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AWESOME! I mean... REALLY, man! AWESOME! I mean... REALLY, man! AWESOME! I mean... REALLY, man! AWESOME! I mean... REALLY, man! AWESOME! I mean... REALLY, man! AWESOME! I mean... REALLY, man! AWESOME! I mean... REALLY, man! AWESOME! I mean... REALLY, man! AWESOME! I mean... REALLY, man! AWESOME! I mean... REALLY, man!
The Eleventh Annual Dead Man of the Year Award...
By J.C. Maçek III Dracula is Dracula! ROCK! Light... Saber! The Name of a Legend! HISS!

You CAN live... Forever! Christopher Lee!
An old and great warrior-king lies dying in his bed...

The 2015 Dead Man
of the Year Award

goes to the terrifying...

Christopher Lee
(1922 - 2015)

How many actors can say that they have contributed (majorly) to such varied franchises as
James Bond, Star Wars, The Lord of the Rings, The Howling, Sherlock Holmes, Dracula, Frankenstein, The Mummy and Fu Manchu?

Unless I'm suddenly in the midst of a brain-freeze that erases the obvious, I'm thinking the answer is "only one" and that man just happens to be 2015's Dead Man of the Year Award-winner, one Christopher Lee!

With a resume like Lee's it's almost obvious that would recognize him in the very year he died. Seldom does this actually happen. Since we started these in honor of the year 2005, Lee is only the fourth honoree to receive the award for the year he died. This is, of course, because Christopher Lee continued to make incredible waves in the entertainment industry virtually up until the moment of his death.

At the age of 93, Lee is, by far, the oldest winner at the time of his death, which is noteworthy because Lee takes the "eldest" cake time after time in his career. In addition to acting until his final year on Earth, Lee also was the oldest ever Heavy Metal musician. He also holds the honor of oldest living musician to have a hit on the Billboard Hot 100 (his 2013 single "Jingle Hell" reached #22 when he was 91 1/2 years of age).

Seeing how much of his career was crammed just into the last few years, one might wonder why the artist was suddenly so active. One would be ignorant to ask such a question, however, because Christopher Lee was, in fact, incredibly active throughout his entire life.

That life began on May 27, 1922 with the birth of Christopher Frank Carandini Lee. Appropriately for a man who would become incredibly well-known for playing Count Dracula, baby Christopher was born to a Countess. Countess Estelle Marie Carandini di Sarzano (1889–1981) married Lieutenant Colonel Geoffrey Trollope Lee (1879–1941) and brought into the world Lee's older sister Xandra Carandini Lee (1917–2002) followed by Lee himself.

The Countess was a descendant of no less a royal figure than King Charlemagne (a lineage that would inform Lee's later career). His great-grandfather on his mother's side was an Italian political refugee and that man's wife, Lee's own great-grandmother was the English opera singer Maria Burgess Carandini. Lee's mother, herself, was a sought-after model who had been painted and sculpted by some of the great artists of her time. Lee's father's side was no stranger to notable feats either with Geoffrey Lee counting membership in the 60th King's Royal Rifle Corps, where he fought in both World War I and the Boer War. If that isn't enough of a warrior image, Geoffrey Lee's side of the family also included Civil War General Robert E. Lee. Alas, the marriage was not to last and the couple divorced (after two years of separation) when Lee was six years old.

This began Lee's own world travels. Lee's mother took young Xandra and Christopher to Switzerland where he first got the acting bug playing Rumpelstiltskin while in elementary school. The Countess then married banker Harcourt George St-Croix Rose. Through Lee's stepfather the future star would become the cousin of famed author Ian Fleming. It was not only the future James Bond creator whom Lee would rub elbows with, but also famed actors like Eric Maturin and political notables like Russia's Grand Duke Dmitri Pavlovich and Prince Felix Felixovich Yusupov, the men who would go on to assassinate Grigori Yefimovich Rasputin. Many years later, Lee himself would go on to portray Rasputin on film.

Lee attended school with actor Patrick Macnee (with whom he appeared in plays) and studied classic languages Ancient Greek and Latin while at Wellington College. He also studied weapons training and various sports, but did little acting.

The work force followed and Lee took on various jobs before his first military service, volunteering to fight for Finland in 1939's Winter War (the Soviet Union's invasion of Finland only three months after World War II began). After this conflict, Lee joined England's Home Guard, followed by the Roayal Air Force. When a "failure of the optic nerve" prevented his further flying for the RAF, Lee applied to join RAF Intelligence and was accepted.

Lee traveled the world, was almost killed in North Africa and contracted malaria six times in one year. Lee also improved the morale of the other officers around him and greatly impressed his commanding officers. As the war continued Lee was attached to the Special Air Service (or, rather, its precursor in the Long Range Desert Patrol) in assignments he was forbidden to discuss in any capacity for the rest of his life.

It is worth noting that Christopher Lee, the man who would go on to play one of James Bond's most memorable villains practically WAS James Bond in real life. During his military service, Lee was also attached to a certain agency called the Special Operations Executive (SOE) which was also known as "The Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare". Sound interesting? It was. The SOE was most assuredly "Ungentlemanly". Winston Churchill tasked the team to "set Europe ablaze". It was here that Christopher Lee actually teamed up with his aforementioned step-cousin Ian Fleming.

