4 Shots From 4 Films: Special Freddie Francis Edition


4 Shots From 4 Films is just what it says it is, 4 shots from 4 of our favorite films. As opposed to the reviews and recaps that we usually post, 4 Shots From 4 Films is all about letting the visuals do the talking.

This October, I am going to be using our 4 Shots From 4 Films feature to pay tribute to some of my favorite horror directors, in alphabetical order!  That’s right, we’re going from Argento to Zombie in one month!

Today’s director is Freddie Francis.  Though Francis may be best remembered as a cinematographer (who worked on three David Lynch films), he was also a director who did memorable work for both Hammer and Amicus in the 60s and 70s.

4 Shots From 4 Films

The Evil of Frankenstein (1963, dir by Freddie Francis)

Torture Garden (1967, dir by Freddie Francis)

Dracula Has Risen From The Grave (1968, dir by Freddie Francis)

The Creeping Flesh (1973, dir by Freddie Francis)

Christopher Lee, R.I.P.


Jinnah

The picture above is Christopher Lee in the 1998 film Jinnah.  In this epic biopic, Lee played Muhammad Ali Jinniah, the founder of modern Pakistan.  Up until yesterday, I had never heard of Jinnah but, after news of Lee’s death broke, Jinnah was frequently cited as being Lee’s personal favorite of his many roles and films.

Consider that.  Christopher Lee began his film career in the 1940s and he worked steadily up until his death.  He played Dracula.  He played The Man with the Golden Gun.  Christopher Lee appeared, with his future best friend Peter Cushing, in Laurence Olivier’s Oscar-winning Hamlet.  He played Seurat in John Huston’s Moulin Rouge.  He appeared in both The Lord of the Rings and the Hobbit trilogies.  He appeared in several films for Tim Burton.  He even had a small role in Martin Scorsese’s Hugo.  He appeared in two Star Wars prequels.  He appeared in the original Wicker Man (and reportedly considered it to be his favorite of his many horror films).  He appeared in Oscar winners and box office hits.  And, out of all that, Christopher Lee’s personal favorite was Jinnah, a film that most people have never heard about.

Unless, of course, you live in Pakistan.  When I did a google search on Christopher Lee, I came across several Pakistani news sources that announced: “Christopher Lee, star of Jinnah, has died.”

And really, that somehow seems appropriate.  Christopher Lee was the epitome of an international film star.  He worked for Hammer in the UK.  He worked with Jess Franco in Spain and Mario Bava in Italy.  He appeared in several movies in the United States.  And, in Pakistan, he played Jinnah.  And I haven’t seen Jinnah but I imagine he was probably as great in that role as he was in every other role that I saw him play.  Over the course of his long career, Christopher Lee appeared in many good films but he also appeared in his share of bad ones.  But Christopher Lee was always great.

It really is hard to know where to begin with Christopher Lee.  Though his death was announced on Thursday, I haven’t gotten around to writing this tribute until Friday.  Admittedly, when I first heard that Lee had passed away, I was on a romantic mini-vacation and had promised myself that I would avoid, as much as possible, getting online for two days.  But, even more than for those personal reasons, I hesitated because I just did not know where to start when it came to talking about Christopher Lee.  He was one of those figures who overwhelmed by his very existence.

We all know that Christopher Lee was a great and iconic actor.  And I imagine that a lot of our readers know that Lee had a wonderfully idiosyncratic musical career, releasing his first heavy metal album when he was in his 80s.  Did you know that Lee also served heroically during World War II and, after the war ended, helped to track down fleeing Nazi war criminals?  Did you know that it has been speculated that Lee may have served as one of the role models for James Bond?  (Ian Fleming was a cousin of Lee’s and even tried to convince Lee to play Dr. No in the first Bond film.)  Christopher Lee lived an amazing life, both on and off the screen.

But, whenever one reads about Christopher Lee and his career or watches an interview with the man, the thing that always comes across is that, for someone who played so many evil characters, Christopher Lee appeared to be one the nicest men that you could ever hope to meet.  Somehow, it was never a shock to learn that his best friend was his frequent screen nemesis, Peter Cushing.

Christopher Lee is one of those great actors who we assumed would always be here.  The world of cinema will be a sadder world without him.

