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    Acting Natural-Lee

    Posted by Mike Finnegan on

    From 1948 until his death last year at age 93, Christopher Lee (1922-2015) spent nearly seven decades as the very towering embodiment of the term “working actor,” from bit parts to supporting actor to star attraction to distinctive voice player, leaving an indelible mark. Turner Classic Movies has selected him as Star of the Month and designated Mondays throughout October to bedazzle fans with his many faces across the decades, screening more than three-dozen theatrical features starting in early afternoons and throughout evening primetime. Of course, there are – as there must be – generous helpings of Count Dracula (October 24), Fu Manchu (tonight) and horror opuses galore throughout the mix, but the more deeply curious can also encounter Lee in a sprinkling of war stories, domestic dramas, period adventures, murder mysteries, pirate yarns and more to be found in the four weeks remaining through Halloween night. [Keep track by scouting out today and subsequent Monday lineups here:]. Among the more bizarre offerings on view this evening (more precisely, Tuesday at 3:15 AM EDT/12:15 AM PDT) is Scream and Scream Again (1970), which not only delivers Lee together with frequent co-star Peter Cushing but also fellow genre icon Vincent Price in what its ad tagline promised as “triple distilled horror…as powerful as a vat of boiling acid!” Twilight Time resident historian Julie Kirgo pegs it as “kind of a horror movie, kind of an espionage film, and in some sense a piece of science fiction,” while Guide for the Film Fanatic author Danny Peary considered it “fascinating.” Set in a future totalitarian-state Britain, with a few short glimpses of an unnamed European dictatorship pulling the strings of some common conspiracy, the various plot strands that all tie together in time for the finale involve: Price as a mad scientist devoted to the creation of “synthetic” superhumans (derived from amputation and appropriation of multiple body parts, as an unfortunately hospitalized jogger will discover through the course of the film); Cushing as a political leader who proves too principled to a ruthless party colleague who has mastered a death-grip technique; and Lee as a cool, stately British intelligence higher-up with suspect ties to both governments, along with the investigation into some rather unsettling, blood-drained “vampire murders.” This chaotic curiosity doesn’t always compute, but Price’s unhinged surgeon, Lee’s steely, secretive bureaucrat and the occasional blood-stoked shock image provide a tenuous spine compensating for the disjointed structure. For chills with a literary touch, Lee and Cushing are perfectly partnered in Hammer Films’ Technicolor® remake of Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Hound of the Baskervilles (1959), airing October 31 at 11:30 PM EDT/8:30 PM PDT, with Cushing as a cunning and wiry Sherlock Holmes and Lee as endangered family heir – and in a memorable scene not drawn from Doyle, arachnophobe – Sir Henry Baskerville, a dandyish potential victim role which Lee saw as a nice makeup-light relief following recent portrayals of Dracula and Kharis the Mummy. TT’s hi-def Blu-rays of Scream and Scream Again and The Hound of the Baskervilles, both sporting expert commentaries and documentary featurettes to enhance the 1080p hi-def viewing experience, empower you to make TCM’s October Star of the Month the star of any day you please. Watch for more Christopher Lee to join the TT Blu-ray library next year.