The team itself operated out of Sherlock Holmes' headquarters. That's not a joke. True, Holmes was a fictional character (whom, indeed, Christopher Lee would portray multiple times), but the Ungentlemen did operate out of Baker Street, exactly where Holmes had in the novels of Arthur Conan Doyle and the SOE was even referred to as "The Baker Street Irregulars". What is more, Ian Fleming based much of the fantastical James Bond stories on his own experiences with this group (which was something of a real-world MI-6) and based many of his characters, such as M, Q, Miss Moneypenny and even Vesper Lynd on actual real people he met and worked with during this time.

Dare we speculate that Christopher Lee may have, indeed, partially inspired James Bond himself? It is possible, yes, but again, neither Lee nor Fleming could really talk about it, as these activities remain classified to this day.

Because of the hush-hush nature of this super-secret group, we don't really know what Flemming or Lee were involved in, but we do know that the Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare (which also went by the badass name of "Churchill's Secret Army") were proficient in weapons and sabotage and the group was involved in organizing resistance groups in occupied France to work with the Allies against the Nazis, working with the Polish government in exile, supporting anti-fascist movements in Italy, distributing secretive propaganda and administrative sabotage within Austria and Germany itself and Operation Gunnerside, in which the Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare teamed up with the Norwegian Resistance to create a commando unit that destroyed a heavy water plant that would have been used to allow Germany to create an atomic bomb. That's right, Lee's group prevented Hitler from getting his hands on "the bomb" and, thus, changing the end of the war (and the entire future of our world) forever. That's not to say Lee himself was involved, but because those involved are actually classified, that's also not to say that Lee wasn't involved.

What we do know is that Flying Officer (a great title in itself) Christopher Lee retired from the RAF with the rank of Flight Lieutenant after seeing more action than most of us could ever see in a lifetime of movies, including the liberation of Italy and the tracking of Nazi War Criminals (while on loan to the Central Registry of War Criminals and Security Suspects).

Lee returned to London and soon returned to acting as well. Yet another famous cousin, Italy's Ambassador to Britain, Nicolo Carandini listened to Lee's war stories and suggested that he become an actor. Though the Countess opposed the decision, Lee won her over by pointing out the number of successful performers the Carandini family had produced including his own great-grandmother. The Ambassador pulled some strings and got Lee in front of producers and studio heads.

At a height of six feet four inches, Lee cut an imposing swath and some believed the veteran was just what the film industry needed while others believed he was simply too tall to be an actor. Such dismissive comments emboldened Lee and he was determined to be a success. However, he, like many at the time, had great difficulty finding work. He took a small part in the Gothic romance Corridor of Mirrors (1947), his film debut, in which he had a single line. However, this was far from his "big break in show biz".

It was during this time that Lee first met actor Peter Cushing, on the set of Laurence Olivier's Hamlet. Cushing would go on to become one of Lee's dearest friends, a frequent co-star and, indeed, a big part of Star Wars history in his own right (playing Grand Moff Tarkin in the original Star Wars).

Impressively, Christopher Lee continued to act, but in small roles. He worked with such notables as Douglas Fairbanks, Jr. and John Houston amongst many others in his almost thirty films in the ten years since his 1947 screen debut.

Lee's fortunes failed to improve and caused great pains in his personal life. In short, whether he was the inspiration for James Bond or not, he wasn't quite the Lothario that Bond was. Lee was engaged in the 1950s to Henriette von Rosen, the daughter of Count Fritz von Rosen of Sweden. Her father was against the marriage and hired private investigators to follow Lee and had friends interview him. Lee had to provide personal references (as if he were applying to join the royal family) and finally had to obtain the permission of the King of Sweden to marry his love. The joke was on the Count, however, because Lee was already acquainted with the king due to his filming of a Hans Christian Andersen film years before.

Perhaps all of these distractions kept him from focusing on the real problem... the fact that Lee was a starving actor who had no stable, reliable income. Painfully, Lee ended the engagement, telling his once betrothed that she deserved better than to be "pitched into the disheveled world of an actor". It wasn't easy, but Henriette accepted this and called off the wedding.

Somewhat ironically for an actor with such a recognizable face and voice, Christopher Lee's big break came in a role for which he did not speak and was practically unrecognizable. That role was Frankenstein's Monster in the Hammer film The Curse of Frankenstein (1957).

Also starring Peter Cushing as Victor Frankenstein, Lee's only audition was answering the question "do you want the part" with the word "yes". In spite of Hammer's best efforts to differentiate the film, Universal Studios sued the British company for trampling all over their intellectual properties, namely the Frankenstein films that starred Boris Karloff. Ironically, while this was going on, Lee would star with Karloff in 1958's Corridors of Blood.

Hammer continued to make horror films after the success of Curse of Frankenstein and they knew that, in no small part, Cushing and Lee were a big part of that success. Thus Lee was cast in a much more recognizable leading role in their follow-up film, Horror of Dracula (1958) which also saw Cushing as the more heroic Dr. Van Helsing.

Horror of Dracula made Lee a bona fide star in his own right and informed a great deal of the Dracula lore we take for granted today. Although a direct descendant of Bela Lugosi's Dracula (1931), Lee's Dracula was among the first big screen vampires to actually bear visible fangs. This was the first of eleven times Lee portrayed Dracula on film over the next two decades.

By the time Dracula was making headlines, Universal and Hammer had buried the proverbial hatchet and were working together. Universal was given the lucrative international distribution rights for Hammer's horror films while Hammer was given the rights to remake Universal's Classic Monster Movies. Thus, Lee would go on to star in The Mummy (1959) as well as Hammer's Rasputin, The Mad Monk (1966) and Hammer's The Hound of the Baskervilles (1959) along with more and more Dracula flicks. This would be something Lee would grow to regret.

