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I was planning to write about my holiday to Romania today, but then I woke up after a much needed lie-in to the news that Christopher Lee had died, and the truth is it would probably never have occurred to me to want to go to Romania at all if it hadn't been for him. So I will write about him instead.

I've long known that I first saw him in Hammer's Dracula (1958) when I was eight years old, and thanks to the Radio Times online archive I've recently been able to pin that down a little more precisely. On 28th December 1984, BBC Two broadcast a late night double-bill of The Curse of Frankenstein and Dracula. My Dad recorded it on our at that time very new and exciting home video recorder, and soon afterwards (I don't know exactly how soon, but within a few days or weeks, I think) decided that these X-rated films would be suitable viewing for his eight-year-old daughter.

He knew what he was doing. Dracula in particular struck a chord with me which has resonated ever since. Within a year, I had bought and devoured the novel. Within two, I had moved outwards into the wider world of vampire fiction. Within three I had bought my personal horror bible, and was busy working my way through its Vampire chapter with a particular focus on Hammer's other Dracula movies. I have carried on in much the same vein ever since - and it was absolutely definitively Lee's performance as Dracula which started it all.

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If it hadn't been for him, I wouldn't have spent my teens steeping myself in Gothic fiction and horror movies. As a result, I would probably never have felt inclined to drift into the Gothic sub-culture in my Bristol days, or have made all the friends I did then and later as a result. I could never have watched The Wicker Man when I got to Oxford, might never have felt the same resonances in the city's May Day celebrations, and would never have had the Wicker Man holiday which thanatos_kalos and I enjoyed two years ago in Scotland. Indeed, I would never have watched any of the awesome movies on this list - or any of the rubbishy second-rate ones, either, which I have hunted down and sat through (often accompanied by the ever-patient ms_siobhan) just because he was in them. Nor would I recently have bothered reading all about the real life Vlad III Dracula. My parents going to Romania in 1987 would have meant nothing particular to me, and nor would I have joined the Dracula Society and gone on the holiday there with them which I have just got back from.

While we were in Romania, Christopher Lee had his 93rd, and sadly we now know his last, birthday. We happened to be in Sighișoara, where the real life Vlad III Dracula was (probably) born, so I marked the day by nipping out of our hotel early in the morning, crossing the town square and tweeting this selfie from outside the house where he grew up.


Little did I know that the man who had sparked off my interest in Dracula in the first place was already in hospital. Little did I know how few days he had left.

I won't try to claim that I have always considered Christopher Lee to be the perfect human being. I've said plenty of uncomplimentary things about him in the past on this journal. There's no need to repeat them today. But he brought such wonderful stories so powerfully to life - not indeed just by acting in them with such presence and professionalism, but by doing it to such an inspiring degree that already by the mid-1960s people were writing roles and producing stories so that he could inhabit them and bring that magic to them. There is no question that the whole world of fantastic drama and fiction has been immeasurably stronger for his contribution to it. So I am truly, truly grateful for the wondrous worlds those prodigious acting talents have transported me to, and for the real-world doors and pathways they have opened up to me as a result. And though I never met him, and now never will, it felt good to share the same planet with him for the past 38 years. I am very sorry now that that time is over.

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Comments

( 9 comments — Leave a comment )
danieldwilliam
Jun. 11th, 2015 09:38 pm (UTC)

That is a lovely obituary.

strange_complex
Jun. 11th, 2015 09:48 pm (UTC)
Thanks. I mean, obviously I would prefer not to have had to write it. :-( But thanks anyway.
ms_siobhan
Jun. 11th, 2015 10:07 pm (UTC)
We shall raise a glass of blood tonic to him at the weekend.
strange_complex
Jun. 12th, 2015 12:31 pm (UTC)
We certainly shall!
thanatos_kalos
Jun. 11th, 2015 10:33 pm (UTC)
::hugs:: What a lovely obit. :)

I think a rewatch of The Wicker Man is in order-- we should coordinate & livetweet as a tribute to him.
strange_complex
Jun. 12th, 2015 12:33 pm (UTC)
That would be fab - though I guess slightly tricky to arrange given time differences. A day on which we're both not working, so have more flexibility, would probably be best, although I'm already busy most of this coming weekend. Any ideas??
thanatos_kalos
Jun. 13th, 2015 12:11 am (UTC)
I'm free basically whenever, so we can arrange around your schedule. I'm 8 hours behind you but tend to sleep at weird hours anyway.
huskyteer
Jun. 15th, 2015 10:47 am (UTC)
That is a lovely tribute.
jurious
Jun. 17th, 2015 12:42 pm (UTC)
Really lovely tribute. Thanks for sharing your memories.
( 9 comments — Leave a comment )

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