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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.
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on 10 June 2012
Autobiographies. These things can sell like hotcakes or languish on the shelves of your local Poundland, gathering dust. Surely there are two determining factors when it comes to sales figures for these books: the popularity of the subject and crucially, whether they have anything to say for themselves. Sir Christopher Frank Carandini Lee CBE CStJ meets both criteria effortlessly; and at 6'4" with dark features and a deep, strong voice, Lee was tailormade for villainous roles; a mantle he has worn with great success over his lengthy film career: Scaramanga, Count Dooku, Frankenstein's Monster, Saruman, Fu Manchu, Lord Summerisle and of course, Count Dracula.

Although the blurb on the back of the book was seemingly extensive, it didn't quite do justice to the content of Lee's autobiography. The life story of Lee is "colourful" to say the least. His childhood has him unknowingly meeting two of the assassins of Rasputin (a character he would go on to play in later life), exploring Europe and witnessing the last public execution by guillotine in France before evacuating back to Britain due to the impending German invasion, to choose but a few events from before his eighteenth birthday.

Lee's stories throughout are peppered with: members of the aristocracy, royalty from around the world; and a veritable who's who of actors, celebrities and sports stars from the King of Sweden to Burt Lancaster and Hugh Hefner to Muhammad Ali.

Throughout the book, the tone is warm, charming and conversational. It is in no way a chore to read and the impression it left me with was one of sitting down and being told stories by a grandfather of his past. Although Lee has some genuinely harrowing episodes in his life such as his wartime exploits in North Africa, his sense of humour is always evident and there were times when I had to sit the book down due to laughing so much!

Lee's autobiography offers the reader a unique insight into the film industry and he offers much honest and frank remarks about the industry in general, directors, other actors, his career regrets and a candid critique of many of his own performances; including what he considers to be his best role, that of Lord Summerisle in The Wicker Man; and the role he considers to be his most important and that of which he is most proud: playing Muhammad Ali Jinnah in Jinnah, a biopic about the founder of Pakistan.

Lord of Misrule takes the reader inside not just Lee's work but also his private life, marriage, hobbies and interests; and offers some particularly touching and personal comments on his friendships with legends of the horror genre: Boris Karloff, Vincent Price and Peter Cushing.

On a critical note, those looking for a tome on Lee's horror roles may be left disappointed. The reader of Lord of Misrule will find themselves more than a quarter of the way through the book before embarking on Lee's film career, more than a decade of which he laboured in minor roles due to being "too tall... too foreign-looking" before starring in roles for Hammer Horror of which he is now synonymous with. That is not to say that Lee skirts over his contribution to the genre and what horror films have done for his career; it is simply that Lee's life and career now spans ten decades which by any stretch of the imagination, is an awful lot to fit in one book. In fact, Lord of Misrule was originally published in 1977, then again with additions in 1997; and a further addendum in 2003 with an introduction by director Peter Jackson (Brain Dead, King Kong, The Frighteners), who worked with Lee on the Lord of the Rings films.

Whether you be a fan of Lee's work in general, hooked on horror or looking for a wonderfully rich autobiography to immerse yourself in, I thoroughly recommend Lord of Misrule.
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on 24 March 2006
Christopher Lee's autobiography was a hugely enjoyable read. This classic actor has a wonderful sense of humour that you don't expect, and also a mischeivious sid ethat seems even more unlikely.
The book can be a challenge at times, with a huge amount of information about his family background and days in the RAF. For people who are not familiar with the Italian hierarchy or the workings of the RAF, the first half of the book is difficult to understand, but it goes without saying that Lee has had an incredible life and this comes across in the book.
It was wonderful to read such an insightful life-story by one of the greatest living actors that Britain has.
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on 28 January 2014
This is a truly great read especially for fans of the film world. Christopher Lee tells his life story in from his family upbringing in the early 20s, his adventures in World War 2 and his eventual breakthrough into the the film world where he would go on to portray some of the most fearsome (and now loved?) characters in cinema history.

highly enjoyable from start to finish.
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on 20 January 2005
if you love the man, the book will be no disappointment. his life is as fasinating as any of his performances
this is a truely cool book
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on 25 October 2011
A fascinating tale of a man born into privilege, who served in the second world war and struggled as an actor until finding fame as the Prince of Darkness which turned out to be a blessing and curse in equal measures. A forthright, honest and detailed discourse on the life of a horror legend.
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on 10 November 2015
Love Christopher Lee....the man and the actor...and was drawn by the title of his autobiography, but much as he has a unique and erudite style of writing, incorporating a great sagacity of anecdotal wit, for some reason I have struggled to get more than halfway through the book. I believe it would be far more enjoyable to hear Mr Lee regale us with tales of his life over a prolonged dinner - particularly over brandy and cigars - than to read about it in a book. Nonetheless, worth a read, if only for Mr Lees writing style alone. W£as saddened to read recently his account of life in the army may not be entirely accurate. What a shame, if true
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on 17 January 2006
I'd always admired Christopher Lee, but didn't know a lot about the man. His autobiography is excellent, and doesn't seem to hold back anything!
He has led an extraordinary life, from his slightly unusual childhood, to his travels in Europe on the outbreak of WW2, his role in the RAF Intelligence in WW2, and then his move into acting, with a bit of singing too. The list of people he has worked with and met is astonishing AND extremely interesting too; leading right up to his work in more recent movies such as Lord Of The Rings and Star Wars.
If you are a fan of this man you'll love this book. People with a passing interest will also enjoy the book, such is his connection to so many famous people over the years and of course his cult status from the Horror genre.
To begin with you might find his writing style a little flowery and analogy-heavy, but once you get used to this it's a book that's hard to put down.
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on 26 March 2006
This book is riddled with revelations and humour. The counts' shadow is cast long and wide, revealing not only an intimate portrait of the man dehind the fangs, but also of other British cinematic greats such as Boris Karloff, and British filmaking during the Hammer days.The script is extremely well written, and is eminantly readable without wandering too deeply into filmographraphic descriptions of well known films.The best autobiography I've read too date. Highly recommended.
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on 29 July 2009
Whilst most famous for his roles in horror films and his recent appearances in The Lord of the Rings and Star Wars, Christopher Lee has had a long and fascinating career and in his autobiography, he pulls together the various threads of his fascinating lifestory. From having a finger injured by Errol Flynn to his passion for golf, Lee is more than a pair of fangs or a wizard's robes.

Born in England to a family with an aristocratic Italian background, Lee attended top British schools before serving in North Africa and Italy in the Second World War. Having decided that his future lay in acting, he struggled for a number of years before landing the roles with Hammer Horror that were to cement his reputation. The account of his schooldays and his various teachers are hilarious whilst hs exploration of his wartime experience is written with a gentle compassion.

Lee writes about the performers he has enjoyed working with and the performances he is most proud of- individual films are summed up neatly in paragraphs. However, he does not dwell on the mechanics of the film making process, moving swifly from one episode to the next. The short chapters and fluent style means that this autobiography moves at great pace and is always colourful and interesting.
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