Science+Fiction Festival Report: Christopher Lee on Modern Horror Movies
In late November the 2009 Science+Fiction Festival was held in Trieste, Italy. This happening is an international science fiction event dedicated to exploring the worlds of fantasy, experimental languages, and new technologies in film production, television, and visual and performing arts.
Most of the movies and lectures were concentrated on science fiction and fantasy, but there was quite a good share of horror related happenings. While the majority of attendees were psyched that cyberpunk guru Bruce Sterling was presiding over the international jury, I was mainly interested in visits by two legendary horror icons -- Roger Corman, who was just awarded with an "early" honorary Oscar, and Sir Christopher Lee, who had recently been knighted during the Queen's Birthday Honours.
These two genre heavyweights were certainly the icing on the top of a well produced and run film festival for me, but unfortunately, due to business obligations I missed Corman, who gave an introduction to a couple of screenings of his cult movies The Fall of the House of Usher, The Pit and the Pendulum, The Raven, and Masque of the Red Death. Christopher Lee was the star of the final two days of the event, and it was certainly interesting to listen to his 90-minute masterclass as well as an honor to meet him afterward.
The masterclass was held inside a nearby museum building in a jam-packed auditorium. I was pleasantly surprised that Mr. Lee decided to attend the event as just a couple of weeks ago, shortly after the final shot of Hammer's The Resident with Hilary Swank, he tripped and seriously injured his back. Lee is now in his late eighties, and he looked a bit shaken-up (who wouldn't be?), but the man was still full of energy.
The topics discussed with the general audience were not something of grave importance to horror movie buffs as Lee talked about Lord of the Rings, meeting Tolkien way back in Oxford, his career that almost bypassed movies and went to opera, and more. Overall it was an incredible treat to listen as this living legend shared of himself.
After his talk was over, a select few members of media had a chance to do one-on-one interviews with him. Mr Lee was a bit tired and slightly upset that said interviews weren't brought to his attention earlier so I decided to ask him just one of the several questions I had planned.
My question was "What do you think about modern horror movies?" "I don't watch them," Lee paused for a bit and then carried on, "I have seen photographs of them, and I find them revolting. They make a fatal mistake - they show everything. They say that this is what the audience wants, which to me is incredible. It is what you don't see, not what you do see, that is frightening. Everything is sex, blood, insides taken out, and blood, blood, blood ... I am just not interested in that at all".
During the interviews Mr. Lee was accompanied by Philip Bergson, a fairly pompous film critic from the United Kingdom, who almost shut me down when I started with my horror related questions. Apparently horror is not one of the topics Christopher Lee likes to discuss. Especially his portrayal of the Dracula character. During the masterclass, when the questions began to delve into this area, Bergson abruptly put a stop to things. He didn't even refer to the Count character by his name; instead he was referred to as "that character based on Bram Stoker's novel".
When it was over, in the elevator I learned one of the questions a local journalist was planning to ask but didn't get a chance to. It would have been a blast to see the reaction of Lee and Bergson. The question was as follows: "Mr. Lee, what do you think about the differences between Dracula and the Twilight vampire movies?"
Oh, the horror...
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