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It’s always enjoyable when you go looking for one thing but find something much cooler. That’s what happened to me the other day when I stumbled over an old magazine/comic interview with one of my favourites: legendary actor Christopher Lee. When it comes to articles from these neat old horror magazines and comics, it’s not often you can find transcripts of them, let alone high quality scans of the pages themselves. But much to my delight, this article was available on the wonderful internet library site archive.org — a site that is dedicated to preserving and providing access to all types of digitized information.

I consider my blog to be a gathering place of information as well. A place where I too would like to preserve certain things that interest me, as well as have my say about them. And with Halloween fast approaching, I thought what better addition to my own personal Seeker of Truth library than Christopher Lee talking horror, Dracula and Boris Karloff?

Along with Peter Cushing and Vincent Price, Lee is in my top 3 list of favourite actors. He played Count Dracula seven times for Hammer Films, and I adored him in every last one of them. I think he’s the best screen Dracula that’s ever lived. And his role as the Duc de Richleau in my favourite Hammer film “The Devil Rides Out” is simply fantastic.

This interview with Lee appeared in Skywald Publications’ comic magazine “Nightmare”, issue #17, from February 1974.

Nightmare 17

I swear, I was born in the wrong decade, I really was. Oh, to be a horror fan in the 1970s! When they had creepy comics and magazine, toys and promotions. The fact that all these are a thing of the past just makes me even more determined to help preserve all the awesomeness that I wish I’d been a part of.

Here are the actual magazine pages if you’d prefer to read the interview in all its original glory. Click on an image and when the image carousel opens, scroll down and click “view full size” on the right. I’m also including the full transcript of the piece as well, which will make for easy referencing and research later on. If you’re a fan of Lee or horror films in general, this is a must-read. And don’t forget to scroll to the end of this post for a few more thoughts from me!

An Exclusive Interview With Christopher “Dracula” Lee

THIS INTERVIEW WITH CHRISTOPHER LEE WAS TAPED THE 21st OF JULY, 1973, IN MADRID, SPAIN.

LEE: … I think this is as good a time as any to tell your readers that, probably, as things stand at the moment, I have no intention of playing the character DRACULA again. I have become progressively disenchanted with the way in which the character is presented on the screen, and with the stories in which the character is somehow, I think, indifferently fitted in, in order to have a movie with DRACULA appearing in it. First write a story, then try and find a way to adjust the character into the story, and this isn’t good enough for me. I’m therefore making that decision, that I don’t intend to play the character again, because I think the films are becoming poorer in content and style and in story, and therefore I’m no longer prepared to take any part in any of them. If anybody ever comes up with Bram Stoker’s book in its entirety, as he wrote it, I would do that. But I think that would be very expensive, and I doubt if that would ever happen, but that is one I would do . . .

How did you begin your DRACULA career?

LEE: . . . Sheer chance . . . I’d already played the FRANKENSTEIN creature in THE CURSE OF FRANKENSTEIN for Hammer — you will notice I don’t use the word ‘horror’ . . . I never liked it — I presume that having seen what I could do, they decided I was also capable of playing the part of DRACULA, and it might not be a bad idea to have the same actor doing both parts. That is quite simply how it happened and how I became DRACULA – a part which has had a suitable effect on my career . . . but at the same time, which has also been very much of a mixed blessing to me. Because if one becomes too much associated with a certain character in the cinema, or television, or in the entertainment medium, people are inclined to think either that you can’t do anything else, that you don’t want to do anything else, or that you never do anything else. Of course, that is entirely untrue. I’ve done 123 films and I’ve played DRACULA 6 times. [He actually WOULD go on to play the Count for Hammer a seventh and final time in 1974’s “The Satanic Rites of Dracula”.] It seems the main interest in my work lies among the very young, which is a very hopeful thing from my point of view, for the future, because they will inevitably grow up and hopefully will maintain that interest. Many children come up to talk to me; all over the world children have seen some of these films, in countries where censorship doesn’t exist . . .

drac6

Are they ever frightened by you – do they ever confuse you with the DRACULA on-screen character?

