Peter Cushing & Christopher Lee

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No two actors personified British gothic horror films more than Peter Cushing & Christopher Lee. Both would make a number of UK (British) and U.S. (American) movies, but it was British horror of the 1950s, 60s, & 70s that made them a team, starting with “The Curse Of Frankenstein” (1957), with Cushing as Doctor Frankenstein and Lee as the Monster.
Peter Cushing was the older of the two. Born 5/26/13 in England, he went to the U.S. to make his first movie “Man In The Iron Mask” (1939) in a minor role. After World War 2, he returned to England for “Hamlet” (1948) starring and directed by Laurence Olivier. In the mid-1950s, he was cast as a “gaunt, cold-blooded” character actor in a number of Hammer horror films.

Christopher Lee was born in London 5/27/22 (note that they were born almost on the same day, 9 years apart). As with Cushing, he appeared in a few films in minor roles starting with “Corridor Of Mirrors” (1948), along with “Hamlet,” though Lee & Cushing as minor actors had no way of knowing this would only be their first film together. In 1958, Cushing & Lee were in what some claim is a gothic horror-mystery, “The Hound Of The Baskervilles,” the only time Cushing has played Sherlock Holmes. The same year they made “The Mummy,” in which desecration of Princess Ananka’s tomb leads to severe consequences. Leonard Maltin calls it a “stylish Hammer resurrection of Universal’s Kharis series.” They were both in “Moulin Rouge” (1953), but when they were reteamed in “The Curse Of Frankenstein” (1957), a horror team was born. This was followed by “Dracula” (1958, aka Horror Of Dracula) and then “Revenge Of Frankenstein” made the same year with Cushing in an odd role as Dr. Stein, assisted by a hunchback dwarf. The next (British) Frankenstein films were in 1964, 1967, 1970 starring Cushing, and a 1970 spoof “Horror Of Frankenstein” with a cast of British unknowns.
Other Peter Cushing Films include:
George Orwell’s 1984 (1954 British TV-movie, with Donald Pleasance)
The Black Knight (1954, with Alan Ladd, as one of King Arthur’s men)
Time Without Pity (1957)
The Abominable Snowman (1957, who turns out to be member of a lost race who consider humans barbarians)
The Flesh & The Fiends (1960, aka Mania/Psycho Killers/The Fiendish Ghouls) with Donald Pleasance
Cone Of Silence (1960, no relation to Get Smart) aka Trouble In The Sky
Suspect (1960, aka The Risk) with Donald Pleasance. Scientist has formula that is only cure for a plague, spies want it
Sword of Sherwood Forest (1960) as the evil Sheriff of Nottingham The Brides Of Dracula (1960) with the title character vanished, Von Helsing (Cushing) goes after his successors The Naked Edge (1961) murder mystery in England, Gary Cooper’s final film Cash On Demand (1961) Night Creatures (1962, aka Captain Clegg) smugglers pose as pirates’ ghosts The Man Who Finally Died (1963) post-WW2 mystery, stars Stanley Baker * Dr. Terror’s House Of Horrors (1964) Cushing tells 5 horror stories on a train The Evil Of Frankenstein (1964) as Baron Frankenstein, reviving frozen monster * The Gorgon (1964) a girl is possessed by a spirit whose gaze turns people to stone * She (1965) H. Rider Haggard’s tale of an immortal (Ursula Andress) seeking the reincarnation of her long-dead mortal lover, no matter how many men have to be “tested” to death. John Richardson, Lee & Cushing as explorers who find her lost jungle kingdom. Lee & Cushing were not in Hammer’s sequel “Vengeance Of She.” * The Skull (1966) by Robert Bloch. Cushing & Lee, with Patrick Macnee Doctor Who & the Daleks (1966) title role (he never played on TV, four other actors had played TV’s Doctor Who by then) Daleks—Invasion Earth 2150 AD (1966) sequel, Cushing was ill during the second film, requiring a lot of long shots & little action involving The Doctor. Set on invading Earth, the Doctor fights them deep underground Island Of Terror (1966) Frankenstein Created Woman (1967) again as the Baron, in which he recovers the body of a woman who killed herself, and puts in brain of her lover. He/she then sets out to kill men responsible for his wrongful execution Torture Garden (1967) Blood Beast Terror (1968, aka The Vampire Beast Craves Blood) Corruption (1968) Frankenstein Must Be Destroyed (1969) as the Baron for the fifth time, in which he puts a brilliant scientist’s brain in a younger body after he dies—but it becomes psychotic Scream & Scream Again (1970) mad doctor using dead bodies in attempt to create a perfect man. Stars * * * Cushing & Lee, Vincent Price The Vampire Lovers (1970) * I, Monster (1971) a student of Freud develops serum to relieve human inhibitions in this Jekyll-Hyde rip-off * The House That Dripped Blood (1971) Twins Of Evil (1971) Asylum (1972) Dr. Phibes Rises Again (1972) excellent Vincent Price sequel directed by Robert Fuest, director of several Avenger episodes * Dracula AD 1972 (1972, aka Dracula Today) the Victorian-era Count (Lee) is revived in the present, in which everyone dresses in mod clothing of the Scooby-Do gang, bringing the attention of Von Helsing’s descendant (Cushing) * The Creeping Flesh (1973) an ancient spirit is reincarnated and let loose on an unsuspecting world And Now The Screaming Starts (1973) Frankenstein & the Monster From Hell (1973, aka Island Of The Burning Damned) this time he creates a monster from patients in an insane asylum. Hammer’s final Frankenstein film. Hardly worth the effort, though it’s still better than “Frankenhooker” (1990, semi-remake in which a mad doctor blows up hookers for spare parts) Madhouse (1974) The Beast Must Die (1974) The Ghoul (1974) Call Him Mr. Shatter (1975) From Beyond The Grave (1975) Dirty Knight’s Work (1976) At The Earth’s Core (1976, semi-sequel to The Land That Time Forgot has an “iron mole” going off course and discovering a prehistoric world at the center of the Earth, based on Edgar Rise Burrough’s 1922 novel—though most of the dinosaurs were apparently beyond the film’s budget. Cushing & McClure star as the explorers. Followed by “People That Time Forgot” without Cushing, McClure was in all three. Die Standarte (1977, German) Shock Waves (1977, aka Death Corps) Star Wars (1977, as Darth Vader’s Grand Moff Tarkin). Lee later played a role in Star Wars Episode 2 & 3 after Cushing’s death * Count Dracula & His Vampire Bride (1978) * An Arabian Adventure (1978) live-action kids film with good effects, about an evil caliph seeking ultimate power from a magic flower Cushing also had an uncredited role as the stock English aristocrat in “Vigil In The Night” and “A Chump At Oxford” (both starring Laurel & Hardy, 1940) For most of the 1940s, he appeared in dramas on Broadway and did Shakespeare with the Old Vic Company in England. He is sometimes confused with Basil Rathbone, who starred as the Baron in “Son Of Frankenstein” (1939). Rathbone also was in “The Adventures of Robin Hood” (1938) though he played the evil Sir Guy, not the Sheriff as Cushing later did in 1960. Both Cushing & Rathbone both have played Sherlock Holmes, though Rathbone made it virtually into a career with fourteen movies plus a radio series. Rathbone played a role similar to Sir Guy in “The Court Jester” (1956, with Danny Kaye and John Carradine) * Titles with both Peter Cushing & Christopher Lee Christopher Lee’s other films * Dracula (1958, aka Horror of Dracula) with Cushing as nemesis Von Helsing. Faithful, non-sensational telling of Bram Stoker’s novel, followed by 6 sequels. Cushing & Lee made the first two sequels separately: Brides Of Frankenstein (1960, Cushing) and “Dracula—Prince Of Darkness” (1966), which was given longer title in US to avoid confusion with Bela Lugosi version. The Man Who Could Cheat Death (1959) a man comes up with messy way of living forever. Remake of a 1944 film * The Mummy (1959) title role The 2 Faces of Dr. Jekyll (1960, aka House Of Fright, aka Jekyll’s Inferno) boring version of Stevenson’s gothic story focuses on home life of Mr. & Mrs. Jekyll Beat Girl (1960, aka Wild For Kicks) drama about rebellious teen involved in a murder City Of The Dead (1960, aka Horror Hotel) 17th century witch maintains an inn to lure victims Too Hot To Handle (1960, aka Playgirl After Dark) stars Jayne Mansfield The Hands Of Orlac (1961, UK/French) remake of Peter Lorre horror film “Mad Love” is rather flat, despite Donald Pleasance in an early role. Later remade as that Mystery Science Theatre 3000 favorite “Manos, The Hands Of Fate” Taste Of Fear (1961) wheelchair-bound woman (Susan Strasberg) sees father’s corpse, though stepmom says he’s just away “on a trip.” Hammer retitled it “Scream Of Fear” (1962, US) Terror Of The Tongs (1961) thriller of man vowing gruesome revenge on Hong Kong gang that killed his daughter The Pirates of Blood River (1962) pirate movie with Oliver Reed Corridors Of Blood (1958, 1962 US) Boris Karloff film with Lee in a minor role, though Lee was given star billing in 1962 US release Sherlock Holmes & the Deadly Necklace (1962 German) never released in the US, so I’m guessing it’s based on The Speckled Band. Lee’s first Holmes movie in the title role. Night Is The Phantom (1963, Italian, not released in US) aka What! No relation to Roman Polanski comedy “What?” Horror Castle (1964, Italian) aka Terror Castle. A WW2 victim takes his wrath out on visitors to his castle, who soon find themselves in the torture chamber The Face Of Fu Manchu (1965) title role, first of Sax Rohmer series starring Lee The Brides Of Fu Manchu (1965) this time forcing scientists to invent a deathray Rasputin, The Mad Monk (1966) title role. Bad script but great acting The Vengeance of Fu Manchu (1967) Circus Of Fear (1967, aka Psycho Circus) by Edgar Wallace. Someone under the big top is a killer, everyone else is the next potential victim Theater Of Blood (1967, aka Blood Fiend, not released in US) not to be confused with 1973 Vincent Price movie Theatre Of Blood The Blood of Fu Manchu (1968, aka Kiss & Kill aka Against All Odds, aka Kiss of Death) from his new hideout in the Amazon, Fu injects ten girls with poison then sends them out to kiss his enemies to death The Face Of Eve (1968) Dracula Has Risen From The Grave (1968) third in Hammer’s Dracula series has the Count trying for a church monsignor'’ blond daughter Curse Of The Crimson Altar (1968, aka The Crimson Cult) Boris Karloff movie with Barbara Steele as 300-year-old witch, Lee is in the movie somewhere The Oblong Box (1969) Vincent Price as British aristocrat who keeps disfigured brother in a tower room The Magic Christian (1969) cameo in Peter Sellers comedy in which Sellers is rich eccentric who adopts a homeless man (Ringo Starr) Castle Of Fu Manchu (1970, aka Assignment Istanbul) in which he now has a walled estate in Istanbul. The script for this one’s so bad, it became a 1991 episode of Mystery Science Theater 3000 (turn down your lights where applicable) Taste The Blood Of Dracula (1970) Hammer’s fourth Dracula film has the Count (Lee) but is essentially just a revenge story set in Victorian England; has a good ending. A sequel “Scars Of Dracula” was made at the same time and released the following year, about a young couple looking for the man’s brother who knocked at the castle door before… The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes (1970) director Billy Wilder’s three and a half hour version has never been released unedited, in which Holmes (Lee) investigates the Loch Ness monster and ends up crossing paths with his older brother and foreign spies. Released to theaters at two hours, maybe by now the director’s cut is on DVD * The House That Dripped Blood (1970) based on four stories by Robert Bloch. Stars include Lee, Cushing and Jon Pertwee Vampir (1971, Spanish) aka Count Dracula. Lee returns to Stoker’s original story, with Herbert Lom and Klaus Kinski Hannie Caulder (1972) Lee cameo as sympathetic gunsmith in a revenge Western starring Robert Culp, Ernest Borgnine, Jack Elam, Strother Martin * I, Monster (1971) * Dracula AD 1972 (1972) * Count Dracula & His Vampire Bride (1973, aka Satanic Rites of Dracula) last of Hammer series, Dracula gets hold of a plague virus and decides to take down mankind in one fell swoop * The Creeping Flesh (1973) Tendre Dracula (1974, French) The Man With The Golden Gun (1974) Lee as villain invents a deathray that operates by focusing the unlimited power of the Sun into world’s most powerful laser. Bernard Lee (no relation) sends James Bond 007 (Roger Moore) to investigate after an agent’s body is found with a golden bullet in it In Search Of Dracula (1975 documentary) Killer Force (1975) someone ends up dead at a diamond mine in South Africa. Telly Savalas, Hugh O’Brian, O.J. Simpson To The Devil, A Daughter (1976) occult novelist (Richard Widmark) is enlisted for help by a girl being pursued (Natassja Kinski) by satanist (Lee) for a ritual. Hammer film made in Germany Dracula Pere et Fils (1976, French) The Keeper (1976, Canadian) Airport 77 (1977) bad guys hijack an airliner in the Bermuda Triangle and hide it, passengers and all, on the ocean floor Starship Invasions (1977, Canadian) UFO expert Robert Vaughn helps good aliens keep bad aliens from taking over Earth in pointless low-budget film End Of The World (1977) Lee plays a priest and his evil twin Return From Witch Mountain (1978, Disney) Christopher Lee, Bette Davis The Passage (1979) WW2 movie with Malcolm McDowell The Jaguar Lives (1979) low-budget spy film with Donald Pleasance, this one also became a MST3000 feature Bear Island (1979) loosely based on an Alistair MacLean spy novel, all-star cast couldn’t save it, barely released to theaters in late 1979 1941 (1979) Spielberg’s ill-advised WW2 comedy with a huge cast and budget, I don’t even remember where Lee was in it. John Belushi was a fighter pilot and Harvey Korman commanded a Japanese submarine. Circle Of Iron (1979, aka The Silent Flute) martial arts film from an idea by James Coburn and Bruce Lee (no relation), starring David Carradine & Jeff Cooper Sorry, I haven’t updated this list since 1979, but I do remember that Lee was in a TV-movie “The Tomorrow People: The Ramses Connection” (1995), fourth in the British TV-movie series, in which the half-alien children go up against a ruthless businessman (Lee), who is not only the immortal ruler that the ancient Egyptians worshipped, but is planning to rule the world again at midnight. No relation to the movie Stargate, which came out about the same time. Christopher Lee has also been in Lord Of The Rings and is voice of the King in “The Last Unicorn” animated movie

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Compiled, collated and opinionated by Bill Laidlaw.
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