OUR ANNUAL TRIBUTE: The Demon lives again!
UPDATED 5/27/23: The late, great Christopher Lee was born 101 years ago on May 27, 1922 — so we’re re-presenting this column in what’s become an annual tradition. This first ran shortly after Lee died in 2015. Dig it. — Dan
Before I knew how the world works (not that I necessarily do today), I used to write to DC Comics with my suggestions about casting a Batman movie.
This was about 1979, well after the end of the Adam West series and well before the Tim Burton movie.
The idea of a “serious” Batman movie was anathema to Hollywood and pop culture in general, such was the campy hangover left by Batmania.
But for fans like me who wanted to see the Batman of the comics portrayed on screen, 1978’s Superman: The Movie gave a glimmer of hope, hence some wishful casting thinking.
The Batman story that seemed best suited for a screen translation was this:
Limited Collector’s Edition #C-51 reprinted Denny O’Neil and Neal Adams’ Batman #232 and #242-244 in large-scale, cinematic glory.
It was the heart of the first Ra’s al Ghul saga — taking Batman from his first meeting with the Demon’s Head in Gotham, all the way to India, the Himalayas and the Arabian desert — scene of their epic, climactic battle.
In my youthful mind, there was only one person who should play Ra’s al Ghul and so I wrote DC and told them:
His Scaramanga (which I wrote about here) burned so brightly in my head that he was the only choice — the only choice.
And if he were joined by another Bond veteran — Caroline Munro — you had an unbeatable Ra’s-Talia team.
Hell, they even worked together in Dracula A.D. 1972:
So just imagine:
Alas, it was never meant to be. It would be 2005 before the rest of the zeitgeist caught up with Ra’s al Ghul, with Liam Neeson’s turn in Batman Begins — and another seven years before it met Marion Cotillard’s Talia.
I still think my casting was better.
The funny thing is, I have no recollection of who I thought would make a good Batman and I never could decide on a good Robin.
But I did have other ideas when I was 12 about what would make a good “real Batman” movie: I just knew that Steve Englehart and Marshall Rogers’ Detective Comics run would make a great film.
And like Christopher Lee and Ra’s al Ghul, there was only one actor in 1979 who I thought should play the Joker.
So I wrote DC and told them:
— NEAL ADAMS Discusses LEE as Ra’s and MUNRO as Talia. Click here.
— Finally! CHRISTOPHER LEE Cast as Ra’s al Ghul — From Beyond the Grave. Click here.
— CAROLINE MUNRO: The Greatest Talia That Never Was. Click here.
June 13, 2015
Christopher Lee would’ve been great. I always pictured Vincent Price, but I think Lee is better.
June 13, 2015
I enjoyed Liam Neeson as Ra’s Al Ghul. But, yes, Christopher Lee would have been wonderful in the role. And having Caroline Munro as Talia would also have been great.
June 14, 2015
Neeson was perfectly fine, but I could never get past Lee in my mind. Always stayed with me.
June 14, 2015
By the way, Dan, here is a link to my tribute to Christopher Lee…
January 22, 2016
nice for always thought if warners finaly did batman movies that when they gout to rhas. the only person who could nail the demons head sophistication but also bring out the megolomania and down right coldness of the character would christopher lee. with a sequel being the son of the demon inroducing damion. wayne.
June 18, 2016
That is EXACTLY my casting, and has always been. Lee and Munro. As for Batman in 1979: CLINT EASTWOOD.
May 27, 2020
Exactly Dwight. In fact, in the Ras story O’Neil did with Michael golden there was a comment about Bruce Wayne looking like Eastwood
January 16, 2018
I spoke with Neal Adams about this at the Rhode Island Comic Con in November 2017, and he told me that both Christopher Lee AND Jack Palance were the inspiration for how Ra’s al Ghul would look. Had such a movie been made in the Seventies, you also would have had to cast Jill St. John as Molly Post, the skiier. Mr. Adams specifically confirmed to me about using her as the model for the Olympian. He also confirmed to me about Caroline Munro as the model for Talia. THAT would have made a great movie!!!
January 18, 2018
Actually, read what Adams had to say about Caroline Munro in this story, Timothy: https://13thdimension.com/neal-adams-month-one-of-the-greatest-covers-ever/
He says he doesn’t really recall but that it’s possible. The problem is that her most prominent roles were after Batman #232 came out. But she had been a model. So it’s hazy. The Jill St. John angle is something I’ve addressed elsewhere.
May 29, 2019
This casting would never happen for one (horrible) reason. Hollywood seems to think they always have to put their spin on something or the non-fans won’t go see the movie. As if their re-telling with changes is a better story than the original. The ‘66 BATMAN was great in that it mirrored the comics of the day. But, it won’t ever happen in today’s world. This is why in the Spider-Man movies we get no Gwen Stacy or Gwen after MJ. Or, why we got killing, emo Superman. It all starts with the Joker replacing Joe Chill. I say a good movie will appeal to non-fans with canon respected. Because otherwise your fan base suffers. Why not tell movies both audiences can enjoy?
June 2, 2019
I’ve always thought Lee and Munro would have made a great Ra’s and Talia…but the role I really wanted to see Munro tackle was a comic-accurate version of Modesty Blaise.
June 11, 2019
I’m sorry, but although I like the idea of Christopher Lee playing Ra’s al Ghul, I didn’t like him in The Man With The Golden Gun, and bringing up any mention of that crapfest of a movie as justification for a role as Ra’s doesn’t work for me; that version of Scaramanga was wrong, and nothing like the original novel (in the original novel, Scaramanga’s a rough, Americanized gangster, with the kind of accent you’d find from one), plus the ‘golden gun’ is just a gold-plated Derringer (most likely a High Standard D-100), not the weapon seen in the film (nifty as it is.) Love the idea of Caroline Munro as Talia.
May 27, 2020
Happy birthday to the late Christopher Lee. He was truly a legend.
May 27, 2020
Christopher Lee would have been a great Ra’s. Caroline Monroe was also in one of the Sinbad movies.
Fun fact regarding the role of the Joker by Nicholson.
FUN TRIVIA FACT: I posted something about this a while back on a comic fan Facebook page but had to wait for a repeat of this western movie before confirming what I thought I heard the first time I watched this movie. An hour and 45 minutes into the 1978 movie “Goin’ South”, Jack Nicholson’s character ‘Moon’ says this 11 years BEFORE he was in the 1989 Batman movie as the Joker… “Wait till the Domingi Sisters get a load of me!”
I tried finding a reference online to these two similar but different movie lines by Jack N., but couldn’t find a thing. It’s so close to what he says in Batman ( “Wait till they get a load of me!” ) Now I can’t help but wonder if he ad-lib-ed that or if he requested it be in the script based on the similar line from Goin’ South. This Jack Nicholson western was his first movie as the Director of a movie and it also starred another Batman movie villain, Danny Devito/Penguin.