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Fangs for the Memories, Christopher Lee

By 17th October 2023November 8th, 2023No Comments5 min read

#Fangs #Memories #Christopher #Lee


Danger lurks. It always does when you’re a kid standing alone on an October evening just this side of Halloween, at the corner of Jackson and Eighth Street.

I’m not far from my house, but right now I’m definitely not close enough either.

My buddies have long ago peeled off for home, safe and secure, after our Friday night vampire movie fun, leaving me on my own for the first time in the darkness with an over-stimulated imagination. The muted glow of the streetlight provides a smidgen of safety before the mad dash home.

PF Flyers promised kids they could run faster and jump higher, important sneaker qualities if you were going to escape the clutches of Count Dracula.

The ads for the white canvas PF Flyers I’m wearing promise my tennis shoe’s “magic wedge” will help me run faster and jump higher. Good thing, because I know for a fact, I’ll need all the speed I can muster to outrun Count Dracula, who at this very moment is cloaked in the darkness provided by a canopy of gnarled elms that line Eighth Street. I am sure of it.

What Count Dracula would be doing in my Nowhereville small town instead of hanging out in his swanky Transylvania castle, I have no idea. But logic, like my buddies, left me long ago, replaced by fear. Stalling, I re-tie my sneaker laces. A loose lace could mean curtains, and I have no wish to join Dracula’s legion of the undead.

It is about eight blocks from my house to our downtown movie theater. Getting there is no sweat. If you cut through a couple of neighbors’ yards, through the school playground and past the water tower, you emerge onto Fourth Street, the main drag. From there it’s easy sailing. Go past my Uncle Ken’s tavern, the Ben Franklin 5-10, the Princess Café, Stieber’s Barber Shop and the IGA, where my Aunt Harriet works as a cashier, and you’re practically sitting in the theater with your pals. Ten minutes. Tops.

I can make this walk with my eyes closed, which is what I am doing right now as I stand alone, my heart racing, thinking of the Prince of Darkness and just how fast my sneaks can carry me.

The problem is Christopher Lee, the towering English actor who played Count Dracula in such classics as Horror of Dracula, Dracula: Prince of Darkness and Dracula Has Risen from the Grave. At 6-5, Lee once described himself as “tall, dark and gruesome.” Bingo!

The unholy terror of Christopher Lee’s Count Dracula.Courtesy of Heritage Auctions

His take on the infamous Count stands in marked contrast to the 1931 portrayal by Bela Lugosi, who, until then, was the actor most identified with the Night Stalker. Whereas Lugosi’s Dracula was somewhat stiff and formal, scary, no doubt, but certainly not dashing. Lee bursts onto the screen with unholy vigor and an animalistic bloodlust. Watching him, I cover my eyes a lot. Until I can’t because, well, I was a kid learning about the birds and the bees and the bats from Dracula.

There was a lot of biting, of course. Men’s necks were terrifying enough, but women’s necks? Often scantily clad – for back then – women? It was scary and frightening and confusing. How could I be terrified and curious at the same time?

My kid mind was blown.

It was all fun, in the darkness of the theater, surrounded by my best friends. We squirmed and slunk in our seats, punched each other in the arm, and survived only with the help of the occasional fake giggle. We never discussed our intrigue when a pretty woman met her fanged fortune. Never ever. Until high school.

Then the lights came on, much to my relief. Outside the theater we were loud and goofy and brave. Obnoxiously so, I’m afraid.

But with each step away from the bright lights of the movie theater marquee, the bravado fades, slipping into the small-town night, until all that remains in the darkness is a kid wearing a blue windbreaker and his fastest sneakers, walking home by himself. A scared kid, who knew it was just a movie – of course – but still …

Today, on an October evening, just this side of Halloween, I often find myself standing on the corner of Jackson and Eighth Street. Close to home, yet not close enough. My childhood movie theater is long gone. So is my Uncle Ken’s tavern, the Princess Café and the barber shop. The IGA? It’s gone too, along with my Aunt Harriet.

Most of my kid world – the people and places – has fluttered away like a bat into the night air. And yet, in the darkness with my memories, I can picture it all so clearly, as if I were watching a movie on a Friday night. With friends. And fangs.

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