See Donald Sutherland’s Debut In Horror Classic Starring Lord Of The Rings Icon

By Brian Myers | Updated

The late Donald Sutherland’s versatility as a performer landed him a variety of roles throughout a career that spanned seven decades. While he’ll always be remembered for iconic parts in MASH, Animal House, and The Hunger Games, Sutherland’s talents made him one of the best character actors in the industry. The first film for which Sutherland was credited was the 1964 horror film Castle of the Living Dead, where he played three distinct roles alongside British actor and Lord of the Rings actor, Christopher Lee.

A Hammer Studios Production

Castle of the Living Dead follows a group of traveling performers that wind up running into trouble with some locals when they stop in a small village for the night. Low on funds, they need to make some fast money and are directed toward a castle occupied by Count Drago (Christopher Lee).

He’s A Witch

Along the long and winding journey over the forest road to the castle, the travelers discover a crow that appears to have been solidified, making it seem almost like a wooden bird with feathers. As they are examining this odd find, an old witch (Donald Sutherland) comes out of the woods begging for bread. Castle of the Living Dead sees the old witch spelling out doom for anyone who ventures to Drago’s castle, warning the travelers that they will face certain death.

A Captive Audience

Of course, they believe she’s mad with fever and continue their trek anyway. As it turns out, the old witch was correct. Castle of the Living Dead shows how the maniacal Count Drago has discovered a chemical that instantly petrifies living creatures, the dead crow in the woods serving as a testament to its ability.

Count Drago had used the formula on animals but has graduated to using it on humans. Castle of the Living Dead casts Lee as a madman who wishes to preserve humans in eternal poses that he will use to create a theater of characters. One by one, the travelers are targeted and plied with Drago’s formula as the Count works to make his insane fantasy a chilling reality.

Shot On Location In A Real Castle

Castle of the Living Dead is a reimagining of House of Wax set in the French countryside in the years following the fall of Napoleon. It was shot on location in a 15th-century Italian castle, giving it a level of realism not found on Hollywood sound stages. The countryside shots are also notable, as is the little village the travelers encounter in the movie’s opening minutes.

Streaming For Free


Castle of the Living Dead is an elevated gothic horror film carried on the back of famed Hammer Studios horror actor Christopher Lee. And while Lee’s portrayal of Count Drago is a worthy performance by the Lord of the Rings actor, Donald Sutherland‘s old witch role truly outshines everyone else in the credits. The witch’s dark cloak and hood obscure most of her features, but when her face is shown, and her voice is heard, you’ll be surprised that it’s Sutherland.

Sutherland also plays two other parts in Castle of the Living Dead, a military Sergeant and character only credited as “the old man.”

Castle of the Living Dead slowly builds up to the horror. But the climax is certainly worth the wait, as the terror experienced by the survivors once the reality of Count Drago sinks in is palpable.

You can watch Castle of the Living Dead for free on Tubi.