LEE: . . . They may be a little awe-struck, but they’re never scared. In fact they’re very cheerful and I think they look on me as some sort of wicked uncle. They are certainly not frightened because children are very perceptive, and I think they realize that it is rather like a fairy story, and I think in some cases – the Grimm’s fairy stories and others – are far more gruesome and alarming and frightening than anything I’ve ever done on the screen. People of course can differentiate between reality and unreality, particularly children, and they know that DRACULA is not real . . .

I used to lock myself away in my dressing room and only appear on the set when people had more or less accustomed themselves to my appearance as Frankenstein . . . I was a very gruesome sight . . .

What’s the best film you’ve ever done – that is, the one you would want to be held as the best example of your work?

LEE: . . . Well again, what does one mean by the best? Obviously the one that had the most effect on my career was the first DRACULA in 1957, but I wouldn’t say by any stretch of the imagination this was the best film I’ve done. I can think of other Hammer films like SCREAM OF FEAR that are better pictures but that didn’t affect my career so much. I can think of THE TALE OF TWO CITIES done years ago, which was a good picture. I think what I’m doing now may have a tremendous effect on my career in-so-far as it may start me off in a completely new direction. THE THREE MUSKETEERS is romantic, exciting, full of adventure, thrills and humor and sword fights . . . I’ve 5 sword fights in this picture, each more violent and savage than the last . . . and believe me they are — we use real swords! I don’t know whether this is the best film I’ve ever made. I think probably the best I’ve been IN is THE PRIVATE LIFE OF SHERLOCK HOLMES, as directed by Billy Wilder. If you take that comment as signifying an all round excellence of script, direction, casting and production, I think it was the best picture I’ve done and been in. That should be closely followed by THE WICKED MAN [this is an error by the author of the interview. It should be the 1973 film “The WICKER Man”] which I completed last November. Probably one of the best performances I’ve ever given was as RASPUTIN in a Hammer film. If it had been made by another company as a serious picture, I think it might have helped me considerably, but it was made once again, in the sort of Hammer-horror-mold and as such didn’t really benefit me very much . . .

DRACULA films, of course, have their roots in the Bram Stoker DRACULA novel … in your performances, which to a degree are defined by your script, do you concentrate on Stoker’s concept, or on an entirely personal characterization?

LEE: . . . I entirely concentrate on Stoker’s conception of DRACULA, and always have done. I try to portray him physically, even though incorrectly from the point of view of my appearance — not as an old man with a white moustache growing younger, although you may know I did this in a Spanish film [“El Conde Dracula”, 1970] — I’ve always tried to portray the character that Stoker defined in his writing. The character of aloof majesty, ferocity of dignity, and of sombre mystery, or irresistibility that the women find marvellous and the men unstoppable. The character that veered from the tigerish to the still, in the physical sense. In the Hammer DRACULA films I have not been Stoker’s physical description of the character, but in his description of the characterization of the character, if I may put it in such an involved way as that, I think I’ve tried to be true — irrespective of the script and the story — all the way through in the 6 pictures that I’ve done, to the author’s conception of the character . . .

The other DRACULA, Bela Lugosi, toured the United States with theatrical stagings of DRACULA as a play. . . 

LEE: . . . No — I would not like to do that . . . it would only serve to identify me even more to the public with the character, which as I said has been a mixed blessing. I would never do a stage tour, because that would be doing it even more than on the screen – more performances. This would only shackle me more to the character which has confined me to a certain extent too much already . . .

Do you believe Bela Lugosi’s identification with DRACULA was ‘real’ or theatrical?