In the first of these, Dracula: Prince of Darkness (1965), Lee would not actually speak onscreen. According to the screenwriter, Jimmy Sangster, there were never any lines written for the character, but according to Lee himself, the script was rife with Dracula dialogue so inane that the now veteran performer refused to deliver the lines and simply hissed throughout the film's runtime. Hammer would consistently draft Lee into playing the Count without being able to offer him his now larger salary. Hammer would first sell the next Dracula film to distributors before it was made, then tell Lee that he had to play the part because of this promise. Ultimately, Hammer resorted to guilting Lee into accepting the role time and again because of the fact that a great number of his close friends would be out of work if he refused to play the part.

Further, the subsequent Dracula films showed less and less direct involvement of the Count himself and Lee was annoyed by the waning quality of the films and the screenplays. The only way he could stomach continuing was by slipping in occasional lines written by Bram Stoker but not in the scripts themselves. That said, the films continued to be successful up until the modern-day missteps Dracula A.D. 1972 (1972) and The Satanic Rites of Dracula (1973).

But during this time, with his star rising, Lee became known for playing another famed character, one he had quite a connection to in real life: Sherlock Holmes. Although 1959's Hound of the Baskervilles gave us Lee as Baskerville and Cushing as Sherlock Holmes, Lee himself would portray Holmes for the first time in 1962's Sherlock Holmes and the Deadly Necklace (1962). He would go on to play Holmes in Sherlock Holmes and the Leading Lady (1991) and Incident at Victoria Falls (1992). In The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes (1970), Lee did something completely different and played Sherlock's older brother Mycroft Holmes while Robert Stephens took over the role of the detective. Lee credited his turn as Holmes and Holmes as the reason he was no longer typecast as a villain.

What a difference a few years made for Lee. Once firmly established as a star actor, Lee met model and artist Birgit Krøncke (nicknamed "Gitte") through Danish friends and the couple married in 1961. One daughter followed in 1963 named Christina Lee. Christina and Christopher would later collaborate, contributing spoken vocals to Italian Heavy Metal Band Rhapsody of Fire's 2011 album From Chaos to Eternity.

As if Lee's life wasn't amazing enough, it is also true that the actor spoke no less than eight languages including English (due, in part, to his days in RAF Intelligence). Because of this, Lee was cast as the lead in the German film Das Rätsel der roten Orchidee, AKA: The Puzzle of the Red Orchid (1962), in which he spoke German.

Lee was also famous for portraying the villainous Fu Manchu in a series of films beginning with 1965's The Face of Fu Manchu. He reprised the role four more times, ending with 1969's The Castle of Fu Manchu.

Although he had already tired of portraying Count Dracula in Hammer's films (though he would still make a couple more), Lee did team up with Hammer and his author friend Dennis Wheatley for the occult films The Devil Rides Out (1967) and To the Devil a Daughter (1976). The latter marked major changes for most involved. Hammer stopped making horror films for quite some time after the 1976 film, Wheatley disowned the project and Lee departed from Hammer, seemingly forever.

However, Christopher Lee being Christopher Lee, he was not done with horror in general. The next few years saw his appearances in I, Monster (1971), The Creeping Flesh (1972) and the incomparable horror film The Wicker Man (1973). If you haven't seen it, you really must. The film is genius.

Lee's benevolent side may not have shown much onscreen in The Wicker Man, but just as he continued to play Dracula for lower rates, Lee was so dedicated to the low budget 1973 film that he donated his services free of charge.

Luckily the investment didn't blow up in Lee's face as The Wicker Man became a cult favorite and is critically acclaimed to this day. However, this can't be said for every risk Lee took. Does the name Jess Franco mean anything to you? It apparently didn't mean much to Lee when he accepted the role of the narrator in Franco's Eugenie (1970). As with most of Franco's films (or, I should say, every single one of them) Eugenie was a soft-core porn film (and I use the term "soft" lightly). Lee had gone to Spain for a single day's work on a set in which every actor had his and her clothes on. However when Eugenie was released friends informed him that he was being billed in an adult film showing in porno theaters in the seediest part of London. Lee laughed it off, but went to the theater heavily disguised and found that Eugenie was not only pornographic, but also had his name in bright and shining lights on the marquee. The actor was furious and Eugenie created a lot of problems for Lee at the time. Apparently when Lee's back was turned, the cast took their clothes off and once Lee left Spain after that one day's work, the sex scenes were filmed.

Around that same time, Lee reprised his role as Dracula in the German film Count Dracula (1970), opposite Klaus Kinski as Renfield and Herbert Lom as Van Helsing. Although the film is considered a faithful adaptation of the original Stoker novel, reviews are mixed with many critics deriding it as boring. Incidentally, that director's name was Jess Franco. Once bitten, twice shy?

Lee's association with his cousin Ian Fleming continued until Fleming's death in the mid 1960s. While there is some evidence that Lee was at least partially the inspiration for James Bond, he was never in contention for the role of Bond onscreen. He was, however, offered the titular role of Dr. No, by Fleming, in the first Bond film (of the same name), released in 1962. However, it turned out that the producers had already offered the part to Joseph Wiseman, however, Lee's association with his cousin's most famous character didn't end with that misfire. Instead, fresh off the heels of his amazing turn in The Wicker Man, Lee was cast in the titular role of another Fleming-created villain in The Man With The Golden Gun (1974). In this film he played the inventive sharp shooting criminal Francisco Scaramanga. Appropriately, Lee portrayed Scaramanga as "the dark side of Bond", "charming, elegant, amusing, lethal".

