I can’t think of many leading actors who have died on-screen as often as Christopher Lee. Over his long and successful career, Lee was staked several times as Dracula, destroyed by daylight, eradicated by fresh running water (Dracula Prince of Darkness), staked then set alight by lightning (Scars of Dracula), impaled on a cartwheel (Dracula AD 1972), snared by a hawthorn bush (The Satanic Rites of Dracula), dissolved in an acid bath (The Curse of Frankenstein), killed by James Bond, stabbed by his treacherous servant (The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King), and decapitated by Anakin Skywalker (aka Darth Vader) in Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith, to name but a few of his most memorable exits. If Lee was in a film, you could usually bet he’d be dead by the last reel. Even so, Lee was a major box office draw and his name above a title ensured a couple of hours of thrilling entertainment.
Despite the fact Lee had a tendency to be bumped-off in his films, he was the kind of guy you’d want on your team when battling monsters, demons, and Satanic creeps. He was debonair and presented himself as a man of knowledge and experience. He had an impressive war record where he was attached to the SAS and by his own admission had an incredible knowledge of the occult. He was introduced to this esoteric subject by his friend author Dennis Wheatley and it became a bit of an obsession after he read the works of Aleister Crowley.
In 2011, Lee was asked at a Q&A session at the University College in Dublin, if it was true that he had “a huge collection of occultism-related literature that amounted to 20,000 books?” Lee replied:
“If I had such a collection, I’d be living in a bathroom.”
Lee as a Satanic priest in ‘To the Devil a Daughter.’
Maybe not living in the bathroom but certainly at home in the library as Lee did ‘fess up to owning around 12,000 books on the occult in an interview with the Telegraph the same year. Lee took the occult and Satanism very seriously and was wont to warn people of its dangers:
“I have met people who claim to be Satanists, who claim to be involved with black magic, who claimed that they not only knew a lot about it. But as I said, I certainly have not been involved and I warn all of you: never, never, never. You will not only lose your mind: you lose your soul.”
From this, you can take Lee was a believer—an Anglo-Catholic—who was deeply concerned about the possible dangers of devil worship, Satanism, and communing with spirits. Strange that he should make a living out of pretending to do these very things.
In 1975, during the filming of Dennis Wheatley’s classic occult novel To the Devil a Daughter, Lee gave an interview on his thoughts about Satanism (hey kids, it’s real!), Black Magic (yep, people do practice it every day, esp. in Hollywood), and why occult beliefs were so prevalent in the 1970s (boredom and bad fashion probably….). Lee is a fine man to spend some time with. He has the presence of a genial doctor putting his patients at ease and a cocktail host who wants you to have a really good time. Underneath all that menace, Lee was just a big softie.