Legends together

Legends together

Here is a list of Christopher Lee films that we’ve reviewed here on the Shattered Lens.  Admittedly, not all of these reviews focus on Lee but they do provide a hint of the man’s versatility:

  1. Airport ’77
  2. Dark Shadows
  3. Dracula A.D. 1972
  4. Dracula Has Risen From The Grave
  5. Dracula, Prince of Darkness
  6. Hercules in the Haunted World
  7. The Hobbit
  8. The Hobbit: Battle of the Five Armies
  9. Horror Express
  10. The Horror of Dracula
  11. Hugo
  12. Jocks
  13. The Man With The Golden Gun
  14. The Satanic Rites of Dracula
  15. Scars of Dracula
  16. Scream and Scream Again
  17. Season of the Witch
  18. Starship Invasions
  19. Taste The Blood of Dracula
  20. The Wicker Tree

Sir Christopher Lee was 93 years old and he lived those 9 decades in the best way possible.  As long as there are film lovers, he will never be forgotten.

Horror Film Review: Dracula Has Risen From The Grave (dir by Freddie Francis)


DraculahasrisenThere’s a scene in 1968’s Dracula Has Risen From The Grave in which Maria (Veronica Carlson), the innocent niece of Monsignor Muller (Rupert Davies), sneaks out of her bedroom window and walks across the rooftops of a small village in Eastern Europe.  She’s making her way to the bedroom of her boyfriend Paul (Barry Andrews), who the Monsignor has ordered her to stop seeing on account of the fact that Paul is an atheist.  The camera views Maria from above with her pink dress and blonde hair contrasting against the gray city streets below her.  It’s a beautiful scene and it is so visually stunning that you can forgive the fact that it doesn’t really move the story forward.

In its way, this scene is the epitome of everything that works about Dracula Has Risen From The Grave.  Director Freddie Francis was an award-winning cinematographer who stepped in, at the last moment, to direct after original director Terrence Fisher broke his leg.  Dracula Has Risen From The Grave is full of stunning imagery — shadow-filled forests, beautifully ornate bedrooms, and decaying castles and churches.  When Christopher Lee’s Dracula shows up on screen, he literally seems to emerge from the shadows and when he attacks one barmaid who has made the mistake of disobeying him, the entire image is briefly tinted a blood red.  When Dracula approaches his victims, his bloodshot eyes fill the entire screen.  The film is full of so many memorable images that it’s easy to forgive the fact that, dramatically, Dracula Has Risen From The Grave is somewhat inert.

Picking up from where Dracula, Prince of Darkness left off, Dracula Has Risen From The Grave shows what happens when Monsignor Muller and a cowardly priest (Ewan Hooper) perform an exorcism at Dracula’s castle.  The priest, frightened by thunder, attempts to flee but instead just ends up slipping and banging his head on a rock.  The priest’s blood awakens Dracula (Christopher Lee) who, after putting the priest under his mental control, then seeks revenge on Muller by making Maria his bride.  It’s up to Paul to try to save Maria’s life but, unfortunately, Paul is such an atheist that he refuses to recite a prayer even after he drives a stake through Dracula’s heart.  This leads to perhaps the most dramatic staking fail in the history of vampire cinema.

Seriously, don’t trust atheists to kill your vampires…

How you respond to Dracula Has Risen From The Grave will probably depend on how much originality you demand from your 1960s British vampire films.  Storywise, the film is nothing that you haven’t seen before and Barry Andrews doesn’t exactly make for an exciting hero.  But, for me, the film’s visuals make up for the occasional weakness of the plot.

Add to that, Christopher Lee is in top form as Dracula.  I’ve been trying to figure out the appeal of Lee’s Dracula because, unlike a lot of other actors who have played the role, Lee never attempts to turn the vampire into a sympathetic character.  There is no romance to Lee’s Dracula.  Unlike other cinematic vampires, Lee’s Dracula doesn’t spend his time mourning for a lost love or yearning for a release from having to be a prisoner to his undead state.  Lee’s Dracula doesn’t even have the sense of humor that modern audiences have come to expect from their iconic villains.  Instead, Lee’s Dracula is pure evil and yet, at the same time, Lee is such an imposing and charismatic actor that he makes evil compelling.

As I watched Dracula Has Risen From The Grave, I realized why Lee’s Dracula has such appeal.  Lee’s Dracula sees what he wants and he takes it.  He doesn’t allow anything to stand in his way and whenever boring mortals like Paul or the Monsignor attempt to stop him, he simply tosses them out of the way.

He’s evil.

He’s frightening.

And that’s exactly the way he should be.