Lee, as Scaramanga, remains one of the most memorable and excellent James Bond villains of all time. The ingenious gadgets, the secret, technological hideout, the plans for world domination... it's all there and Lee plays the character with a cold, wicked smile.

The 1970s were also an era of near misses for Lee. He accepted the role of The Specialist in Ken Russell's film adaptation of The Who's Tommy (1975), but Lee had to drop out due to his filming schedule on Golden Gun in Thailand. The role went to Jack Nicholson. (However, on the Rock and Roll front, Lee did accept an offer to appear on the cover of Wings' Band on the Run album).

Similarly, Lee was offered a supporting role as a psychiatrist in a low budget horror film from an independent director. Like his good friend Peter Cushing, Lee turned the role down. Unfortunately for both of them, that little independent horror flick was Halloween (1978) and the director was the brilliant John Carpenter. Halloween went on to become an acclaimed classic that redefined the slasher film and impacted horror for years to come. John Carpenter became a superstar director and Donald Pleasence, who did accept the role of Doctor Sam Loomis, was gifted with one of the most memorable roles of his career. Later, Lee met Carpenter and confessed that turning down that great role was one of the biggest regrets of his entire career.

Another "big mistake" in the mind of the actor was his turning down of the role of Dr. Barry Rumack in the disaster spoof Airplane! (1980). That role went on to be famously played by our 2010 Dead Man of the Year Leslie Nielsen in a career-redefining performance.

Of course, Lee was only able to turn down such offers because he had decided to beat the typecasting devil altogether by relocating from London to Hollywood. His first American film was Airport '77 (1977, natch), which made him a shoe in to appear in Airplane!. Too bad for him, he didn't. Lee went on to appear on Saturday Night Live (in 1978), in Steven Spielberg's 1941 (1979) and a memorable role in Disney's Return from Witch Mountain opposite Bette Davis where he plays a technological villain with the power to control minds, including that of one of the super-powerful alien kids.

Lee actually sang in the musical The Return of Captain Invincible (somewhat forecasting his latter-day Heavy Metal career), co-written by The Rocky Horror Picture Show's Richard O'Brien.

After turning down (or having to cancel his appearances in) some really great films, Lee was careful about what he turned down. Perhaps this is what led him to (surprisingly) accept the role of Stefan Crosscoe in the ridiculous horror sequel Howling II: Your Sister Is a Werewolf (1981) also starring Sybil Danning and Reb Brown (if you can believe that). You can read my review for that masterpiece here: 'Howling II' Is a One-of-a-Kind Disasterpiece! But hey, give him some credit, he did also feature in Gremlins II: The New Batch (1990).

Lee appeared in a string of both memorable and forgettable roles throughout the next two decades. Let us not forget that he did agree to appear in 1994's Police Academy: Mission to Moscow. However he did also star in a well-respected biopic called Jinnah (1998) in which he played Mohammed Ali Jinna, the founder of modern Pakistan. Lee would later go on record indicating that this was his favorite and most significant performance of his career.

One of the more noteworthy appearances was his final collaboration with his friend Peter Cushing in the Hammer Horror documentary Flesh and Blood: The Hammer Heritage of Horror (1994). The duo of old costars and friends co-narrated the film, but it would be their last collaboration and, in fact, meeting as cushing died two months after the recording of the narration.

Lee's villainous side was almost seen as the mutant leader Magneto in the film X-Men, but that part went to Ian McKellen. However, Lee's fortunes were about to change considerably thanks, in part, to that same man.

Among the many legendary figures Christopher Lee met in his life was one J.R.R. Tolkien and, in fact, Lee had long dreamt of portraying the heroic wizard Gandalf on screen. By 1998 when Peter Jackson finally managed to get the Lord of the Rings film trilogy greenlit, Lee was seventy-six years of age and a bit too old to play the character, considering the physical demands of the role. Once again, the coveted role Lee had his eye on went to his friend Ian McKellen. However, Lee was given the similar role of turncoat wizard Saruman the White, for which he received much acclaim. The first film in the trilogy, The Fellowship of the Ring was released in 2001, while the next two The Two Towers and The Return of the King were released in 2002 and 2003 respectively.

His casting as Saruman gave Lee a much deserved career resurgence that made him a bonafide superstar once again. In 20015 Lee was named the most marketable star in the world by USA Today. Tolkein's trilogy wasn't the only one he would find himself involved in. 2002 also saw Lee's first appearance as the Dark Lord of the Sith Darth Tyranus in George Lucas' Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones. With his public guise as former Jedi Count Dooku (named, in part, for Count Dracula), Lee's character proved to be an integral part of the duplicitous rise of the Empire and the fall of the Old Republic. He would reprise his role as Tyranus/ Dooku in both Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith (2005) and the animated Star Wars: The Clone Wars (2008) for which he lent his voice.

Amazingly, considering the fact that he was over eighty years old when filming his scenes, Christopher Lee performed most of his own sword fighting. For some wide shots a double had to be used. Lee stated "my arms and hands will move as fast as you saw them" but confessed that his legs could no longer move that fast.

Clone Wars was hardly unique in Lee's career, as he had long been a voice actor who used his unique bass vocals to accentuate animated films in multiple languages. This includes his characterization of King Haggard in both the English and the German versions of The Little Unicorn (1982). In live action, he lent his voice to the 1965 film adaptation of Agatha Christie's Ten Little Indians. He also portrayed the voice of DEATH in multiple productions. His video game work includes appearances in the Kingdom Hearts saga, EverQuest II and The Lord of the Rings: Battle for Middle-earth in which he reprised his role as Saruman. He further revisited the role of Scaramanga in the video game GoldenEye: Rogue Agent.

