Archive for the Lee & Cushing Category

RIP Veronica Carlson

Posted in Hammer Glam, Lee & Cushing, RIP with tags on February 27, 2022 by MONSTERMINIONS
Sad to hear about the passing of Veronica Carlson. I was fortunate to have had lunch with her and a few other fans. She was an engaging conversationalist and sincere. RIP.

Stoker’s Dracula Police Sketch

Posted in Horror, Lee & Cushing with tags on January 16, 2016 by MONSTERMINIONS

Christopher Lee made a dead-on Dracula based on the literary description. This is his appearance in Jess Franco’s Count Dracula (1970). Bela Lugosi (1931) as the count for comparison.

Christopher Lee Dracula Death and Resurrection

Posted in Lee & Cushing with tags , , on July 16, 2015 by MONSTERMINIONS

Lee's First Appearance as Dracula

Christopher Lee’s Dracula first appears on screen atop a staircase in Dracula/Horror of Dracula (1958). He’s never resurrected and his origin is not known, but we know he is the embodiment of evil.

In the chapter The Traits and Practice of Vampirism in Montague Summers’ The Vampire: His Kith and Kin (re-printed 1960, University Books), Summers postulates that “all suicides might after death becomes vampires; and this was easily extended to those who met with any violent or sudden death”. Summers further cites that the traditional way of killing a vampire —a stake through the heart, stemmed from the English practice up to the time of King George IV, to bury the bodies of suicides at cross-roads with a stake driven through the body in order to keep the ghost from wandering abroad. Upon commenting on the “ethereal form” of the vampire he ruminates upon three hypotheses to be considered:

Does the body of the Vampire actually dematerialize and then re-integrate outside the grave?

Or, is another body built up by the Vampire quite independently of the body which remains behind in the grave?

Thirdly, does the spirit of the Vampire withdraw ectoplasmic material from his own body, which enables him to form more permanent corporeity by drawing yet further material from his victims?

Having recently watched all seven of the Christopher Lee Hammer Dracula films, I’m almost inclined to say that the Hammer writers were familiar with Summers’ writing on Vampirism, except we never really see the traditional pounding of a stake through the heart (like in Universal’s Dracula or a modern update with Carl Kolchak leaving waste to Janos Skorzeny) although there are some creative variations on the tried-and-true remedy for vampire elimination.  Beginning with Dracula/Horror of Dracula (1958), I’m going to look at each of the films and see how the dread Count is killed and subsequently resurrected in the sequels.


In HOD, Van Helsing (Peter Cushing) uses a Christian cross to pin Count Dracula into the purifying rays of sunlight.  Dracula melts away and crumbles into dust.  The dust blows aways. Dracula dies through DEATH BY SUNLIGHT (I).

DPOD_Resurrection 1

In the sequel Dracula, Prince of Darkness (1966), a follower resurrects Dracula through hydration of his dust with the blood of a freshly slaughtered victim.  Dracula is RESURRECTION BY BLOOD (I). Clip Blood Awakening.

DPOD_Resurrection 2

DPOD_Resurrection 3

Later, the Count is trapped on an icey moat with running water, and slips into the frozen grave. Dracula ceases due to DEATH BY FLOWING WATER (I). In Dracula has Risen from the Grave (1968), the Count is discovered in ice, much like the Monster in Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man (1943), and resurrected by a trickle of blood to the mouth. RESURRECTION BY BLOOD (II).


He is killed falling and being skewered on a cross as a priest prays. Dracula dies for the first time through IMPALEMENT (I).


The next film Taste the Blood of Dracula (1970) begins where DHRFTG left off, with Dracula squirming on a cross, but we see him die, desiccate and turn into a pile of dried blood, which is quickly purloined by the father of the brat (actor Roy Kinnear) in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (1971). Dracula’s blood ends up in a vial.

TTBOD_Blood in Vial

Later, Dracula’s blood is reconstituted in fresh human blood and drank by a wacko who dies and….TTBOD_Resurrection 2

halfway into the movie…. turns into Dracula. RESURRECTION BY BLOOD (III).


Dracula dies, oddly, surrounded by crosses and falls to his death on an altar. DEATH BY CROSS (I).  In the next film Scars of Dracula (1970) Dracula is reconstitued by the regurgitated blood of the world’s largest vampire bat, and is wounded by being impaled by an iron rod, struck by lightning and burned to death. RESURRECTION BY BLOOD (IV) and DEATH BY FIRE (I). Dracula A.D. 1972 (1972) is fun in having two Dracula death scenes.  In the opening prologue Van Helsing (Peter Cushing) battles Dracula on a runaway coach and Dracula ends up impailed on a wagon-wheel and crumbles to dust. DEATH BY IMPALEMENT (II).

