My Dad and I love James Bond movies. It is one of the film series that we have bonded over, no pun intended, throughout the years. Now, I’m not old enough to really remember seeing any of Sean Connery’s Bonds in the theater, but any given Sunday that ABC broadcast a Bond movie, Dad let me stay up past my bed time to watch James Bond. Heck, Mom was at BINGO, so a bending of the bed time rules had no repercussions, except on my imagination. I fondly recall my Dad taking me to the then Cinema North theater in a suburb of Syracuse, NY, to see LIVE AND LET DIE, Roger Moore’s first spin as the suave detective with a license to kill. This is also my first memory of seeing a movie, mano-a-mano, with my Dad, without Mom’s presence. A year later we saw THE MAN WITH THE GOLDEN GUN, and for the first time in my short life, I thought Bond was going to get killed.
You see, Bond’s enemy this time was something more than a mad scientist or a megalomaniac. It wasn’t a giant with a top hat nor was it sharks or alligators. None of those enemies could stand up to the English spymaster. But this time Bond was facing Count Fucking Dracula, so I knew it was curtains for the spy. How could Bond beat Count Dracula? It was an impossible feat to my 7 year old mind. Yet beat him, James Bond did, in a visually thematic and tense showdown between the forces of light and darkness on an island fortress. I was awestruck.
As much as the Universal Movie Monsters were part of my childhood on Monster Movie Matinee, I found the Hammer offerings from across the Pond to be bit more to my liking. Their Count Dracula was far removed from Universal’s Bela Lugosi. Where as Lugosi was short and talked a bit too much about the children of the night with an accent I abhorred; Hammer’s Count Dracula was tall and hissed like a pissed off cat, baring his blood soaked fangs and killing scantily clad virgins by the dozen. Because he didn’t talk, the Hammer Dracula gave the distinct impression that he couldn’t be reasoned with, making him all the more scary.
Today we learned that Count Dracula finally succumbed to the ravages of time and passed away this weekend. The actor that portrayed the nefarious vampire, Sir Christopher Lee, was 93 years old, a life accomplishment in of itself. I could list Sir Christopher’s accolades, but anyone reading this already knows them. His long and storied career is well documented, his contributions to genre cinema are firmly placed in the annals of history, making him as immortal as the vampire prince he brought to undeath. Count Dracula, Frankenstein’s Monster, Sherlock Holmes, Sauraman, Count Dooku. All characters he breathed life into, sometimes with minimal vocalization. The latter fact is somewhat ironic, as it is Sir Christopher’s resounding baritone, as much as his vertical stature and imposing presence, that are his signatures.
Rest well, Sir Christopher, knowing you helped form a bond between a father and son, and you aided in the molding of that boy, helping him to become…me.