LEE: . . . I didn’t see Lugosi’s DRACULA until about a year ago. I was in London and it was shown as a midnight movie. It was probably just as well, I don’t ever wish to copy other actors. I’ve certainly borrowed from them – every actor in history has certainly done that – but I wouldn’t wish to portray a character the same way as another actor has . . . but . . . I don’t know about Bela Lugosi’s identification with DRACULA. I only know that his widow, Lillian Lugosi, told me — and Karloff also told me this — that he was in no way confused about his relationship to the character. I do believe it is true that he was buried in DRACULA’s cape . . . but apart from that, I don’t believe there’s a word of truth in this business about him living in a house with gravestones in the garden and thinking he was DRACULA. I’m quite sure that this is just something that somebody dreamed up which makes a good publicity story. He was a highly intelligent, articulate man, and I believe by all accounts an extremely charming person. I can well believe that . . .

You’ve played DRACULA, RASPUTIN, THE MUMMY, FRANKENSTEIN’S MONSTER, FU MANCHU and so many other classic characters . . . who is your favorite?

LEE: . . . The most effective of course was DRACULA. THE MUMMY was the most physically difficult, because of the enormous feats of strength that I had to do. FU MANCHU was very difficult because basically he’s very, very far from being fictitious. In the days of the Empire, when the Empress sat on the throne, and warlords and people like FU MANCHU did exist . . . they behaved exactly like my character behaved on the screen; they were all powerful, ruthless, inscrutable, intelligent – some of them spoke flawless English – and so the character is not entirely fictitious at all. It was a most uncomfortable character from the point of view of make-up, because the Chinese make-up required plastic eyelids, which makes it impossible to raise or lower your eyes, but force you to keep your head on a level, otherwise when you look down your own eyelids show, and when you look up only the whites of your eyes show . . . it was very awkward, technically. RASPUTIN, I think, was my best performance of an actual and real character of history. A strange character this – indeed one of the strangest characters of all history – a real enigma. I recently read a book about RASPUTIN in which the author, indeed to my satisfaction, shows that RASPUTIN was one of the most maligned men in all history. He was nothing like the evil charlatan, drunkard and rapist as he has been presented. There was a great deal of the Saint in him! It would be very interesting indeed to know what kind of man the real RASPUTIN was. WHO was the real RASPUTIN? I don’t suppose we’ll ever know . . .

Rasputin2

In “The Mummy”, someone thoughtfully locked and bolted the door I had to come through when I strangled Raymond Huntley, and so I smashed right through it and dislocated my shoulder.

Who’s your favorite horror star? What’s your favorite horror movie? and what’s your favorite horror story?

LEE: . . . That’s really difficult to answer . . . because you see, I haven’t SEEN all the great classics. I think the first FRANKENSTEIN, by BORIS KARLOFF — the James Whale FRANKENSTEIN . . . it was certainly the most imaginative film . . . and Karloff’s performance was quite brilliant – there are no other words for it – every time I see it I am amazed at what he did with so very little. I suppose the best horror film I’ve ever seen was ROSEMARY’S BABY – with its sense of atmosphere and subtlety. I think these are immensely important elements in this type of film. Favorite horror star? Well of course the greatest was unquestionably LON CHANEY. Then of course Boris! I hate to put people in order like that because each one is different, and everybody has their own way of doing things . . .

So many amusing stories come out from behind the scenes at movie sets that, really, are so completely entertaining to the public who never get to see behind the scenes . . . can you think of an anecdote or two . . . your favorite behind the scenes anecdote?

LEE: . . . There is an amusing interlude about all the 123 films that I have been in . . . but a few that I recall immediately to mind are in the first DRACULA and in THE MUMMY. In the first DRACULA I had to pick up a girl from the ground and throw her into a grave — and in the very first take I went in after her when I lost my balance. That is recorded on film somewhere and it gave a few laughs to the people who were watching . . . she was a stunt girl and not exactly a lightweight! In THE MUMMY someone thoughtfully locked and bolted the door I had to come through when I strangled RAYMOND HUNTLEY . . . and so I smashed right through it and dislocated my shoulder. Some of the window was made of real glass. Later I was carrying Yvonne Furneax down the road some 83 yards at night and I pulled every muscle in my neck and shoulders . . . which should perhaps indicate to some of your readers that filming isn’t quite so simple or luxurious as the public occasionally seems to think! There was quite an amusing incident on this film I’m in now, THE THREE MUSKETEERS. I had a fight scene at night with MICHAEL YORK and at certain moments we had to flash lanterns into each others faces. Of course, these lanterns had to be manipulated electrically, and at the end of the scene where we had finished with these lanterns the director said: “Well that’s alright, now disconnect the actors” . . .