Lee also lent his voice to Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland (2010), The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993) and Corpse Bride (2005). In live action, Lee would team with Burton on such films as Sleepy Hollow (1999), Dark Shadows and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (2005).

By the time of the mid 2000s, Lee was an unquestionable star again and was highly in demand. EntertainmentWeekly magazine referred to him as the "IT really, really Old Guy". They were not wrong, but Lee was hardly slowing down. Lee teamed with director Martin Scorsese for the critically acclaimed film Hugo (2011) and even managed to appear in the sequel to The Wicker Man known as The Wicker Tree (2011). Also in 2011, Lee returned to Hammer Films for the first time in thirty-five years to make The Resident alongside Hilary Swank and Jeffrey Dean Morgan.

It would be Peter Jackson who once again beckoned Christopher Lee to blockbusters when he reprised his role as a pre-bad guy Saruman for The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (2012) and The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies (2014). Counting video games like Return of the King, The Third Age, the aforementioned Battle for Middle-Earth, Battle for Middle Earth II and Lego The Hobbit, Lee would play Saruman no less than eleven times.

With a life this rich and well-lived, Lee could have died then and still have been a legend, but the man who would be Count had more worlds yet to conquer. Lee had long been a singer, contributing vocals to The Wicker Man soundtrack as well as the aforementioned Captain Invincible film and the horror film Funny Man (1994). He further appeared on the concept album The King of Elfland's Daughter (1977) and the disco song "Little Witch".

But his big break in music came in the form of a very unlikely genre. Invited by Italian singer Fabio Lione to duet on Rhapsody of Fire's single "Magic of the Wizard's Dream" (2005), Lee began a series of collaborations with the band. In total he appeared on six of the band's albums.

From there, Lee caught the Heavy Metal bug, so to speak, and collaborated with the band Inner Terrestrials to record a metal version of "Toreador Song" from the opera Carmen in 2006. He also joined with metal band Manowar for their re-recording of the album Battle Hymns (the new version being called Battle Hymns MMXI (2010).

By this time, however, Lee was keen on releasing his own Heavy Metal album, which he did. At eighty-eight years of age, Lee was by far the oldest Heavy Metal musician the world had ever seen and, appropriately, he reached back into his own family history for the award-winning metal album Charlemagne: By the Sword and the Cross (2010), which told the tale of his most famous ancestor. Lee would revisit the subject matter in an even heavier album called Charlemagne: The Omens of Death (2013) on which he collaborated with guitarists Hedras Ramos and Judas Priest's Richie Faulkner!

This was no mere novelty, as in December of 2012, Lee released A Heavy Metal Christmas, an EP of metal covers, which was followed in 2013 by A Heavy Metal Christmas Too. It was the single "Jingle Hell" from this second EP that helped Lee make history once again. At ninety-one and one half years old, Lee became the oldest living performer, of any genre, ever to enter the Billboard Charts when "Jingle Hell" debuted at #22. The song climbed several notches to #18 before it was done.

Lee continued to record and release music with 2014's Metal Knight, another collection of cover songs that included the aforementioned Carmen song, a cover of "My Way" (made famous by Frank Sinatra) and a couple of songs from Man of La Mancha because, according to Lee, "Don Quixote is the most METAL fictional character I know". Lee's final release came in December 2014 with Darkest Carols, Faithful Sing in which he, again, released metalized Christmas songs.

Lee's final musical recording came when Lee collaborated with The Hollywood Vampires for the song "The Last Vampire" (where he was joined by Alice Cooper, Joe Perry and Johnny Depp. The album also featues such greats as Brian Johnson, Robby Krieger, Joe Walsh, Slash, Dave Grohl and Paul McCartney. It should be noted that the original Hollywood Vampires consisted of Bob Brown, Mickey Dolenz, Harry Nilsson, Ringo Starr, Keith Moon, John Lennon and Alice Cooper (which gave him rights to the name). Thus, Christopher Lee was included not only in Horror Royalty but Rock Royalty as well.

Why get so involved in Heavy Metal, especially so late in life (at an age no one else, to date, had ever been involved in the genre)? According to lee it was all "light-hearted, joyful and fun." By this time, Lee wasn't sure how much longer he might live, so he celebrated every day and shared that celebration with his fans. "At my age, the most important thing for me is to keep active by doing things that I truly enjoy." And Heavy Metal was something Christopher Lee truly enjoyed.

Unfortunately the collaboration with the Hollywood Vampires was to be his last contribution to music or just about anything else artistic. Lee was still celebrating his ninety-third birthday (four days before) when he was admitted to Chelsea and Westminster Hospital on June 7, 2015 with resperatory issues and heart failure. His wife Gitte delayed the announcement until June 11 in order to inform friends and family. Lee is survived by Christina and Gitte.

Lee died not only a legend in movies and television but also in warfare and espionage as well as a record-setter in the world of music. He was Knighted by Prince Charles in 2009 and carried appointments as Commander of the Venerable Order of Saint John, Commander of the Order of the British Empire and France's Commander of the Order of Arts and Letters. He received a BAFTA Academy Fellowship, an honorary membership in the UCD Law Society, a Bram Stoker Gold Medal and a copy of M.R. James' Collected Ghost Stories (Lee had both met James in person and had played him on BBC Television).

The impact of Christopher Lee is still being felt in the year 2015. Lee's films in any genre have remained some of the most popular ever made. Battle of the Five Armies was re-released for one night only in October 2015 and made a big splash on Blu-Ray in 2015. Lee also appeared in two 2015 films, Extraordinary Tales and Angels in Notting Hill. His films are still being enjoyed in theaters and on home video. 2015 also showed new entries into the Star Wars and James Bond films, both of which he contributed greatly to. Lee's music is also being discovered and rediscovered as the years go on.

