Top positive review
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on 22 January 2006
Few actors have done as much as well as Christopher Lee has. Acting in hundreds of movies, this impressive British thespian has had a life even more interesting than his career. In "Lord of Misrule," Lee describes his long life with humor and solemn clarity, and with almost too many stories for the book to hold.
Christopher Carandini Lee was born in 1922, to an Italian countess (who was descended from Italian royalty) and a soon-gone British soldier. His was an unusual childhood masked by a conventional British schoolboy's life. At the age of seventeen his world (along with his stepfather's finances) suddenly began to come apart. He fought in World War II, in the Royal Air Force, only to dip back into acting.
Lee rapidly became known as one of the best villains of the movie business, playing Dracula alone a staggering ten times. Here he recounts how he acted with legendary actors like Errol Flynn (who mangled his finger) or his good pal, monster great Boris Karloff (complete with lisping jokes); his marriage; the good, bad and ugly of his varied career; and finally two of his most prominent roles: the evil wizard Saruman of J.R.R. Tolkien's "Lord of the Rings," and Count Dooku of the "Star Wars" prequel trilogy."
Technically, "Lord of Misrule" isn't an entirely new book -- it was once published as "Tall Dark and Gruesome." But here it's updated with new information and photographs from the past few years, and new reflections from Lee. Not to mention a friendly foreword by "Lord of the Rings" director Peter Jackson, which serves as a good warm-up.
Lee himself has a very formal, erudite way of writing, sprinkled with literary references to P.G. Wodehouse and G.K. Chesterton. (And Tolkien, of course) But don't think this book is stuffy. If anything, the eighty-plus years of Lee's life zip by too fast. He clearly has a wealth of stories to tell, and the book is barely big enough to contain them.
Lee also strikes a good balance between humor and darkness. In one taut anecdote, he describes how his daughter was born with deformed feet. In another, he wryly describes how he used to scurry across the Italian border dressed as a girl. It's also augmented by plenty of photos. Some are professional photos, but many are personal photos -- Lee with his wife and daughter, or his friends, at his investiture, or as a bright-eyed baby.
Very few actors have lived a life even half as interesting as the roles they have played, but Christopher Lee is one of the few. And "Lord of Misrule" is a fascinating, captivating read about a unique person.