PETER CUSHING seems to be a true gentleman. I don’t know how to describe this man as anything but an accomplished and exciting actor and a ‘true gentleman’ . . . what do you say about this man, with whom you’ve made so many horror films?

LEE: . . . He is really one of my dearest friends. He is brilliant and a devoted and disciplined actor. A man of complete integrity. A man of great skill, great personal charm and a very good human being . . .

PETER CUSHING AND CHRISTOPHER LEE FLESH AND BLOOD HAMMER HERITAGE OF HORROR 6

LON CHANEY SR. once had a ‘mentor’ conversation with young BORIS KARLOFF, a few years before Karloff became well known – before he did FRANKENSTEIN – Chaney told Karloff, in short, that a powerful and unique style was what was important in the making of a star. “Give ’em something no-one else can give them” he said.

LEE: . . . Boris never actually mentioned this to me but I’m sure its true. In those days when Chaney made pictures and Boris Karloff made his great pictures they were really pictures of great consequence. There was a really good reason to be in those pictures — they weren’t just cheap exploitation — which alas, they have become for the most part today. I still think that in this area I can probably give the public ‘something else’. Something that nobody else can give them. But I don’t want, as an actor, to go on giving the public something that nobody else can give them when that ‘something’ is not worthy of being shown on the screen; when the part is not worthy of being played; and the production is not worthy of appearing in. If I was able to go on making fantasy films, all of which were worth doing, with good production value and good stories — then I would be delighted to go on doing them. But unfortunately this isn’t happening . . . the material is getting worse. The only thing I can relate as far as Karloff is concerned, is that once, when we were discussing the effect of our performances on the audience, which took place during the year he died incidentally, he told me “always leave it to the audience”. Whatever you or I will do, or can do, on the screen, be quite sure that if we don’t do ‘it all’, the audience will imagine something far worse than you or I could possibly produce on the screen. Leave it to the audience . . . show an empty doorway 6 times and the 7th time there is somebody in it. And the 8th time you think there is going to be somebody in it and there isn’t, or the 8th time you DON’T think there is going to be somebody in it and there is . . .

HAMMER is often criticised because of all its bloody gore. The reason why film buffs say this is uncertain . . . whether it’s anti-aesthetic to be bloody, or whether it’s because of the WAY in which HAMMER is bloody, is uncertain. Do you have anything against profuse bloodiness, if it is well done?

LEE: . . . I object to too much blood, and I object to much violence. I think one of the reasons why these films of mine have been so successful all over the world, virtually to people of all ages, is that because basically they are fantasies, and are not real, and the violence in them, with very few exceptions, is violence which is highly unreal and for the most part impossible to copy in real life. You will always find the occasional, alas, unbalanced person who might try and copy something they’ve seen on the screen or in your comics, but to my mind pictures like CLOCKWORK ORANGE and STRAW DOGS and some of the James Bond films, are far more suggestive, and far more imbued with sexual sadism and violence which can be copied, and in some cases is! . . .

. . . you’ve said that, although you have no intention of turning your back on the fantasy film, you’ve become increasingly disenchanted with the material you’ve been given . . .

LEE: . . . I feel the material is losing style . . . it’s all too much just exploitation now — make it cheaply — get it in focus — shock ’em — frighten them — something I’ve never attempted to do! I’m not concerned with selling films, I’m concerned with making films. I’m not trying to frighten an audience half out [of] its wits, I’m trying to entertain it. I’m trying to enable the audience to escape from its mundane, gray, drab and sometimes extremely depressing world – into an enchanted, weird, mysterious world of fantasy . . . gore has its place I suppose but I don’t like it . . .

