Turner Classic Movies is interrupting it's regular schedule on Monday, June 22, for a special marathon tribute to Christopher Lee. With almost 300 film and television credits going back to the 1940s, it's impossible to piece together an all-encompassing retrospective of Lee's career. Believe it or not, there's an entire generation of fans that only know him from the STAR WARS and LORD OF THE RINGS movies.
Still, TCM did a pretty good job of capturing the highlights of Lee's middle years. Hammer is well represented here, as is his transition into mainstream American movies with his turn as "Rochefort" in THE THREE MUSKETEERS and THE FOUR MUSKETEERS. The three DRACULA movies included in the marathon are possibly the best of the bunch that starred Lee, but the real gem here is HORROR EXPRESS. It's easily the best movie ever about a homicidal psychic caveman alien monster.
The new schedule for Monday, June 22 will be:
THE MUMMY (1959)
The TCM summary: "A resurrected mummy stalks the archaeologists who defiled his tomb."
Why you should watch it: "Lee, placed at what some would regard as a disadvantage, draws from his early training as a mime artist to evoke pathos in his role as the monster; with torment and anguish peering out from his bandaged visage." — Diabolique Magazine
THE CURSE OF FRANKENSTEIN (1957)
The TCM summary: "A scientist's attempts to create life unleash a bloodthirsty monster."
Why you should watch it: "When I went along to the cinema as a teenager with groups of friends, if we saw the logo of Hammer Films we knew it would be a very special picture. I'll never forget going to a midnight screening at the New York Paramount of THE CURSE OF FRANKENSTEIN in 1957, the day before it opened. The audience loved it, and there was a graphic quality to it that was totally uncalled for and was extremely endearing to us at about the age of fifteen." — Martin Scorsese, SCORSESE ON SCORSESE
HORROR OF DRACULA (1958)
The TCM summary: "The legendary count tries to turn his enemies' women into his bloodthirsty brides."
Why you should watch it: "Without being overtly Freudian, the film is certainly more obviously aware of the sexual undertones in Dracula’s attacks on helpless women, who seem to enjoy being ravished by the rapacious vampire. His approach to his female victims, who now consciously await his caresses (rather than sinking into a hypnotic stupor), emphasizes the erotic as never before. The fact that Dracula is less subtly seductive and more physically overpowering in these non-verbal attacks (we never see him talk to the women whose bedrooms he invades) lends an almost sado-masochistic air to his nighttime predations." — Cinefantastique Online
DRACULA, PRINCE OF DARKNESS (1966)
The TCM summary: "Four travelers unwittingly revive the bloodsucking count."
Why you should watch it: "While it lacks the classic narrative structure and stunning art direction of Horror of Dracula, Lee's second vampire film conveys a genuine sense of unease that erupts into pure horror at the first appearance of the count; he descends on his victim hissing with teeth bared like some kind of wild, ravenous animal. His predatory behavior carries an overt sexual threat here and his presence is made all the more disturbing by the fact that he never speaks one word of dialogue the entire film." — Jeff Stafford, TCM
DRACULA HAS RISEN FROM THE GRAVE (1969)
The TCM summary: "Dracula goes after the niece of the monsignor who destroyed his castle."
Why you should watch it: "Dracula Has Risen from the Grave stands out from other vampire films because the role of religion—no, make that the role of faith—is made central to the proceedings." — DVD Verdict
HORROR EXPRESS (1972)
The TCM summary: "An anthropologist discovers a frozen monster which he believes may be the Missing Link."
Why you should watch it: "The finished result is an atmospheric, original and very entertaining film, and one of Spanish horror cinema’s best works. Ironically enough, it’s also the kind of film that British studios were finding it increasingly difficult to produce." — Electric Sheep Magazine
THE THREE MUSKETEERS (1973)
The TCM summary: "A country boy joins the famed musketeers and fights to protect the queen's name."
Why you should watch it: "It's rewarding to see Charlton Heston back in period costume, effortlessly menacing as a behind-the-scenes villain, though still a fleshed-out character, Cardinal Richelieu. Note how aged he appears to be, knowing that this is inbetween his 'action man' roles of The Omega Man and Earthquake. His brief sparrings with Christopher Lee are electric. An important role for Lee, as he tried hard to escape his Dracula typecasting, demonstrating he can act with the best of them, swordfight like a pro, and effortlessly play a drole, romantic baddie with Faye Dunaway as his lover." — Black Hole Reviews
THE FOUR MUSKETEERS (1975)
The TCM summary: "To maintain control of the French monarchy, Cardinal Richelieu kidnaps D'Artagnan's true love."
Why you should watch it: "The same mixture of teenybopper naughtiness, acne spiciness, contrived tastelessness and derring don’t as found in the earlier film are laid on with the same deft trowel herein." — Variety