ter-cen­tury af­ter Bela Lu­gosi brought Drac­ula to the screen, Lee took on the role of the no­to­ri­ous Tran­syl­va­nian blood­sucker. The char­ac­ter had taken on an aura of camp, but Lee helped re­store the count to his proper place as a darkly danger­ous sex sym­bol. Comte de Rochefort: “The Three Mus­ke­teers,” 1973

A skilled fencer, Lee guessed that he par­tic­i­pated in more sword fights than any other ac­tor in his­tory. Even ham­pered by an eye patch, he made for a swash­buck­ling an­tag­o­nist in “The Three Mus­ke­teers” and 1974’s “The Four Mus­ke­teers.” His Rochefort was so in­te­gral that he was res­ur­rected from what seemed like a sure death in the sec­ond film for 1989’s “The Re­turn of the Mus­ke­teers.” Scara­manga: “The Man With the Golden Gun,” 1974

Pic­ture a clas­sic James Bond vil­lain and what comes to mind? An is­land hide­out, prob­a­bly. Hench­men, cer­tainly. Di­a­bol­i­cal schemes, lasers, a cool name. Lee’s suave as­sas­sin Fran­cisco Scara­manga had all those and more in “Man With the Golden Gun,” which pit­ted him against Roger Moore’s Agent 007. If the film was a bit schlocky — Moore do­ing kung fu, any­one? — Lee, step­cousin of Bond cre­ator Ian Flem­ing, was not. Of all the Bond vil­lains, Scara­manga is one of the few who truly seemed like a threat to the su­per-spy (well, al­most).

Count Dooku: the “Star Wars” pre­quels

Lee once again dusted off his fenc­ing skills and won over a younger gen­er­a­tion of movie­go­ers as the re­fined but ruth­less Count Dooku — a.k.a. Darth Tyranus — in the “Star Wars” pre­quels “Attack of the Clones” (2002) and “Re­venge of the Sith” (2005). Even as a sep­tu­a­ge­nar­ian bad guy, Lee out­classed Ewan McGre­gor’s Obi-Wan Kenobi and Hay­den Chris­tensen’s Anakin Sky­walker in a two-on-one lightsaber duel. Saru­man: “The Lord of the Rings,” “Hob­bit” movies

A long­time J.R.R. Tolkien fan who once met the au­thor in a pub, Lee con­sid­ered play­ing the noble wiz­ard Gan­dalf ear­lier on in his ca­reer. By the time Peter Jack­son’s “Lord of the Rings” films came around in the 2000s, he had to set­tle for Gan­dalf ’s cor­rupted ri­val, Saru­man. Once again, Lee brought an omi­nous grav­i­tas to his role, while also pulling off flow­ing white robes, mane and beard.

Getty Images

Uni­ver­sal Pic­tures

IN “HOR­ROR of Drac­ula,” Christo­pher Lee turned count back into a danger­ous sex sym­bol.

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