Rasputin was one of the most maligned men in all history . . . there was a great deal of the saint in him . . . who was the real Rasputin?

On this point, a few years ago LON CHANEY JR. said: “I used to enjoy horror films when there was thought and sympathy involved, then they became comedies . . . the cheap producers came along and made buffoons out of the monsters . . . because they killed for the sake of killing, there was blood for the sake of blood. There was no thought, no true expression of acting, no true expression of feeling. We used to make up our minds before we started that this is a little fantastic, but let’s take it seriously . . . today it’s made as a joke “

LEE: . . . He died last week. I never had the pleasure of meeting him. He is absolutely right of course. I shall quote this remark of his whenever I can, in the future, because it is so true. Thought and sympathy – how right he is. As I once said, I think I coined the phrase in fact: ‘THE LONELINESS OF EVIL’. One should never play these films with one’s tongue planted firmly in one’s cheek unless it is with a deliberate attempt to do horror comedy or parody, and this type of thing is even more difficult to do. It’s an absolute MUST to be totally serious in what you’re doing and you must make it believable. There I am in complete and total agreement with what Lon Chaney Jr. said . . . I couldn’t have expressed it better myself if I had tried for a very long time . . .

What kind of horror or fantasy material would you like to do, and would it be as commercially acceptable as the material you have been recently offered? What I mean is, are the producers at fault because they tend to define commercialism by its most basic rules?

LEE: . . . probably the type of material I would like to do would NOT be as commercially acceptable . . . does the public want more blood? More and more sex? More and more violence? Or are they going to revolt against this complete revulsion, and turn around to the old romantic type of picture, which I think they will. I think we are at a turning point in the cinema. I think we’re going back to real people achieving something really exciting against great odds — battles, murder, and sudden death if you like — beautiful women and handsome rugged men — not actors, just dressed up like dummies. The great days were in the 30s in Hollywood, and in the early 40s, when they had all those magnificent adventure stories which everybody loved. I think people are getting sick to death of acres and acres of boring nudity, lashings of sex and buckets of blood. You can make a very exciting and very sexual, very sensual, very frightening picture without pouring gallons and avalanches of garbage all over the screen. My ideal film in this area would be one done with taste and style, which would have the right element of fantasy, a good script, a good director, and good actors. I’d be frightening without being damaging. I’d have plenty of suspense, plenty of subtlety, and plenty of suggestion. Heaven knows enough people have done films of this kind, Hitchcock being a case in point, and they were very successful . . .

In very few portrayals have you gone in for much make-up . . . the films I, MONSTER and THE CURSE OF FRANKENSTEIN are the exceptions that come to mind. Has this been circumstance which has decided this? Or is this an attitude on your part?

LEE: . . . I think certain kinds of characters require distortion and deformed features like I, MONSTER which is MR. HYDE of course, and the FRANKENSTEIN CREATURE, because nobody would accept a FRANKENSTEIN CREATURE or a HYDE if they were not monstrous. On the other hand I think it’s perfectly possible to instill the essence of evil and villainy without the aid of make-up . . . you can be chillingly convincing and chillingly frightening and chillingly believable without any make-up at all. DRACULA, apart from the slightly longer teeth and the blood red contact lenses, is me . . .

Christopher Lee Dracula

What’s it like to look at yourself in the mirror when you’re made up as a creature like FRANKENSTEIN’S MONSTER – as in THE CURSE OF FRANKENSTEIN? Does it FEEL real . . . even for a moment?

LEE: . . . It certainly SEEMS real when you’ve got make-up on … so real I can tell you I’ve felt like locking myself up in a corner. I used to lock myself away in my dressing room and only appeared on the set when people had more or less accustomed themselves to my appearance. It was very gruesome and I didn’t particularly like looking at myself in the mirror. One doesn’t like to look at anything disagreeable — particularly when it is yourself! I couldn’t eat properly because if I moved the muscles of my face, too much [of] the make-up disintegrated. I couldn’t really eat anything at all and I was in the make-up chair from 4 o’clock in the morning till about 9, and I didn’t leave the studio till 7 o’clock at night. It was very tiring . . .