Dracula AD_Wheel

As Roger Ebert once pointed out, Hammer’s Dracula ended up a few times in glass vials. DAD1972 was no exception, but we know where this is headed….

Dracula AD_Vial of Dracula

A blood ritual involving the charming Caroline Munro’s breasts, Dracula’s remains and the removal of an old wagon wheel spoke result in RESURRECTION BY BLOOD (V).

Dracula AD_Grail of Blood and Dracula

Dracula AD_Dracula EmergesDracula is killed once more by Van Helsing who unleashes all hell on the Count, including a knife to the chest, holy water, impalement on a stake, and the strategic thrusts of a shovel. Dracula succumbs through DEATH BY IMPALEMENT (III).
Dracula AD_holy water

Dracula AD_Van Helsings Shovel

Finally, in The Satanic Rites of Dracula (1974) the Count just appears in a mist (Van Helsing describes him as “rising like the Phoenix” and returning through reincarnation) and dies impaled on a spiney Hawthorn bush with a final fence rung to the heart by Van Helsing (Peter Cushing). DEATH BY IMPALEMENT (IV).

SROD_Blood Ritual Chicken


Finally Tally:


  • 4 Impalements (twice in Dracula AD 1972)
  • 1 Fire
  • 1 Sunlight
  • 1 Flowing Water
  • 1 Death by Cross


  • 5 Blood Rituals
  • 2 Dracula wasn’t resurrected

Christopher Lee as Fu Manchu (Part 3)

Posted in Lee & Cushing with tags , , on July 1, 2015 by MONSTERMINIONS


Two separate Fu Manchu films? Naaah —Just different names for the same production. The U.K. and U.S. title was The Blood of Fu Manchu (1969), while the Spanish tilte was Fu Manchu y el beso de la muerte (Fu Manchu and the Kiss of Death). To add confusion, the U.S. TV release was titled Against All Odds. Here, I am reviewing a restored and gorgeous European print and Blue Underground DVD release of the first of the Jess Franco Fu Manchu films.

Kiss and Kill_Titles

I must admit I am only an occassional fan of Spanish director Jesús “Jess” Franco (1930-2013), much prefering his early entries into the horror genre, including The Awful Dr. Orlof (1962), The Sadistic Baron Von Klaus (1962), which is fairly graphic even by today’s values, Dr. Orloff’s Monster (1964), The Diabolical Dr. Z (1965), and Count Dracula (1970), starring Christopher Lee. I haven’t (yet) seen Vampyros Lesbos (1971) and Venus in Furs  (1969), considered by some to be his greater achievements in film making.  I’ve dabbled in some of his 80’s films and quickly lost interest, although Oasis of the Zombies (1982) still escapes me.

I do believe him to be a true auteur (or schreiber [from the Yiddish for writer], if you accept David Kipen’s view that the writer is actually the author of the film) as his films do have a distinct feel and he has honed his craft.  One might be able to identify the last two Christopher Lee Fu Manchu films as having Franco DNA just by watching them. I’m gonna piss off every Jess Franco fan in the land and compare him to Edward D. Wood, Jr., not for the sake of drawing similarities in making bad films, but because they wrote and directed most of their films and they both followed a vision. Like Wood and some of Franco’s contemporaries (Bava, Argento, Ossorio, Romero), Franco has an ardent following as exemplified by unusual film making honored on various blogs HERE and HERE and others celebrating his career.

This all brings us to The Blood of Fu Manchu (1969). I think it is the weakest film of the lot, primarily because there’s too many characters buzzing around and the Franco-Harry Alan Tower’s screenplay lacks coherency. Actually, Tim Lucas from the VideoWatchdog penned an essay Exit Fu Manchu (BU DVD liner notes) that notes that the story is vaguely reminiscent of the first Fu Manchu novel The Zayat Kiss. Oh, and the score. It is horrid bad.

Franco and long-time cinematographer Manuel Merino are also a bit trigger happy with the use of zoom perspectives, which comes across as being amateurish. Still, the film is colorful and the change in location shooting from Ireland and Hong Kong to Spain and Brazil helps. I still think the film is a lot of fun and worth a peek, especially the Blue Underground pressing. It’s not nearly as bad as Christopher Lee may have led you to believe: “The series had really run down by this one….”

