Why Christopher Lee Rarely Spoke In His Dracula Movies
May 27, 2022 marked the 100th birthday of legendary English actor Sir Chritopher Lee. It's hard to put into words how incredible his life was, even if he's no longer with us.
Lee appeared in almost 250 films after serving in the British Royal Air Force as an intelligence officer during World War II. He's particularly well-known for his work in the horror films,. Early in his career, he used to worki at Hammer Film Productions, a low-budget, technicolor horror film company. Lee's intimidating stature necessitated that he always portrayed the monster in the movies, which put him at odds with Peter Cushing's heroes.
As Count Dracula, Lee has appeared in ten different Hammer pictures, seven of which were made by the studio. Newcomers may be taken aback by Lee's demeanor as the Count.
But Lee only appeared in a few scenes in Hammer Dracula movies. Lee has a few lines in his first scene with Jonathan Harker in the first, simply titled Dracula (1958) or Horror of Dracula depending on which side of the Atlantic you're from. When he's in a bad mood, he doesn't raise his voice at all. He remains completely mute for the remainder of the film after his true nature is revealed. Similarly, in his second appearance as Dracular in "Dracula: Prince of Darkness (1966) Lee doesn't say anything. ,
Lee explains that his absence of dialogue is due to a single factor:
"I read the script [for Prince of Darkness] and the lines were literally unsayable ... So I said, "I'm sorry, I'm not saying these lines, you'll get a terrific laugh,' which I'm quite convinced we would have done.'"
The fact that Lee remained silent made Dracula feel more like a monster. Despite Hammer's instructions, the actor said he would have been more verbose had Bram Stoker's text been more important. " [My lines] were not Bram Stoker. This was a great fight I used to have over the years with Hammer. I kept on saying, 'Why don't you use Stoker's words, Stoker's dialogue?' if you like. Oh no no no. So somebody used to write lines like, 'I am the apocalypse,' beyond belief."
In fact, Lee starred in a production of Count Dracula, in 1970 that was not based on Hammer's original novel by Bram Stoker. Also, some of Hammer's films made allusions to Stoker. However ,far from Stoker, Lee paraphrases Dracula A.D. 1972 (1972), in "Whilst they played their wits against me — against me who commanded nations."
His later distaste for Dracula has been extensively chronicled. According to Denis Meikle's A History of Horrors: The Rise and Fall of the House of Hammer (1996) Lee and the Count were replaced in "Taste the Blood of Dracula." A character named Lord Courtley, who would be changed into a vampire and assume the role of the main villain for the rest of the series, was originally intended to be played by Ralph Bates in the film. Due to contractual responsibilities, Lee had to return; instead of just becoming a vampire, Courtley changed into Dracula himself.
The question is, why did Lee continue to make these movies he didn't enjoy? That's the simple answer: He was doing it for the greater good. After rejecting all but the first two Draculas, he said in an interview, "I turned down all but the first two [Draculas], and here comes the crunch, 'think of the people you'll put out of work if you don't do it.' So what do I do, am I going to be responsible for putting 90-100 people out of work? Actors, actresses, directors, writers, producers, technicians, how could I? So I did them, and that is the only reason why. It certainly wasn't for money."
However, Lee's evaluation of his own work would be challenged by many of the filmmakers with whom he would collaborate in the 21st century. Dracula A.D. 1972.' I love that movie!" Tim Burton exclaimed in reference to the Hammer horror film of the same name. During his later years, Lee's collaboration with Hammer allowed him to experience a revival. In addition, Lee's performances as Dracula show that he could still fascinate, seduce, and scare even when his voice was taken away.