Christopher Lee was truly one of a kind. An innovator and artist whose direct and indirect impact on the world of movies (and much more) is felt every day.

Farewell, nightmare maker, metal god, spy, knight, hero, villain, actor, singer and all around amazing human being. You have left us but you're never truly gone. Rest in Peace, Mr. Lee.

Sir Christopher Lee
(May 27, 1922 - June 07, 2015):
The World's Greatest Critic's
2015 Dead Man of the Year!

Sink your teeth into more
by clicking HERE for reviews and everything else under the moon.

The 2015 World's Greatest Critic's
Dead Man of the Year Awarded to Sir Christopher Lee!
This article was written and researched
by J.C. Maçek III who is solely responsible for the content of all of this website
Including the final decision of unparalleled awardee year after year.
Nominate yours for 2016 now... I'm sure you can scare a few up!
Got something to say? Write it!

Christopher Lee's "The Bloody Verdict of Verden" from the album Charlemagne:
By the Sword and the Cross

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Catching Up with the DMOTYs:
It's been a long time, let's look back at our previous honorees:

  1. The 2005 Dead Man
    of the Year:
    Willis H. "Obie" O'Brien
    (1886 - 1962)
  2. The 2006 Dead Men
    of the Year:
    Jerry Siegel (1914 - 1996)
    Joe Shuster (1914 - 1992)
  3. The 2007 Dead Man
    of the Year:
    Phil Hartman (1948 - 1998)
  4. The 2008 Dead Man
    of the Year:
    Stan Winston (1946 - 2008)
  5. The 2009 Dead Woman
    of the Year:
    Majel Barrett (1932 - 2008)
  6. The 2010 Dead Man
    of the Year:
    Leslie Nielsen (1926 - 2010)
  7. The 2011 Dead Man
    of the Year:
    Jack "King" Kirby
    (1917 - 1994)
  8. The 2012 Dead Man
    of the Year:
    Ralph McQuarrie (1929 - 2012)
  9. The 2013 Dead Man
    of the Year:
    Bruce Lee (1940 - 1973)
  10. The 2014 Dead Man
    of the Year:
    Harry Nilsson (1941 - 1994)

"Lee. Christopher Lee."
We don't have definitive proof that Ian Fleming based James Bond on his cousin and fellow spy Christopher Lee, but take a look at the drawing Fleming himself sketched of what Bond is
supposed to look like.
Notice any resemblance?

"Good Intelligence!"
Christopher Lee served all over Europe in World War II and became a member of the S.O.E., also known as "The Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare", "The Baker Street Irregulars", and "Churchill's Secret Army", commissioned to
"set Europe ablaze".
He was forbidden from speaking of it in life, but now that he's passed on, you ask him.
The Beast...
"We Belong DEAD!"
The man with the noteworthy visage and voice went silent and masked in his first big break,
The Curse of Frankenstein (1957).
I Vant to Drink Yohhhhr BLOOD!
"Prince of Darkness!"
Christopher Lee became a bona fide movie star with his unique and redefining role as Count Dracula in Horror of Dracula (1958).
"Bride of Dracula!"
Financial security came with stardom and with financial security came the freedom to marry his sweetheart, Birgit Krøncke Lee.
Lord of the Summerisle!
"Lord of the Wicker!"
Christopher Lee as Lord Summerisle in The Wicker Man (1973) a role and film he believed in so strongly, he donated his acting to the low-budget production, free of charge.
Take THIS, Bond!
"Scaramanga's Revenge!"
Lee was unable to portray James Bond (a character he influenced, created by his cousin) or even Bond's first big-screen villain in Dr. No (1962), but he did go on to play one of Bond's best villains as the title character in The Man With The Golden Gun (1974).
That White Guy
"Magic Man"
Christopher Lee went from well known icon to superstar with his casting as Saruman in the
Lord of the Rings trilogy.
He would revisit the character many times until his demise.
But by our skills with the Light Saber!
"Count Dooku! Or, should I say, Darth Tyranus?"
Christopher Lee performed many of his own fencing stunts when cast as the villainous former Jedi Count Dooku, better known as Darth Tyranus.
Okay, Chris, MY turn with the Sword!
"Dub Step?"
Prince Charles knighted Christopher Lee in one of his many honors. Due to his age he wasn't able to kneel, so Prince Charles had to stand on a higher step to pronounce the 6'4" actor "Sir Christopher Lee, C.B.E."
You bang YOUR head, bitch, I'm OLD!
"That's SO Metal!"
Christopher Lee was the oldest Heavy Metal musician of all time and the oldest living artist ever to have a song hit the Billboard Hot 100.
In spite of his dark image and incredibly heavy music, Lee condemned involvement in the occult, telling students "I warn all of you: never, never, never. You will not only lose your mind, you'll lose your soul."

"A ROYAL Family!"
Descended from Royalty and noble himself, Christopher Lee loved his family.
Here he is with Gitte Lee, the woman he married in 1961 (and would stay married to until he died) along with their daughter
Christina Erika Carandini Lee (b. 1963).

About the DMOTYs:
The Dead Man of the Year Awards
AKA: The DMOTYs (de*MOT*tees)

There is no dearth of magazines and websites that give out some kind of "Person of the Year" award to recognize people who have had an incredible impact on the year they are awarded. Every year, looks at the past accomplishments of those who are no longer with us and takes great pains to recognize and remember those whose accomplishments still impact us after their deaths, even and especially when their names aren't always recognized for their work.

