I had the pleasure of receiving this book, about one of my favorite horror stars Christopher Lee, thoroughly enjoyed his screen presence never a worry of him missing his mark on screen, the ability to capture the attention of everyone and command it explicitly weather portraying a villain or hero. Author Paul Leggett and pastor took the time to examine the roles and extending that to his characters for their complex roles in the book from publisher McFarland just released in May of this year.
As fan of the horror genre, and in many ways a Historian on the subject, I found Leggett’s book of interest, hence a must read, which goes increasing in depth on the films, extending them to Greek Mythology, a minor specialty of Paul, though explaining the relationship very nicely for those lacking on knowledge to his degree. I enjoyed reading the introduction, often skipped by readers, however this allows for a clear understanding to the overall concept of the book, as Paul notes his first film Curse of Frankenstein which incidentally is the first chapter too, but also the foundation for the book with connection to religion namely referencing passages and chapters. Namely 2 Corinthians 11:14 “Satan disguises himself as an angel of light” noting the duality of roles, in which Satan deceives with one thing and utters lies, to capture those weak in faith into endless void of darkness that the glories of the holy light. Paul quotes quite a bit of scripture throughout the book, sometimes taking for granting the readers know as much about the bible as he does, and that only one primary religion exists, casting away other philosophies. Nevertheless, even if one doesn’t know the bible, the reading carries onward easily for those very familiar with the films discussed, especially if you close your eyes you can see the movies playing out and note Leggett insights.
There’re a few interest aspects in the book, notable in the first chapter on page 12, the first full paragraph The Curse of Frankenstein (1957) in which the character Paul comes to see Dr. Frankenstein (Peter Cushing) who told the twisted tale to a priest but denies his involvement (not true) but Leggett notes this as a moral right. One can argue that Cushing’s character commits horrendous atrocities of murder and testing the boundaries of science, while Paul only assists, he does nothing to stop the mad doctor, never going to the authorities, hard to argue the morality. However, Paul not innocent, he lusts for the wife of Dr. Frankenstein, Elizabeth, who he later takes as his own, living happily ever after, but he justifies is morality, and Leggett accepts it for that justifications. Leggett makes a few of these moral right passages and tends to repeat concepts such as anger and rage (of evil against good and righteous) or Universal Studios, the holders of Frankenstein, Mummy, Dracula, etc., supporting the path of Hammer Studios, as it circled back to growing interest and comparison to the originals. Some of the more standout chapters consist of The Devils Rides Out (1968), The Wicker Man (1973), and Horror Express (1972).
A concluding factor of Lee’s roles (or portrayal of them) that he’s a Godly, Christian warrior, it such movies The Devil Rides Out (while battling a Satanic Cult) or in the Sherlock Films, and extending it film Horror Express. However, often actors incorporate personal experiences into their roles, and a factor perhaps overlooked comes from Lee’s past, (not mentioned in depth in the book) bearing the end of his military service he found himself assigned to the Central Registry of War Criminals and Security Suspects where he was tasked with tracking down Nazi war criminals. He had access to dossiers of them, what they did and conducted interrogations; therefore, he experienced face-to-face evil, and even at time did work with and for a unit now called the SAS (Special Forces). These experiences must have played some of background into his roles, though that’s this reviewer’s opinion.
This book offers a lot to the readers, although many references to both Greek philosophy and biblical verses, might lose some of the basic horror fans who merely watch the movies as pure entertainment as it tends to dive to deeply at times. It does generate interesting insight, as the genre itself always has battles with good and evil with characters, the portrayal of them, only a few times does the evil win out, corrupt and kill the righteous, but that’s free will. I recommend this book only to those with an obsession for Christopher Lee and cinema lovers including horror fans, as well as filmmakers in general who enjoy discovering the new depths to explore in more meaningful tales.
Baron’s Rating: 4/5
Title: Good Versus Evil in the Films of Christopher Lee
Author: Paul Leggett
Publisher: McFarland https://mcfarlandbooks.com/
Publication Date: May 2018
Page Count: 186