Christopher Lee, Peter Cushing, Hammer

"Movie Magazine International" Book Report

(Air Date: Week Of 5/29/96)

By Monica Sullivan

"The Complete Films Of Christopher Lee" is a movie book that may not see the light of day until the year 2022. Lee, who turns 74 this week, continues to keep busy in a career that began nearly fifty years ago. McFarland & Company, Publishers, HAVE come up with three new books which cover many of the more significant aspects of Lee's career, including his 22 collaborations with the much-missed Peter Cushing, who would have been 83 this week.

Mark A. Miller's "Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing and Horror Cinema" does an admirable job detailing their work together, from 1948's "Hamlet" through 1983's "The House Of Long Shadows". Their first two pairings, way down on the cast list in both "Hamlet" and "Moulin Rouge", are of interest mainly to nitpicky scholars who tend to memorise every frame of classic & not so classic cinema. But 1957's "The Curse Of Frankenstein" put both Lee and Cushing, as well as Hammer films on the map. A screen team was born, and they were in exactly the right place at the right time. Unabashed fans of horror movies were clearly starved for literate colour versions of vintage tales of terror unseen since Universal's golden age of horror in the 1930's: "Horror of Dracula" & "The Mummy" followed in quick succession.

The illustrated book includes a charming snapshot of a very young Peter Cushing at a 1936 family picnic, plus a touching 1952 candid of Cushing and his wife Helen, clearly madly in love with each other. The one thing that would have made Miller's thoughtful appraisal more useful would have been separate filmographies for both actors. For Cushing, at least, Deborah Del Vecchio and Tom Johnson finally wrote the book they had been dying to read for years: "Peter Cushing: The Gentle man Of Horror and His 91 Films". This superb book is written with deep affection, infectious enthusiasm, and most importantly, scrupulous accuracy. Even better, Johnson and Del Vecchio went on to write "Hammer Films: An Exhaustive Filmography" that will answer every question you may have wanted to ask about the legendary studio. Illustrated with hundreds of photographd, the Del Vecchio / Johnson books contain enough detail & lively writing to satisfy nitpicky scholars and unabashed fans alike.

Copyright 1996 Monica Sullivan

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