Sir Christopher Lee just turned 88 years old on Thursday. Lee isn’t just a splendid actor, he’s also a very special icon to kids who grew up with “Chiller Theater” and horror movies on the late show. Younger moviegoers probably know him best from Peter Jackson’s Lord Of The Rings trilogy and George Lucas’ recent Star Wars prequels. No matter what kind of roles Lee has played over his long, illustrious career, from Sherlock Holmes to Saruman the White to Scaramanga (The man with the golden gun, in the 007 flick of the same name), for many move freaks all over the globe, he will always be Count Dracula.
Of course, Lee wasn’t the first screen Dracula, and there have been many since, but for my money, he was the best. Watching him in his first appearance as the Count, in 1958’s The Horror of Dracula, I’m still scared. Another terrific British actor, Peter Cushing, played Van Helsing versus Lee’s Dracula and starting in the late ’50s they created one of the all-time great screen pairings.
Looking back at his impressive body of work, it’s clear what a great screen presence he is: erudite, charming and radiating intelligence and sexuality–even when he’s playing the Mummy. Here’s a snippet of Lee in one of his greatest non-vampiric roles, as Lord Summerisle in the 1973 cult classic The Wicker Man.
Happy Birthday, Sir Christopher–-here’s hoping you’re around for a few more… C’mon, you didn’t think I wouldn’t give you a little taste of Dracula, didja?