Christopher Lee is Dead. Long Live Christopher Lee!




Sir Christopher Lee died this week, although we’re just hearing about it today. He was 93, and an actor of uncommon talent, although because of his looks, his height, and the depth of his voice, he will forever be known for his villainous and monstrous roles.

For many of these latest generations, Lee will be remembered as Saruman the White in Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings Trilogy and Count Dooku in the Star Wars prequels.  He played pirates, generals, demonologists, wizards, Frankenstein’s monster, the Mummy, Lord Baskerville, the Man with the Golden Gun, a bit part in 2012’s Dark Shadows, and three roles (one uncredited) on one of my all-time favorite tv series:  The Avengers.


Dr. Frank N. Stone, android maker, in “Never, Never Say Die,” The Avengers


But for me, and for the millions of horror film fanatics across the world, Lee will always be firstly and royally  remembered as the king of the undead, the Prince of Darkness, Dracula.


He brought to the role a grandeur, an elegance, that Lugosi never had.  He brought to the role a primal energy, an almost erotic vitality, that wanted to explode off the screen.  1958’s Horror of Dracula remains Lee’s best portrayal of Stoker’s creation, and, for me and many others, the single best portrayal of Dracula ever filmed.  Rumors abound about Lee’s first, quintessential outing as the vampiric count finally being released in the U.S. on Blu-Ray this year.  It’s been two years since the restored version was released abroad, but no such luck here yet.

Dracula dies and keeps coming back.  It’s just like the rising and the setting of the sun.  Sir Christopher is gone to us now, yet his legacy–decades of memorable roles, hours upon hours of storytelling about good vs. evil, magic and reality–remain.  Sir Christopher Lee will shine forever on the silver screen and our flat screens.

Dracula lives!


Horror of Dracula…Restored! (But not for the U.S.)

Some of you probably don’t remember when there were only three networks on television, and when less than a handful of channels were available to watch on UHF channels and the distant channels flickering with static from out of town. It was considered really late night viewing to watch Johnny Carson between 11:30 pm and 1:00 am, at first, and then 11:30 to 12:30 when he went to just an hour. There were only a few other late night shows, premiering mostly in the late ’70s; but in mid-1972 there were only Carson, Cavett…and the CBS Late Movie.

Here is a true fan’s comprehensive list of movies and shows that ran late night on the CBS Late Movie.  It was a great time to be a movie fan who was starved for entertainment, because finally you’d be able to see movies and tv shows you had only heard about before.  For me, that meant some of the movies mentioned in my favorite magazines, The Monster Times and Famous Monsters of Filmland.

The best newspaper ever.

The best newspaper ever.

Occasionally, at some point in ’72 or ’73, CBS would promote and broadcast one film, and then, during the broadcast, announce that a second film would follow.  This didn’t happen often, but, on one occasion, they showed a second, unheralded movie that I had been afraid I would never get the chance to see.  (And, if you’re wondering, the list I linked to only gives the titles of the first movies broadcast at 11:30.)

Think about that, now, here, in the 21st Century, when almost every old movie is available on DVD, Blu-Ray, YouTube, Hulu, Vudu, Netflix, or BitTorrented…

The movie I refer to is, as far as I’m concerned, the finest adaptation of the novel Dracula ever filmed.  Horror of Dracula, produced by the great Hammer Film Studio in 1958, is as primal and as sensually powerful as it was 56 years ago.

However, over the years, the distributor, Warner Bros., or Hammer lost some of the footage due to censorship issues around the world.  I have Horror of Dracula on DVD, and it is not the same film I saw on CBS in the ’70s.  Specifically, Dracula’s death scene has been cut in every recording I’ve viewed ever since.  It was, perhaps, the most powerful demise of Dracula I’ve ever seen, simply because it was so visceral, so groundbreaking, for 1958.  And that is why portions of the scene were cut from the finished film.


This is part of the death scene that has been unseen in this country since the early 1970s.


For decades, I wondered what happened.  Now, that scene has been restored to all its phantasmagoric glory, along with at least one scene I don’t remember, in a Blu-Ray produced for Region 2…the UK and Europe.  But not for us here in the States.


The Blu-Ray was released in spring of 2013, and carefully restores and color corrects the vintage film.  But it’s not yet available here.  Okay, I don’t get it.  I know that there’s a built-in audience in Hammer’s native England, but the sheer numbers of horror lovers are enormous right here in the US.  To me, the restored is a natural for horror fans, Dracula scholars.

It has been almost two years.  It’s time to offer this Blu-Ray to the vampire lovers in the States.  Warner Video…get this into the stores!  Until then, the death scene is viewable on YouTube…

The Rogue Biblioholic: JOHNNY ALUCARD


I’m a few months late in reviewing this title, as Johnny Alucard was published by Titan Books in September 2013.  I’m just happy that circumstances have allowed me to read it finally, because it’s a great thrill ride through the excesses of our pop cult era, circa late ’60s-early’90s, as seen through a dripping veneer of blood.  This is the fourth novel in Kim Newman’s subversive and dark alternate history series about the Prince of Darkness, Dracula, and Johnny Alucard delivers the darkness.

Here are the novels in the series, in order.  I suggest you start with the first, because that will set the scene, both in terms of story line and theme, as well as the writer’s intent…and the way he has immense fun with vampires and popular culture.

Anno Dracula starts from the standpoint that the end of the original novel, Dracula, by Bram Stoker, was a fiction; that Dracula defeated his band of enemies, led by Van Helsing, and subsequently took over England and the Empire, thereby conquering the world for his legions of the undead.

By the time of Johnny Alucard, Dracula is long gone, having died in 1959 during the events of Dracula Cha Cha Cha.  Now it’s twenty years later, and the last person infected by Dracula, Johnny Pop–who has ingratiated himself with the cast and crew of 1979’s Francis Ford Coppola’s Dracula (a blood-soaked parallel to our Apocalypse Now) on location in Romania–emigrates to America…

Through a variety of sequences, some of which have been published before in a variety of publications, Newman here finally connects all the disparate puzzle pieces and shows how Johnny Pop becomes Johnny Alucard–and how he then conquers America and the world–through blood, sweat and tears, baby . . .perhaps more well known in the ’70s vernacular as sex, drugs, and rock and roll.  Slowly, the last son of Dracula is consumed more and more by vampire lord’s eternal spirit, and then is reincarnated as the Pop Prince of Darkness, leaving the 21st century open and ripe for the evil of Dracula.

The real magic of this series is the clever wit: how Newman brings the vampires of literature, film and popular culture into his fictional mix.  Count Iorga, the original Nosferatu, and many other vamps from literature and film show up here and in all the other novels, and it’s always a joy to see how Newman places them in his own world.

Here’s hoping Book Five in the series is published next year.