Curse-of-Frankenstein-LR

Why are producers sending you unacceptable material? Has your own attitude as to what you will accept changed? Or has the actual quality of the material deteriorated?

LEE: . . . My attitudes have changed. I’m not interested, as I said to you earlier on, in the cheap exploitation picture for which I will be paid less than I ought to be paid, if one wishes to look at it in purely commercial terms, and when the people who are behind the picture will make vast profits and huge fortunes out of work that I do. Well I believe that fair is fair. So now I won’t do it for this price.

Another reason is because the producers don’t seem to be interested in coming up with intelligent, serious horror stories, which I’d have thought was not at all a very difficult thing to do. They come up with the cheap, easy exploitable package which they don’t really bother about very much. They don’t care how it is directed, or acted, as long as they can get something on the screen that can sell at a big profit. I’m not much interested in working for people like that anymore. As long as I don’t have to — for the moment, fortunately, I don’t have to. If people are expecting to see me in the same type of picture as some of the pictures I’ve done in the past I’m afraid they are going to be disappointed, because I’m no longer interested in appearing in this type of picture unless it is going to be properly made, by people who are really going to care. I’m an actor and an actor obviously isn’t able to play everything, but like any actor I want to vary the mixture as much as possible. I want to appear in as many types of pictures as I can. Now whether I get highly paid or not is beside the point. As long as the stories are REALLY good and the characters are REALLY well worth playing and one has a real sense of achievement – then it’s a challenge, not just something that you wander onto the set and do. This looks cheap, gawdy, tawdry on the screen, and it’s tatty and distasteful and . . . it makes a lot of money. Well fine, one is used as an actor because of one’s ability to make money for other people; but I’ve reached a point in my career and my age where I don’t want to go on doing this type of picture. I want to do pictures in which I as an actor, whether they be big budget or small budget pictures, will be playing the kind of part which appeals to me, that I know I can do, and which is going to advance my career, and not retard it . . .

So ends our interview with CHRISTOPHER LEE, whose closing sentiments are shared by movie audiences and Christopher Lee fans everywhere. In his indictment of modern fantasy-horror movies, Mr. Lee has expressed what many of us have felt for years — that they knew how to make good movies in the 1930s; that the audiences during those days were more mature and more demanding of quality. In these 1970s of the great damn dollar the word quality has only a vague meaning. Who is at fault? The movie companies, for foisting the ‘least’ upon us? Or us, for not DEMANDING — as LON CHANEY said, and as Christopher Lee agreed: ‘true expression of acting, true expression of feeling’? The horror movies these days, most of them, ought never to be released. They do our era an injustice.

However, producers will not change this industry, only Christopher Lee, I, and YOU can make horror movies great again.

It was interesting to hear about films from an actor’s perspective. Christopher Lee made some very valid points here, and for the most part, I think he’s spot on. But one part just doesn’t sit right with me. I must vehemently disagree with both Lee and the interviewer at the end. “They knew how to make good movies in the 1930s… audiences during those days were more mature and more demanding of quality… the horror movies these days, most of them, ought never to be released… only Christopher Lee, I, and YOU can make horror movies great again.”

I’m terribly sorry, but what a load of pompous crap.

I will never knock the horror classics of the early days. Karloff, Lugosi, Chaney, Rains… all of these actors were amazingly talented and their films were wonderful, yes. But I will also argue with my dying breath that many of the horror films of the 1960s and ’70s were JUST AS GOOD as anything that came before them. In fact, I’d argue that the biggest problem with these “newer” films wasn’t so much poorly-written scripts or careless producing, but rather the actors’ attitudes towards the films themselves.