In TBOFM, Fu Manchu (Lee, of course) is hunkered down in the jungle with his daughter (Tsai Chin) and henchmen in what appears to be an Aztec lost city.  There they use snakes to consecrate a “kiss of death” upon 10 gorgeous women who are set to spread a global plague by kissing everyone.  Nayland Smith (this time played by Richard Green) and associate Dr. Petrie (Howard Marion-Crawford, looking old) return, searching for an antidote for the deadly snake toxin.  There’s also some double-crossing and too many characters to follow. Why is there an archaeologist in the story? Along the way a few guest stars appear including Shirley Eaton (Goldfinger, 1964) as “Black Widow”. I could do a linear regression fit in the overlap of Fu Manchu – Bond film talents.  Be sure to watch the special feature “The Rise of Fu Manchu” on the BU DVD, where Shirley Eaton claims producer Harry Alan Towers heisted uncontracted footage of Eaton from Franco’s film Rio 70 (1969) for use in TBOFM.
TBOFM_Snake Kiss

In the end, we see yet another explosion and Fu Manchu exclaims:

The world shall hear from me again….

TBOFM_End Titles

Continue reading

Christopher Lee as Fu Manchu (Part 1)

Posted in Lee & Cushing with tags , on June 29, 2015 by MONSTERMINIONS

When the late Sir Christopher Lee is mentioned we immediately think of Count Dracula —the role he is forever linked to. However, he also portrayed other notorious literary villains. In celebration of Christopher Lee’s career, I’ll be taking a look at five of his films where he played the nefarious Sax Rohmer character and criminal genius Dr. Fu Manchu (first appearing in the novel The Mystery of Dr. Fu Manchu / The Insidious Dr. Fu Manchu, 1913).  The Lee movie series spanned from 1965, beginning with The Face of Fu Manchu and ended in 1969 with the The Castle of Fu Manchu.  I don’t entirely agree with most critics (and C. Lee) citing that the series progressively deteriorated. The final films directed by Jess Franco (to be reviewed in Part 3) are colorful campy fun.  In Part 2, I’ll take a look at the disappointing The Vengeance of Fu Manchu (1967). Starting the retrospective, let’s take a look at TFOFM (1965) and The Brides of Fu Manchu (1966).

The Face of Fu Manchu_Titles

I saw someone beheaded…

Commissioner Nayland Smith, Scotland Yard

TFOFM opens with the title character being beheaded in front of Nayland Smith. Later, we even see Fu Manchu’s death mask. It reminds me of the time 007 (Sean Connery) got swiss-cheesed in a roll-up bed in the opening moments of You Only Live Twice (1967), the first Bond film with an oriental setting.  TFOFM plays a lot like a Bond film, with diabolical villains and dashing heroes, dames in distress, kidnappings, escapism, rappelling monks, secret tunnels, weapons of mass destruction, action, globe-trotting, fancy cars and even a water-torture device.  Lee’s Fu Manchu is reminiscent of Joseph Wiseman’s Dr. No —a role Ian Flemming recommended for Christopher Lee.

In the novel, Dr. No stole a million in gold from the Tongs, but they caught him and chopped off his hands, but Dr. No survived a shot to the heart, due to his affliction with Dextrocardia.  Lee played another Chinese villain and leader of the Red Dragon Tongs in the underrated The Terror of the Tongs (1961), which likely inspired casting of Lee as Fu Manchu. Coincidentally, a red dragon tapestry appears in Fu Manchu’s lair in TFOFM.

TFOFM has a terrific international cast. Interesting, actresses Karin Dor and Tsai Chin both appear in You Only Live Twice and TFOFM, with Chin reprising her role as Fu Manchu’s evil daughter Lin Tang in all of the Lee Fu Manchu films. Early on we are introduced to long-time Fu Manchu advisaries Dr. Petrie (Howard Marion-Crawford) and Nayland Smith of the Scotland Yard, played with vibrant gusto by South African actor Nigel Green (Jason and the Argonauts, 1963), who incidentally would have made a terrific Sherlock Holmes. Smith’s performance makes this one of the best of the entire series.

TFOFM has a fine story with Petrie and Smith investigating strange strangulation deaths by way of prayer scarfs linked to Dacoits and other Fu Manchu tomfoolery, culminating in the discovery of the virulent Tibetan “Black Hill” poppy toxin soon to be unleashed upon Western civilization.  I also like producer/writer Harry Alan Towers’ (Count Dracula, 1970) screenplay. Case-in-point: Carl Jannsen’s (Joachim Fuchsberger -who looks and sounds a lot like James Mason) escape from the Dacoits is all the more believable because earlier on we see him giving Nayland Smith his cookies.  Both scenes are superbly choreographed fight sequences with interesting photography worthy of a Bond film.

