BRISTOL, Conn. (AP) – For Cortlandt Hull the recent death of Sir Christopher Lee at 93 held particular significance.
Hull knew Lee and interviewed him in 1999 for a DVD Hull was making at the time for The Witch’s Dungeon Classic Movie Museum.
Hull met Lee through their mutual friend, the legendary horror movie star Vincent Price. Along with Lee and the late-Verne Langdon, a makeup artist, Hull is one of only three people in the world to possess a white gold “Dracula” ring, molded using the original worn by Bela Lugosi.
“Christopher Lee said he wore the ring in honor of Bela Lugosi,” said Hull. “When I interviewed him, I showed him my ring, which I was given for my work with the magazine Famous Monsters of Filmland, and he put it on his pinky finger. It was a really relaxed interview, and he found himself laughing with me several times. He really couldn’t have been a nicer, more cordial person.”
To honor Lee, Hull will host a tribute July 17 and 18.
Lee, who was also a World War II veteran, was pronounced dead June 7 at Westminster Hospital in London, where he was being treated for heart and respiratory problems. However, the news was not announced until Thursday morning in keeping with his wife’s wishes.
“It was something his fans expected to happen, but didn’t want to think about,” said Hull. “He was totally unique and versatile and represented the last great actor from an era of great style and imagination.”
Hull will host his tribute to Lee and his life’s work at 7 p.m. July 17 and 1 and 7 p.m. July 18 as part of his ongoing Hollywood at the Bijou film series. The event will include a double feature screening of two of Lee’s Hammer Horror films, The Horror of Dracula and The Devil’s Bride, as well Hull’s interview with Lee.
The 6-foot-5-inch English-man was prolific and acted in more than 280 films. His regal demeanor, along with his deep, baritone and talent as a character actor produced memorable performances for multiple generations of fans. However, Lee got his start in the late 1950s, acting alongside his late friend, Peter Cushing, portraying the Frankenstein monster, Count Dracula and the mummy Kharis in the British Hammer Horror films. These films re-imagined the monsters of the classic Universal films and brought them into the age of color, blood and sexuality.
“Growing up, this is how I knew of him,” said Hull. “However, Christopher Lee didn’t like to talk to many people about his horror films. He spoke to me because he said Vincent spoke highly of me. He told me that he would have enjoyed Dracula much more if he were closer to the character in the book instead of working him into completely concocted stories. Still, to me, Christopher Lee and Bela Lugosi are both the definitive Dracula – but for different reasons. Christopher Lee’s Dracula was the first to bare his fangs and the first to become almost animalistic when he feels the lust for blood. That’s why he was so great as a character actor; he always put his particular stamp on a film. Even if the film’s story was bad, I was always entertained by Christopher Lee’s presence, even if it was a minimal role.”
Hull said he has always wanted to include a sculpture of Christopher Lee’s “Dracula” in The Witch’s Dungeon, and had permission from the actor to do so.
“It has just been tough to locate a good life cast to work from,” he said. “He is a difficult person to capture.”
After his horror films, Lee would later go on to play such roles as Lord Summerisle in The Wicker Man and James Bond’s nemesis Scaramanga in The Man With the Golden Gun. Lee was not only a cousin of Bond creator Ian Fleming, but also served with him in the Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare during the second World War – a group whose missions remain classified to this day.
Later in life, the actor saw a resurgence of popularity among younger moviegoers with roles in Tim Burton films like Sleepy Hollow, his portrayal of the Sith Lord Count Dooku in the Star Wars prequels and the White Wizard Saruman in Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit trilogies.
“Christopher Lee left a rich legacy of films, radio, recordings and television,” said Hull. “He kept going until the very end, and I’m so glad he did, because it allowed so many people to enjoy his work.”
By BRIAN JOHNSON, The Bristol Press
Information from: The Bristol Press, http://www.bristolpress.com
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