Don’t get me wrong, Christopher Lee is incredible, he’s one of my all-time favourites, and I’ve never seen him give a bad performance, or a performance I didn’t like. But just listen to his tone throughout the interview, and especially at the end where he seems to be insinuating that he’s too good to keep doing the films that (ironically) are what made him a household name in the first place. Lee said he was now interested only in playing parts which were going to “advance my career, and not retard it”. I would certainly argue that the films which he then felt would retard his career, were the very films that MADE his career in the first place. And he admits as much throughout the interview.

Keeping in mind that this interview is from 1973, and Lee had yet to star in the Lord of the Rings films, can anyone name me a Lee movie, pre-1973, that WASN’T a Hammer-esque horror? That wasn’t a “cheap, gawdy, tawdry, tatty and distasteful” film? Likely not. What do people still know Lee best as? Count Dracula. Lee fan that I am, even I can only name one such film, and that’s “A Tale of Two Cities”, which I watched only because I was such a fan of Lee’s horror work. I found it dreadfully dry and boring.

And this is why, to me, Peter Cushing trumps Christopher Lee when it comes to being the best. Peter Cushing lived and breathed every single role he ever took on, and you never ever got the impression that he resented it. And Cushing was always appreciative that the fans loved his work — regardless of what work it was. To quote from my The Art of Fear post: “The man who disliked horror films himself, took great pride in making them “because they give pleasure to people.” His criteria for accepting roles wasn’t based on what he wanted to do, but on what he thought other people would enjoy seeing him do.” And because of this attitude, he could carry ANY script! Any script at all. I don’t believe Lee could do that. Because his disdain for what he was doing seeps through into his performance just enough that it disconnects him a bit from what’s going on. You might not notice this disconnect on its own, but once you see Peter Cushing in a role, you recognize the difference immediately. Cushing proves that attitude and ability must go hand in hand. Cushing was a humble man, and he embraced why the people loved him so, and it reflects positively in all his films. It makes every performance shine in a way that Lee’s just don’t.

This is why the classic films stand the test of time as well. It’s not that the writing was any better. The scripts were just as fantastical, ridiculous and unbelievable back then: An invisible man? A monster made of human body parts stitched together? A mummy rising from the dead? A guy who goes around biting people on the neck? Still just as implausible in 1930 as it was in 1970! But the actors took pride in whatever role they acted in. They put extreme effort into bring the characters and stories to life, and that is what makes all the difference. The best script in the world will fall flat if the players bringing it to life harbour contempt for it.

Universal Monsters

I’m not blaming Lee for wanting to do something with more substance. Not for a second. As an artist myself (albeit in a different medium), I understand the longing to do what you want to do, and what you feel good about doing. And there is nothing wrong with that. Look at how choosey Heath Ledger — he’s another big favourite of mine — was when picking which films he would do. He flat out refused a number of roles which would have been very profitable at the box office. You can’t make all your decisions based on their monetary worth. I completely agree with Lee on that. But please, let’s not slam an entire generation of films and their makers (and by extension their fans) because you need an excuse for why you don’t enjoy acting in said films anymore. Perhaps it’s not so much that the material is BAD, but rather that you aren’t willing to put in the extra effort to make it good anymore.

I don’t appreciate the suggestion by the interviewer that because I prefer Hammer horror to Universal horror that I’m somehow less mature and less interested in quality. That’s just bull. Are there duds mixed in with the gems? Of course there are. You can find duds in the 1930s too, as Lon Chaney Jr. pointed out, where the films became comedies, making buffoons out of the monsters — *coughAbbottandCostelloMeetFrankensteincough* Each time period had great films and crap films. But I really believe you must look at each film individually, and not brand an entire generation or genre as one thing or another.

Emmert Wolf said, “A man is only as good as his tools.” But I’ll tell you a little secret. A man with true talent isn’t limited by the tools he uses. True talent makes whatever tools are available work for him. More talented is the man who creates a masterpiece with very little, than the man who does the same with the entire world at his fingertips.

Until next time, unpleasant dreams . . .

^..^

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