Christopher Lee Reads Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Raven,” and From “The Fall of the House of Usher”

Sir Christo­pher Lee died on Sun­day at the age of 93, bring­ing to a close a long and dis­tin­guished act­ing career — though one for­tu­nate­ly not con­fined only to the heights of respectabil­i­ty. Lee could get schlocky with the best of them, ele­vat­ing oth­er­wise clunky, broad, or over­ly lurid genre films with his inim­itable com­bi­na­tion of stature, bear­ing, and (espe­cial­ly) voice, most notably as Ham­mer Hor­ror’s go-to Count Drac­u­la in the 1950s and 60s, as a James Bond vil­lain in 1974, and as var­i­ous sin­is­ter gray emi­nences in more recent Star Wars and Lord of the Rings movies.

But Lee made him­self equal­ly at home in projects involv­ing the “bet­ter” class­es of genre as well. His famous voice did supreme jus­tice to the works of Edgar Allan Poe, the 19th-cen­tu­ry writer whose work did so much to define mod­ern hor­ror lit­er­a­ture.

At the top of the post, you can hear Lee give a read­ing of Poe’s well-known 1845 poem “The Raven”; just below, we have the trail­er for Raúl Gar­cía’s ani­mat­ed adap­ta­tion of Poe’s 1839 sto­ry “The Fall of the House of Ush­er,” over which Lee intones suit­ably omi­nous nar­ra­tion straight from the text.

If you’d like to hold your own trib­ute to the late Sir Lee, you’ll want to lis­ten to all his Poe-relat­ed work, watch his per­for­mances in such films as the thor­ough­ly cult-clas­sic The Wick­er Man and the founder-of-Pak­istan biopic Jin­nah (in which he played the title role, his per­son­al favorite), and play aloud a selec­tion from his stint as a heavy-met­al Christ­mas vocal­ist. Most artists who began their careers in the 1940s got pub­licly cat­e­go­rized as “high­brow” or “low­brow”; Lee’s career, with its many for­ays right up to the end into the con­ven­tion­al and uncon­ven­tion­al, the straight-ahead and the bizarre, exist­ed in a real­i­ty beyond brows — the one, in oth­er words, that we all live in now.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Christo­pher Lee Nar­rates a Beau­ti­ful Ani­ma­tion of Tim Burton’s Poem, Night­mare Before Christ­mas

Hor­ror Leg­end Christo­pher Lee Presents a Heavy Met­al Ver­sion of The Lit­tle Drum­mer Boy

Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Raven,” Read by Christo­pher Walken, Vin­cent Price, and Christo­pher Lee

Col­in Mar­shall writes on cities, lan­guage, Asia, and men’s style. He’s at work on a book about Los Ange­les, A Los Ange­les Primer, and the video series The City in Cin­e­ma. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.

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Comments (6)
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  • Rain,adustbowlstory says:

    I’m ready for a rad­i­cal­ly new idea about Poe.

    I feel like we haven’t ever real­ly got­ten him.

  • Simon Lépine says:

    … love it !
    many thanks Sir Lee !

  • Andrew MacEwen says:

    More igno­rant­ly crass dis­tinc­tions between “schlock” genre films and the “bet­ter” class­es of genre. There have been a pletho­ra of unin­formed, painful­ly unqual­i­fied, main­stream crit­ics spew­ing this pablum since Lee’s death. Sir Christo­pher and his films deserve bet­ter.

  • Andrew MacEwen says:

    And, fur­ther­more, Lee’s act­ing NEVER became “schlocky,” no mat­ter what film he was in.

  • Jim Welch says:

    This is a great idea. I learned the Raven over 60 years ago, but today I learned now to pro­nounce some of the words. Thank you for offer­ing this vehi­cle for POE fans and all read­ers.
    Reply to Rain adjust: Read the Cask and devel­op your thoughts on the sym­bol­ism in the piece. We can address that if you like to learn more new stuff about Poe.

    Thanks again,


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