Sunday, August 24, 2003

Lee, Christopher.Tall, Dark and Gruesome. London: Gollancz, 1997. 320pp.

I even enjoy the occasional actor's memoir, if it's by someone whose work really means something to me. When I was a kid, around 10 or 11, there were lots of those old Hammer horror flicks on tv and my parents, for some twisted reason, saw no problem in letting me watch them as much as I wanted. (My wife would probably say that this explains a lot) Needless to say, they scared the crap out of me and I’ve been a horror fan ever since. Also due to this early influence, Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee are two of my favourite actors. Lee is most famous for his portrayal of Dracula in a half dozen or so films but he was also quite a bit more versatile and has had quite a varied career. We get the highlights of that career here in his memoirs. These are pretty light and breezy, with none of the kiss and tell so famous in actor autobiographies. He really reveals very little of an intimate nature about himself or his family and friends, using a light and jokey tone throughout the book. Given that he seems to be an unusually perceptive actor with a great love of horror and the fantastic, I also would have appreciated more of his insights into the nature of horror and what attracts us to it. On the other hand, he’s had quite a colourful career, and has known many of the greats in the horror field and does tell a lot of amusing anecdotes. His most recent appearances are suitably creepy as Saruman in Jackson’s Lord of the Rings and as Darth Tyrannus is the lastest Star Wars. By the way, Cushing’s two slim volumes of autobiography from 15 or 20 years ago have a much more intimate, personal feel and are well worth seeking out.


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