Christopher Lee Reads Four Classic Horror Stories by Edgar Allan Poe (1979)

Christo­pher Lee, whose near­ly 70-year act­ing career spanned most of the 20th cen­tu­ry and near­ly all of the 21st cen­tu­ry so far, saw numer­ous tech­no­log­i­cal, cin­e­mat­ic, and cul­tur­al trends come and go but remained an insti­tu­tion all the while. He first grew famous, as his many fans know, in the vivid, campy Ham­mer Hor­ror films of the 1950s, 60s, and 70s like The Curse of Franken­steinCor­ri­dor of Blood, and Drac­u­la. His star­ring role in that last gave him his sig­na­ture onscreen per­sona — he would go on to play the blood-suck­ing Count a total of ten times — but though he spe­cial­ized in dark, vil­lain­ous roles, his under­stand­ing of their essence meant his hun­dreds of per­for­mances tran­scend­ed their eras, and often their mate­r­i­al as well.

Lee knew, in oth­er words, what it meant to be fright­en­ing, omi­nous, or sim­ply unset­tling in a rich and intrigu­ing way, and that knowl­edge can hard­ly have come with­out an appre­ci­a­tion for the endur­ing work of Edgar Allan Poe.

We’ve pre­vi­ous­ly fea­tured sev­er­al of Lee’s read­ings of the 19th-cen­tu­ry Amer­i­can mas­ter of the macabre, includ­ing Poe’s most famous works like “The Raven” and “The Fall of the House of Ush­er,” but only ded­i­cat­ed col­lec­tors will have run across the long out-of-print release we sub­mit for your enjoy­ment today: Christo­pher Lee Reads Edgar Allan Poe Tales of Hor­ror, orig­i­nal­ly released in 1979, on cas­sette only, by the dis­count label Music for Plea­sure, Ltd.

Span­ning two tapes, this record­ing includes not only “The Fall of the House of Ush­er” but “The Black Cat,” “The Pit and the Pen­du­lum,” and “The Cask of Amon­til­la­do,” all of which demon­strate not just Lee’s abil­i­ty to con­jure up a spooky atmos­phere with his voice alone, but his per­fect suit­abil­i­ty to the kind of lan­guage Poe used to tell his sto­ries, always high­ly man­nered even while hint­ing at the unspeak­able depths below. The ques­tion of what makes Poe’s writ­ing so of its time yet so time­less may nev­er be ful­ly answered, but then, nor, prob­a­bly, will the ques­tion of what makes Lee’s ele­gant per­for­mances stand out from even the most schlocky or dat­ed pro­duc­tions. What­ev­er the rea­sons, the union of the two always guar­an­tees cap­ti­vat­ing lis­ten­ing, even from a sim­ple 1970s bar­gain-bin pack­age like this one. You can find old cas­settes of Christo­pher Lee Reads Edgar Allan Poe Tales of Hor­ror float­ing around on Ama­zon.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

1,000 Free Audio Books: Down­load Great Books for Free

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

Christo­pher Lee Reads Five Hor­ror Clas­sics: Drac­u­la, Franken­stein, The Phan­tom of the Opera & More

Hor­ror Leg­end Christo­pher Lee Reads Bram Stoker’s Drac­u­la

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

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

Based in Seoul, Col­in Mar­shall writes and broad­casts on cities and cul­ture. He’s at work on the book The State­less City: a Walk through 21st-Cen­tu­ry Los Ange­les, the video series The City in Cin­e­ma, the crowd­fund­ed jour­nal­ism project Where Is the City of the Future?, and the Los Ange­les Review of Books’ Korea Blog. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.

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