Here we have Lin Tang consulting with her father….

The evil Lin Tang and Fu Manchu

TFOFM was helmed by veteran director Don Sharp (1921-2001), who is recognized by horror and sci-fan fans for The Kiss of the Vampire (1963), Rasputin: The Mad Monk (1966), Curse of the Fly (1965) and others. He worked with Christopher Lee a total of six times, including the film Dark Places (1973), which I have never seen, and the Jimmy Sangster-penned The Devil-Ship Pirates (1964), where Lee plays an eye-patched pirate captain! Christopher Lee enjoyed working with Sharp and described him as a “really brilliant chap who will soon do great things” and “[He] did a wonderful job directing. I’ve been fortunate in my association with him…” However, Lee wasn’t so happy about the dreary Irish weather  which was “damp and cold” resulting in a painful inner ear infection, and makeup appliances which were “unbearable. It took a minimum of three hours for my eyes”. (Johnson & Miller, 2004).

Here Fu Manchu has his hand on a valve that unleashes the Thames River into an iron water torture device.  Biochemist Professor Muller (Walter Rilla) and daughter (Karin Dor) are held restrained in horror….

Christopher Lee_Face of Fu Manchu

It’s a shame that Nigel Green didn’t reprise his role in any other Fu Manchu films.  Next to Peter Cushing he might have been one of Lee’s greatest foes.  Green comes across as competent and resourceful.  He’s a cerebral character, but also handles his own as a rugged field operative. Remember Green as Hercules in Jason and the Argonauts (1963)?  As film historian Danny Peary (Cult Movies, 1981) points out “Hercules, too, is portrayed (well, I think, by Nigel Green) as a man of believable strength and physical proportions” and “not as a musclebound hero but a man of average build who relies on his wits rather than his brawn.”

Nigel Green as Nayland Smith_Face of Fu Manchu

My print of TFOFM comes from a WB Archive Collection DVD. This is a no frills pressing presented in a wide angle letterboxed format.  The print is acceptable (better than countless bootlegs I’ve fallen victim to), but nothing to write home about, with a few minor splice jumps early on. The audio sounds fine through an Oppo BPD-103D player and Samsung HDTV. Continue reading

Castle of the Walking Dead (1967)

Posted in Lee & Cushing with tags on October 7, 2014 by MONSTERMINIONS

Castle of the Walking Dead_Titles

Castle of the Walking Dead (aka The Torture Chamber of Dr. Sadism)(1967) is another well-constructed European horror vehicle that played frequently on UHF TV in the 1970’s.  It’s loosely based on the Poe story The Pit and the Pendulum, and would make a perfect late night companion film opposite Roger Corman’s 1961 Vincent Price classic. Castle of the Walking Dead (not to be confused with the moody Castle of the Living Dead) features Christopher Lee as the diabolical Count Frederic Regula, who returns from the dead to seek revenge after he was drawn and quartered.

Castle of the Walking Dead_Based on Poe

The films stars Karin Dor as Baroness Lilian von Brabant and Lex Barker as Roger von Marienberg, who are descendants of council members that ordered Regula’s death. Fans of 007 will immediately recognize the beautiful Karin Dor who appeared in You Only Live Twice (1967).  She also appears in Hitchcock’s Topaz (1969). Barker was a handsome actor popular in the 1960’s, having parts in Fellini’s La Dolce Vita (1960) and in several German-made TV westerns.  Carl Lange plays Regula’s servant Anatol. In the copy I watched he sounds like a dead ringer for John Furlong, who narrated the prologue for Faster, Pussy Cat! Kill! Kill! (1965). I’m wondering if Lange was dubbed by Furlong. The film is well cast with solid actors.  The film’s script doesn’t allow much screen time for Christopher Lee, but when he’s in it he delivers the goods.

Castle of the Walking DeadThis film is loaded with bizarre props, such as bodies suspended from gnarly old trees, castle dungeons and corridors filled with skulls, weird murals, a pit filled with snakes, spiders and scorpions and nefarious torture devices.

Castle of the Walking Dead_Gnarly TreesThat’s Count Regula in the box, soon to be resurrected by his servant Anatol.

