Christopher Lee Passes at 93

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Sad news to report today as legendary actor Christopher Lee has passed away. Lee was 93 years old and died four days ago. Lee had amassed 282 acting credits in his career according to his iMDB profile and is a notable performer of such characters as Count Dracula, Sherlock and Mycroft Holmes and villains from The Lord of the Rings and Star Wars franchises, as well as teaming regularly with director Tim Burton later in his life. His most recent major role was in The Hobbit trilogy with director Peter Jackson.

Thank you, Christopher, and you will be missed.

 

Selected Filmography:

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[Star Wars Day] Revenge of the Sixth…Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope (1977)

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Director: George Lucas

Cast: Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, Peter Cushing, Alec Guinness

Screenplay: George Lucas

121 mins. Rated PG for sci-fi violence and brief mild language.

  • Academy Award Winner: Best Art Direction – Set Decoration
  • Academy Award Winner: Best Costume Design
  • Academy Award Winner: Best Sound
  • Academy Award Winner: Best Film Editing
  • Academy Award Winner: Best Effects, Visual Effects
  • Academy Award Winner: Best Music, Original Score
  • Special Achievement Academy Award: Ben Burtt [For sound effects (For the creation of the alien, creature and robot voices)]
  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Picture
  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Actor in a Supporting Role [Alec Guinness]
  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Director
  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Writing, Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen

iMDB Top 250: #20 (as of 1/18/2016)

As we close Star Wars Days 2015, we end on the original film in the Saga, Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope, from director George Lucas (American Graffiti, THX 1138).

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In A New Hope, it has been 19 years since Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill, Kingsman: The Secret Service, Scooby-Doo!: Moon Monster Madness) was dropped off with his uncle and aunt on Tattooine. When the two droids C-3PO and R2-D2 come into his family’s possession, Luke gets swept up in R2’s mission to deliver a message from the captive Princess Leia Organa (Carrie Fisher, When Harry Met Sally…, Maps to the Stars) to the crazy hermit Ben Kenobi (Alec Guinness, Lawrence of Arabia, The Bridge on the River Kwai). When Luke discovers that his father knew Kenobi long ago and is gifted his father’s lightsaber, he is set on a quest to save the princess and defeat the Empire.

The original film is still a perfect fantasy/sci-fi masterpiece with great performances, terrific direction, and a nice smooth flow. The special effects still look great (I’m referring to the original special effects, not the Special Edition effects).

Harrison Ford (Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark, The Age of Adaline) absolutely steals the show as Han Solo, who, alongside his trusty co-captain Wookiee Chewbacca, are hired to assist Luke and Kenobi in rescuing the princess. They are aided by a believable group of performances from a talented cast of newcomers like Hamill and Fisher as well as veterans Guinness and Peter Cushing (Horror of Dracula, The Curse of Frankenstein) as the villainous Grand Moff Tarkin.

This is the pinnacle of Lucas’ abilities as a filmmaker. His terrific screenplay and his inability to give up when faced with countless problems directing the picture proved him to be a truly captivating artist with a unique vision.

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Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope remains a perfect film, one of the best ever put to the screen. It has become a pop cultural rock, unable to be moved from the public eye in the 38 years since its release, and I doubt it will ever truly disappear. Perfection.

5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

For my review of George Lucas’ Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace, click here.

For my review of George Lucas’ Star Wars: Episode II – Attack of the Clones, click here.

For my review of George Lucas’ Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith, click here.

For my review of Irvin Kershner’s Star Wars: Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back, click here.

For my review of J.J. Abrams’ Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens, click here.

31 Days of Horror: Day 23 – Horror Express (1972)

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Director: Eugenio Martin

Cast: Christopher Lee, Peter Cushing, Telly Savalas, Alberto de Mendoza, Helga Line, George Rigaud, Victor Israel

Screenplay: Arnaud d’Usseu, Julian Zimmet

88 mins. Rated R.

In the world of horror, few performers are so widely recognized together as Christopher Lee (The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, Dark Shadows) and Peter Cushing (Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope, Horror of Dracula). The two practically led the horror renaissance of the 1950s and 1960s with their sensualized and gory takes on classic universal monsters like Dracula and Frankenstein’s monster with Hammer Horror Films. I recently found the 1972 film Horror Express among my unwatched film pile (it’s a pretty big damn pile, mind you) and I felt like I had to take it on considering the kind of weight these two actors carried.

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The entirety of Horror Express takes place on a train from China to Moscow. The brilliant Professor Sir Alexander Saxton (Lee) is taking a specimen found in Manchuria back to Europe when it, believed to be the Missing Link, awakens and terrorizes the passengers on board. Saxton alongside Dr. Wells (Cushing) will stop at nothing to catch the creature. Now, if only they can convince Captain Kazan (Telly Savalas, TV’s Kojak, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service) that they are telling the truth.

This movie has more of a cult following than of an actual fanbase. It was not particularly popular during its initial theatrical release. I personally found it to be much more a bore than I had hoped for. As always, Lee’s performance captures the audience, but the years have not been kind to the film’s technical aspects. Perhaps it would be more likable if it hadn’t been so degraded by forty years of damage to the print. It certainly has some interesting moments and the tension of the enclosed cabins of the train, but I felt like very little plot progression actually took place.

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All in all, movies like Horror Express exist to entertain. They aren’t looking to take away a trophy. That being said, they still have to provide thrills, which this train was lacking.

2/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

For more 31 Days of Horror, click here.

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