Tall, Dark and Gruesome is an auto-biography written by Christopher Lee. Although I had some awareness of Lee’s role as Dracula, it was his role as Scramanga in the James Bond film The Man With The Golden Gun that I associate him with. This is a film that I had recorded as a child and watched on a regular basis (along with You Only Live Twice, Jaws, and Zulu).
As any autobiography should, the book takes us on a journey through Lee’s life. While I knew elements – I would say that close to 99% of the book was new information to me as I’d not even looked up Lee’s entry on Wikipedia before reading this book. But equally, there were bits that the book missed out.
Part of the problem with an autobiography is when they are written. In this case, the book was completed in 1999. Lee lived until 2015, and made a number of movies (including in the Star Wars franchise) which brought him to the attention of new fans as well as delighting those of us who had seen him in earlier films in those last 16 years. It is a shame that there was no update to include them (and from what I can tell, no good biography that covers this period in particular) – or his heavy metal singing (which I am aware of, though not listened to).
Another issue that can come up with autobiographies is that what the author wants to write and what the reader wants to read may not be the same thing. There is not a huge mention of the filming of The Man With The Golden Gun and, sadly, no mention of one story (which I think I must have seen mentioned on the making of that film on the DVD) when Lee and Roger Moore were filming on what is now known as ‘James Bond Island’ a load of bats flew out from a cave and Lee apparently said “not now, my children”. I recalled this story (and told my family) when I managed to visit James Bond Island.
Despite these two issues, the book was a very enjoyable read. Just as Lee was an engaging actor, so he was an engaging writer. There are a lot of names mentioned throughout the book – not just family members, but also fellow actors and a range of other people – and it’s incredible just what a life Lee had. Having finished the book, I went on the Wikipedia page to get the brief update on what he did in the years since 2000 until his death. RIP Christopher Lee/Scramanga/Dracula (and the countless other roles that he had).