By Oliver Schwehm
June 12, 2015
Pierre Brice and Christopher Lee, two icons of European genre cinema, have departed in the past week. The two actors who had long been attained in their lifetime a legendary status, but - apart from the fact that they have both been identified with Dracula / Winnetou for years with a single role – they had little in common with each other: While the meek Brice performed as Winnetou, an almost religious personified figure, Lee throughout his life was a committed actor: he played monsters, mummies murderers. Where the notoriety of Pierre Brice was limited largely to the German-speaking countries and Eastern Europe, Christopher Lee gained international fame with Dracula and continued acting past the ripe old age of 80, thanks to directors such as Tim Burton, George Lucas and Martin Scorsese a career that is probably unique in the history of Hollywood.
Although Christopher Lee and Pierre Brice were never seen together before the camera, so there is one point of the two together. And this means: Winnetou.
When the Berlin producer Horst Wendlandt in the early 1960s decided to bring Karl May's novel "Treasure of Silver Lake" to the big screen, he struggled to fill the role of the Indian chief. So he organized several months of auditions in his Berlin studio. Christopher Lee at that time was very active in the Italian dream factory of Cinecittà and learned through his agent about the role he was offered. Lee who speaks very good German, was interested - especially since his career had stalled the early 1960s: The films of Hammer Studios, who he had made great roles like Dracula, the Frankenstein creature and the mummy Lee, was tired of making sequels of the same characters and testified to the creative crisis in the films he forged. Lee wanted to break out of the horror film roles. What could be more appropriate than to try again as a noble Indian in the leather garment. This resulted in the summer of 1962, these curious test shots including a Squaw and probably the first Plains Indians with highly polished patent leather shoes: British Dandy-vampirism meets Teutonic Apatschentum.
Horst Wendlandt decided on Pierre Brice instead of Sir Christopher riding the Croatian landscapes. Christopher Lee, however, was given as a consolation prize a few guest appearances in the Edgar Wallace films produced by Horst Wendlandt like "Secret of the Red Orchid".
How well Christopher Lee would have worked as Winnetou, depends on your personal opinion. We also have to ask ourselves how suited would Pierre Brice be as Dracula.
In this sense: Goodbye, Christopher Lee - adieu, Pierre Brice!