Skip to content

Mr. Ben vs Christopher Lee

November 29, 2019 by admin

Opening the Mind marks the end roads for the mountain of in-house productions that have weighed me down for most of my adult life. It was just the third time I filmed with Mr. Ben. But it will mark the final feature experience completed of our era of work.

Mr. Ben was a portal of stories from his roller coaster of a life within the entertainment industry. One significant tale always puzzled me. Mr. Ben was once replaced by the legendary Christopher Lee. The film had gone through a title change and we knew not what came of it. Any chance I get, I will dig around looking for the various known productions Mr. Ben was involved in. This one remained a mystery. Today on the seventh anniversary of Mr. Ben’s passing I was finally able to place my eyes upon this mystery.

A very special thanks to Madeline Mythos (of Guillotine Girls Horror Podcast) who recognized a very reminiscent image. I had posted a shot of Mr. Ben on set of what was once known as de Sade. She forwarded the same shot back of Christopher Lee standing where Mr. Ben had. The same exact promotional shots recreated with Lee. A little more noodling and we discovered the release shared below…

Early on, someone recommended to Mr. Ben he keep a diary and write a memoir one day. This way all these wild stories they were moved by, could remain fresh and well captured. It was his last wish to see it published and we all hope to see that realized one day. For now, I would like to share an excerpt from his book on the anniversary that he left this mortal coil. Below you can read a tidbit of THE DREAM NEVER DIES: The Life of a Working Actor

A featured role was offered me in the movie de Sade. The job came up because of a sick wife and was lost because of the European quota system on co-productions.

The Spanish director, Jesus Franco, phoned me.

“I’m doing a picture called deSade, and I’m wondering if you can come to Barcelona to play a role. The actor who was originally cast has to fly home to Germany. His wife has been in a terrible accident and I need someone to replace him. Your friend, Jack Taylor, who is in the movie, recommended I call you. Do you think you can do it? Jack has assured me you are a good actor.”

There was no audition; just a desperate call.

The first flight out was at six in the morning, and on arrival at the airport there was a limo waiting to drive me to the studio. On the way they handed me a script of the first scene to be shot that day. Learning the lines on the way to the studio, they rushed me into makeup and costume as soon as we got there. They outfitted me almost entirely in black, complete with a voluminous, flowing cape; the trademark of every depraved scoundrel. With my dark hair and penetrating eyes, the time came to play the man who taught deSade’s philosophy of life and kinky sex. After meeting all the other actors on the set we shot the first scene. It went beautifully. There were no flubs and we did it perfectly in one take.

It was the best role anyone had ever offered me in a movie. deSade was a semi-porno film. But since it was still the Franco years it was necessary to shoot on a closed set. In the first scene there was no nudity or sex, but there was plenty in other parts of the picture, and the women were stunning. We shot my scene a second time for safety purposes, when the director was told Harry Alan Towers, the producer, was on the phone from London. He was calling to tell Jesus the actor doing the role must be either German or English.

In Europe, when they do co-productions there is a quota system they must adhere to. deSade was a Spanish-English-German co-production so they had to use an equal number of actors and technicians from each country. In spite of the good job done that morning, the perfect shoot and the satisfaction of the director, this actor was out. They had placed me in the Spanish quota.

“But we just shot the first scene with our actor. He’s perfect for the role,” yelled Jesus.

“I’m sorry,” replied Towers, “the actor has to be German or
English. I’ve already spoken to Christopher Lee and he’s agreed
to do the part.”

Christopher Lee was famous for his Dracula films. He hurriedly flew in from London the next day. We watched him practically sleepwalk through the same scene that had been done so well the day before. Jesus apologized but said there was nothing he could do. They paid me in full for my contract and then drove me to the airport for my return flight to Madrid.

It had happened again; but as an actor learns early on, life is full of disappointments. Yet when everything falls apart, actors pick themselves up and know someday it will happen. The dream never dies!

– Ben Tatar, 2002