Castle of the Walking Dead_The Baron in StasisCastle was directed by Austrian Harald Reinl, best known to sci-fi enthusiasts as the director of the pseudo-scientific Chariots of the Gods (1970) and In Search of Ancient Astronauts (1973)(a TVM reworking of Gods). He was a capable director known for a visual flair. I’d love to see some more of his films including The Carpet of Horror (Der Teppich des Grauens)(1962), where he directed Karin Dor, and Deadly Jaws (1974), a sunken treasure film.  His Dr. Mabuse films, starring Gert Frobe are entertaining, fast paced vehicles.

Castle of the Walking Dead_Pendulum

Ah, and then there’s that pendulum!

Castle of the Walking Dead_Cross

Christopher Lee vs. the Cross.

Castle of the Walking Dead_Lee in anguish

My copy of Castle of the Walking Dead ran about an hour. I suspect it was heavily edited. The print is crappy and appears to have been derived from a video tape.  I would love to see a good copy of this film in its entirety. This is another Christopher Lee gem and perfect Halloween fodder.

Castle of the Living Dead (1964)

Posted in Lee & Cushing with tags , on October 6, 2014 by MONSTERMINIONS

Castle of the Living Dead_Cropped Titles

Somehow, while growing up feasting on everything from Browning to Bava I missed this Italian-French horror gem featuring Christopher Lee as the mysterious Count Drago, and Donald Sutherland, in his first role, where he plays an old hag and a Napoleonic officer.  Apparently Sutherland also plays a third role (see TCM article), but I can’t spot it. The film reviewed here is a crappy copy duped from a VHS tape derived from a usually dependable vender at the Cinema Wasteland show. I am certain there are far superior prints out there.

Lee plays the villain who welcomes a traveling troupe of gypsy circus performers to his castle.  Lee’s henchman is the sadistic Sandro, played with gusto by Mirko Valentin.  The performers include the beautiful Laura (Gaia Germani, Hercules in the Haunted World, 1961), the greedy Bruno (Jacques Stany), the giant mute Gianni (Ennio Antonelli), Eric the love interest (Phillippe Leroy), the harlequin Dart (Luciano Pigozzi), and a dwarf (I can’t find his name anywhere).

Castle of the Living Dead_3

As far as 1960’s Euro-horror go, The Castle of the Living Dead (1964), holds its own due to an unusal story with Lee rendering “animals” in stasis with an elixir, interesting on-location photography (at a botanical garden?), fluid camera work, a decent cast, and tight direction by Warren Kiefer, Luciano Ricci and Brit Michael Reeves (Witchfinder General, 1968), who is usually credited with directing the final sequences of the film.  Lee is especially in good form as Drago.  However, at times his delivery reminded me of his Count Dooku presence in the crappy Star Wars prequels.  The towering Lee has such a tremendous presence in this film, and with his top hat he’s perhaps 7-foot tall and looks like a sardonic Abe Lincoln!

Chris Lee in Top Hat

Castle of the Living Dead_Lee

The evil Drago describes the origin of his potion. For this scene Lee dipped a flower into liquid nitrogen and it crumbles as he flicks his finger at it.

Castle of the Living Dead_6

Count Drago in top hat with Donald Sutherland as Sergeant Paul.

Castle of the Living Dead_Lee_Sutherland

My one quibble about the film might be the direction of Donald Sutherland.  He’s fine as the old hag, but comes across as forcing the comedic lines as Sgt. Paul.  His dialogue with Lee also comes across as being awkward. “I urge you sir… Get those gypsies packing…”

Castle of the Living Dead_5

The Castle of the Living Dead offers unusual set designs by production designer Carlo Gentili.  These include a witch’s den, Drago’s hall with mounted birds and animals, a laboratory, and a few other surprises.

Twinkling of an eye

The menacing Sandro towers like the Frankenstein monster.

Castle of the Lving Dead_2

The Castle of the Living dead was photographed by Fellini and Visconti cinematographer Aldo Tonti (Nights of Cabiria, 1957).  The film is a joy to watch, with weird camera angles and sculptures of dragons and other mythological creatures.  Few horror films so eloquently used on site locations as The Castle of the Living Dead.  Pull this one out for Halloween!

Castle of the Living Dead_1







Happy 100th Peter Cushing!

Posted in Lee & Cushing on May 26, 2013 by MONSTERMINIONS


Memorial Day Weekend

Posted in Lee & Cushing with tags on May 24, 2013 by MONSTERMINIONS

Let the weekend commence!


Dracula Shots

Posted in Horror, Lee & Cushing with tags , on April 4, 2013 by MONSTERMINIONS

Here are some more shots from the 2012 Hammer Dracula Restoration:

Dracula_Mina Scene 1

Dracula_Mina Scene 2

Face Claw_1

Face Claw_2