All nominees must have a current impact on Entertainment during the year in which they are nominated, influencing the Arts in vital, if not necessarily commercial ways. The intent of the DMOTY award is to pay tribute to the nominees' influence by detailing who they were in life, why their legacy is still being felt today and beyond and what their influence has been and remains to be. In short, its a way to put a name on the accomplishments of those who might not be in the public eye to have credit given where due.

By its very name, The Dead Man (or Woman) of the Year Award can only be given posthumously, however there is nothing morbid about these tributes. "Man of the Year" awards measure the works of those who are currently contributing, The Dead Man of the Year award honors those whose influence is still being felt with respect and fondness even after they've passed on!

This year honors Christopher Lee, spy, warrior, actor, scholar, singer, rocker, father, wizard, vampire, Sith Lord, husband and all around amazing man.

Lee's impact is all over 2015 and beyond and he will be missed. Participate in nominating the DMOTY for next year, any year you want!

-The Most Inclusive KNEUMSI!

Honorable Mention:
MORE Nominees and Runners Up:
  1. Wesley Earl Craven (August 02, 1939 - August 30, 2015)

    2015 Influence: Wes Craven was the creator of A Nightmare on Elm Street and the saga's main villain Freddy Krueger. Craven's creation almost immediately became one of the most iconic, popular and recognizable horror characters in history. His long career in film, especially horror, has been incredibly influential with a television version of his film Scream (1996) debuting on cable in 2015.

    Cause of Death: Brain cancer

    Other Impact: Craven was a music fan who was published in Life Magazine, praising their coverage of contemporary music back in 1968. The horror master held a master's degree in Philosophy and Writing from Johns Hopkins University and became a college English teacher before joining a post-production company as a sound editor. Craven started directing pornographic films in the late 1960s before moving on to horror with collaborator (and future Friday the 13th director) Sean S. Cunningham. Together the duo created The Last House on the Left (1972). Craven would go on to create such horror films as The Hills Have Eyes (1977), Deadly Blessing (1981), Swamp Thing (1982), Vampire in Brooklyn (1995), My Soul To Take (2010) and, of course, Scream (1996), Scream 2 (1997), Scream 3 (2000) and Scream 4 (2011).

    Recommendations: I am a big proponent of all four Scream films. I also highly recommend Craven fans check out the other two Nightmare films he was involved with directly, A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors (1987) and Wes Craven's New Nightmare (1994). Non horror fans will still find something to love, considering the fact that Craven directed Music of the Heart (1999), starring Meryl Streep and one important segment of Paris, je t'aime (2006). When in doubt, you've got to love that original A Nightmare on Elm Street. You can also check out my review for Swamp Thing HERE and Deadly Blessing HERE, not to mention New Nightmare HERE.

  2. Leonard Simon Nimoy (March 26, 1931 – February 27, 2015)

    2015 Influence: Leonard Nimoy was Spock, a character who debuted in 1966 and has remained consistently popular over the past fifty years. As one of the integral parts of Star Trek, Nimoy's characterization of the conflicted half-alien has gone on to inform Science Fiction for years and has also deeply influenced the newer Star Trek reboot films that began in 2009 (which, incidentally, Nimoy cameoed in).

    Cause of Death: Complications from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease

    Other Impact: Nimoy was featured in Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978) before the Trek films kicked into high gear with Star Trek: The Motion Picture (1979). Nimoy also springboarded his directing career with Star Trek by directing the excellent Star Trek III: The Search for Spock (1984) and Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home (1986) for which he wrote the story. He also wrote the story for Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country (1986) before moving on to directing such well regarded films as Funny About Love (1990) and Three Men and a Baby (1987), the highest grossing film of its year.

    Recommendations: There are almost no episodes of Star Trek (1966), the original series that I do not recommend. All of his turns in the Star Trek films are high quality too, including his appearances in Star Trek (2009) and Star Trek: Into Darkness (2013). The Star Trek: The Next Generation episodes "Unification Part One" and "Unification Part II" both star Nimoy and are both excellent.
    And if you ever want to have the experience of a man arguing with himself, take the time to read the Nimoy-penned nonfiction book I Am Not Spock (1975) and then follow it up with I Am Spock (1995).

  3. Riley B. King (September 16, 1925 – May 14, 2015)

    2015 Influence: Better known as B.B. King, the axeman was tireless in his touring and recording and didn't slow down until he absolutely had to. Blues Fans from the 1940s to the present know B.B. King and have loved his works, which continue to be listened to and enjoyed. The critically acclaimed artist was known as "The King of Blues" for his amazing soloing, inventive bends and influential playing of all kinds. King lent his name to a series of Bars and Grills known as "B.B. King's Blues Club", which have locations across the country (with more planned). King was well known for playing a string (no pun intended) of customized variants of the Gibson ES-355 archtop guitar, which he named "Lucille" (all of them). Lucille has become as famous as King and many copies of Lucille are featured in tourist locations around the world.

    Cause of Death: Diabetes, heart failure and complications of Altzheimer's Disease

    Other Impact: King was not only a great Blues player and singer, but also a very funny man who appeared in many sitcoms and movies that showcased his sense of humor (often with Lucille in his lap). King was the inspiration for the U2 song "When Love Comes to Town" on which he performed and sang. This was far from his only collaboration, as King was known as an excellent guest star on many albums and in many concerts. King collaborated with Eric Clapton on the album Riding with the King which might have seemed like a guest appearance, but King's personality and performance practically took over the record. King also appeared (with Lucille) in some memorable diabetes awareness commercials.

