Christopher Lee

Wicked Wednesday (yet another late one): Horror Hotel (1960)

So I missed…two Wednesdays. Oops?

I’ve been away visiting my family in the States for the last month and have since returned to London. Only now I’m stuck in a 10-day quarantine from hell. Every day has been remarkably like the last, which is my only excuse as to how I’ve forgotten that it was Wednesday. Twice.

But when I go home, my dad and I usually have time to watch older Universal horror movies or monster flicks by Roger Corman and the likes. This visit was a bit light on that, so I took it upon myself to squeeze in something with the legend Christopher Lee himself.

In 1692, the settlement of Whitewood burn the witch Elizabeth Selwyn. And if we’ve learned anything from the Fear Street movies, this is supposed to be the right way to rid yourself of witches. Only with her last living breath, Elizabeth announces the pact she’d made with the devil.

Three hundred years later, college student Nan develops an interest in Whitewood. With the encouragement of her professor, Alan Driscoll, she decides to travel to Whitewood on her own to do some research on primary resources. Her brother and boyfriend find it all a joke, insisting that she stay with them during her vacation, but the woman goes off to her doom alone.

Nan drives to the Raven Inn in Whitewood, an accommodation recommended to her by Driscoll, and learns that the inn was the site of Elizabeth’s burning.

While exploring Whitewood, Nan meets Pat – another young woman who lends her an old book about witchcraft. The two women hit it off immediately. You must in order to lend a rando your old ass books.

But that night – the night of Candlemass – while taking notes on the book, Nan is lured down into the tunnels below her room. She’s killed off by a cult in hoods.

The weeks go by, and both Nan’s fiancé and brother, Dick, become increasingly worried about her absence. Pat goes to see the me and explains she’s also concerned about Nan’s disappearance. She did, after all, lend her that book! The group each go out to Whitewood on their own to search for Nan themselves.

That night, the night of the Witches’ Sabbath, Pat goes to see her grandfather, the local priest. He tells Pat that Elizabeth Selwyn is still alive as the owner of the Raven Inn. She needs two sacrifices a year in order to live forever. After learning the story, Pat is attacked and kidnapped by the cult.

But thanks to Dick’s help (as well as that brother who didn’t die in a car crash), the cult are all set on fire and seemingly all’s well that ends well! Minus the charred corpse in the chair, of course.

Horror Hotel (called The City of the Dead in the UK) is delightful. It’s well made. Well acted. It just doesn’t age as well when it comes to the content. Perhaps I’m spoiled with the modern-day assessment of wronged women burned as witches. But if that is, then let it be so!

I liked Nan as a character a lot. As she initially pulls up to the Raven Inn, she declares that she loves how picturesque the place is. Complete with its own cemetery! A girl after my own heart. It was a shame she didn’t make it to be the final girl. RIP Nan!

There are some wonderfully 1960s bits in this: the town that’s contained to a studio lot, the endlessly-rolling fog and the entirely inappropriate music. It’s, yes, cheesy at times because it is 60+ years old. But it also pack a wallop of dark atmosphere. And Christopher Lee is, as ever, brooding perfection.

Meat Loaf Monday Pt. 3 – Saturday Night Live Season 3, Ep. 15 “Christopher Lee and special guest Meat Loaf”

I wanted to watch the episode with Tim Curry from 1981 instead, but the internet seems to lack access to these old episodes (what the hell, Hulu?!). I much prefer Tim Curry to Christopher Lee. I know, I know. Everyone always assumes that I’m really into Hammer Horror, but my not-so-dark secret is I find most of them “meh”.

But alas, I do like Christopher Lee in other, non-horror related things. Though watching Lee in Saturday Night Live wasn’t something I thought I would see. But SNL in ’78 had one hell of a classic line-up: straight off the bat in the cold open, Gilda Radner and Bill Murray are talking about John Belushi changing his name to Kevin Scott for a role in Grizzly Adams. Just seeing all those lovely faces on one screen makes my heart warm.

Though, I do think anything Christopher Lee does on SNL is going to be excellent. Mostly because he is sporting the most incredible mustache of all time:


Lee’s opening monologue features three different trailers for upcoming films. The first “stars” Garrett Morris (yay!) in The Island of Lost Luggage. The second is The Thing That Wouldn’t Leave, which is Belushi, of course. And Vincent Price (Dan Aykroyd) is Dr Jekyll and Mr Rogers (which I would see).

In the first skit, Radner’s Baba Wawa appears in London, looking for lodgings at Lee’s home. Baba is looking to improve her speech in a My Fair Lady-inspired skit. Every time the music starts and dies out immediately, the crowd chuckles, but when Lee seems to have picked up Baba’s speech impediment, the sweetness of it all is pretty damn great.

This episode of Saturday Night Live was Meat Loaf’s first television appearance. It came about three years after 1975’s Rocky Horror Picture Show. In 1978, when this episode originally aired, it was a year after Bat Out of Hell was released. Here, he’s jokingly introduced by Lee as “Loaf”. Always great live, Meat Loaf appears with Karla DeVito performing “All Revved Up With No Place to Go”. It’s wonderful and theatrical – everything you should expect from a Meat Loaf performance.

Following Meat Loaf’s first performance, Jane Curtin does the Weekend Update with Aykroyd. As usual, I love this pair together. Curtin’s deadpan is so damn good, it always leaves me in awe.

For the second skit of the night, Lee plays Death visiting a young girl (Laraine Newman), whose dog Tippi just died. He’s come to visit to apologise about the loss of her dog. The contrast between Lee’s posh London accent and Newman’s sweetness is hilarious. But Lee’s rampage about everyone he kills is just excellent.

In the set up for the next skit with Lee, there are several short bits. Garrett Morris has a monologue as Egypt’s president Anwar Sadat asking for advice on the Middle East, which is followed by a short film by Gary Weis to Foreigner’s “Cold as Ice,” in which a girl repeatedly torments a man with guns and scissors.  Whatabitch. And then in a skit that would never be made now, a family visit Rabbit Hut, a restaurant where they broil rabbits.

Lee, Belushi and Curtin are a team trying to get rid of someone who is haunting them (and that would be Aykroyd). This someone is the tricky dick himself, a Dracula-like Richard Nixon. The group are actually around to get rid of the evil spirit of Watergate that haunts them. Where many skits to follow would only go so far to make a skit about Lee’s horror movie past, it’s clever to bring it into a political level. That’s clever writing.

Meat Loaf’s second performance is decidedly more low-key than the first with the ballad “Two Out of Three Ain’t Bad”. A romantic little way to ending the night.  Though, I was disappointed that Meat Loaf didn’t appear in any sketches (he would in his episode with Curry). But this was a solid episode from a really great era of Saturday Night Live. The writing plays up to Lee’s acting abilities, which makes for a really strange, but enjoyable set of skits.

Christopher Lee was such a gent.