    Recommendations: King had a very memorable and hilarious guest appearance in the sketch comedy motion picture Amazon Women on the Moon (1987) in which he promoted a (sadly fictional) charity called "Blacks Without Soul". His deadpan sincere delivery is one of the highlights of the entire film. King's small role in U2's Rattle and Hum (1988) helps to make "When Love Comes To Town" one of the very best performances in the film. True fans should pick up Blues All Around Me: The Autobiography of B. B. King (2011) and, really, any of King's albums. If you don't listen to the Blues then, I can honestly tell you that "The Thrill Is Gone"! So... leave.

  4. Shirley Ann Walker (April 10, 1945 – November 30, 2006)

    2015 Influence: Shirley Walker may not be on the tip of your tongue when you list your favorite composers. That's a shame because she should be. Walker was amazing and influential, though there isn't an entire legion of people out there who know her outside the industry. Walker co-composed the score to The Black Stallion (1979), Nightbreed (1989), White Fang (1991), Escape from L.A. (1996) and a little film called Batman (1989). On her own, she composed the excellent score to Batman: Mask of the Phantasm (1993), The Flash (1990), Final Destination (2000), Final Destination 2 (2003), Final Destination 3 (2006), Willard (2003), Black Christmas (2006), Spawn (The Animated Series) (1997), Space: Above and Beyond (1995), Batman: The Animated Series (1992) and contributed to Faclon Crest (1984), Cagney & Lacey (1981) and Lou Grant (1980). True not every show or movie she scored was an absolute winner, but equally true is the fact that the scores for each of these were excellent!

    Cause of Death: Complications from a stroke

    Other Impact: Walker was not only a brilliant composer but an excellent conductor as well, conducting the great works of many other composers throughout her career. You can hear her work on The Black Stallion, Cujo (1983), Children of a Lesser God (1986), Scrooged (1988), The Accused (1988), National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation (1989), Batman, Fletch Lives (1989), Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (1990), Nightbreed, Dick Tracy (1990), Arachnophobia (1990), Child's Play 2 (1990), Bird on a Wire (1990), Days of Thunder (1990), The Butcher's WIfe (1991), White Fang, Backdraft (1991), Radio Flyer (1992), A League of their Own (1992), Striking Distance (1993), True Lies (1994), A Goofy Movie (1995), Johnny Mnemonic (1995) and Batman Forever (1995), to name a few.
    At the time of her untimely death in 2006 there were very, very few female composers working, yet she wasn't even honored at the next year's Academy Awards during the "In Memorium" segment.
    Was Walker that noteworthy? Listen to her music and you will see that, yes, she was absolutely incredible and made wonderful music. She was also a trusted favorite conductor of Hans Zimmer, Danny Elfman and Basil Poledouris (again, just to name a few). But for sheer career contributions and influence alone, Shirley Walker scored more motion pictures than any other American woman ever.
    We haven't forgotten you, Shirley. Thank you!

    Recommendations: In case you haven't noticed a certain pattern in her resume, Shirley Walker had a long, long association with filmed DC Comics properties. I highly recommend her excellent score to Batman: Mask of the Phantasm which is in a class by itself. The film is also fantastic, as are The Black Stallion, Batman: The Animated Series and... oh, just look her up and binge watch and binge listen.
    You won't regret it and you won't forget her!

  5. David Robert Jones (January 08, 1947 – January 10, 2016)

    2015 Influence: No disrespect to the great Christopher Lee, but the only reason David Bowie isn't the Dead Man of the Year is because we are honoring 2015 and David Bowie died in 2016. His influence is nearly incalculable and his final single during his lifetime was released in 2015.
    David Bowie is a legend. That is the whole story!

    Cause of Death: Liver cancer

    Other Impact: David Bowie took the music industry by surprise with his hit "Space Oddity" and he consistently delivered great music, great stage presence and great acting for decades. He waited to die until just after his 69th birthday... a very Bowie thing to do. He is also the father of director Duncan Jones (AKA: Zowie Bowie). There isn't enough magic I can say about this man. Join me in listening to everything he ever recorded and try not to cry at the loss.

    Recommendations: Bowie's metal side project Tin Machine is sadly underrated. His songs "China Girl", "Let's Dance" and "Modern Love" are Top Forty hits without the annoying poppiness. But much of Bowie's most substantial work was in the 1970s, including the albums Aladdin Sane (1973), The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars (1972), Diamond Dogs (1974) and Scary Monsters (And Super Creeps) (1980). More recent sensational work includes Tin Machine (1989), Heathen (2002), The Next Day (2013) and his most recent work, Blackstar (2016) David Bowie consistently experimented with various artforms and he has many "periods" of different music. If you don't find one you fall in love with, check your pulse, you may be dead.
    When it comes to acting, I recommend David Bowie's performances in The Man Who Fell To Earth (1976), The Hunger (1983), Labyrinth (1986), Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me (1992) and Basquiat (1996).
    Trust me, you can't go wrong with Bowie.

Other Nominees and honorees include:
Betsy Palmer, John Lennon, William Shakespeare,
George Harrison, Mick Ronson, John Entwistle,
"Rowdy" Roddy Piper, Grace Lee Whitney, Ron Moody,
Ben E. King, Yogi Berra, Dean Jones, Omar Sharif, Robert Loggia, Meadowlark Lemon, Lemmy Kilmister, James Horner, Darren McGavin, Donna Douglas and Allen Toussaint.

-The Most Honorable Kneumsi!

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