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Legend of the Seven Golden Vampires (1974) is such an awesome film. How
can you go wrong when you have Roy Ward Baker, Chang Cheh and the Liu
brothers all working on a film together? This film has everything, the
eeriness of a Hammer film with the red paint spraying, bone crunching
action scenes of a Shaw Brother's flick!
Peter Cushing reprises his role as Professor Van Helsing who's in China to prove the legend of the Seven Golden Vampires. After a lecture he finds someone who actually believes in the legend (David Chiang in a dual role). After local run in with some angry triads (thanks to Van Helsing's no good son who falls for a Scandinavian beauty. Will the good professor and friends find something that'll get them into a nasty situation that's way over their heads?
Hammer films at this time was pretty much on their last legs when they went on a joint venture with the Shaw Brothers. Run Run and Run Mei Shaw at this time were also trying to find a worldwide market for their two biggest stars David Chiang and Ti Lung. Ironically, Hammer and Shaw studios were just like each other in many ways (beautiful sets, a staff of great directors and actors. They also cranked out very diverse product and most of their films sadly were never given their proper due overseas, their films usually ended up being hacked to pieces and shown in grind houses or sliced and spliced for matinée showings). Sadly after a couple of collaborations the two companies never worked together again. Hammer Films would slowly fade away whilst Shaw Brothers Studios would last another ten years or so before concentrating on T.V. soap opera (a majority costume operas). But for a brief time in history Shaw Brothers and Hammer (two of my favorite movie studios, especially when I was growing up) collaborated on a couple of films. Sadly they never worked with each other again.
Legend of the Seven Golden Vampires was filmed in Shawscope (a.k.a. Panavision). Avoid Seven Brothers Meet Dracula, it's a horrible grind house re-edit of this grand production.
David Chiang speaks English very well and his brother Paul Chiang (a.k.a. Paul Chu, a.k.a. Pei Chu) has a small part as the Triad boss' assistant.
Peter Cushing is my favorite Van Helsing and in this film it is a totally welcomed change of just battling the evil Dracula. Van Helsing takes on the Legend of the 7 Golden Vampires that are martial arts experts whom also have the power of calling up dead victims to fight the undead. A number of very exciting battles against the dead makes this film a classic vampire feature. The Hammer producers also weave into the film the king of vampires, the Count himself, Dracula. The makeup is rather swallow at times but the story and action make you forget the small problems. Cushing still swings a deadly fiery weapon as he battles to the death the unliving.
This lovely Hammer Horror blending of the traditional vampire tale with
martial arts stars Peter Cushing as Professor Van Helsing. The plot
follows Van Helsing, who is drawn into a plot involving a legendary
seven golden vampires, the prince of darkness; Dracula himself, the
undead and a load of martial artists. Our hero must, along with his son
and an escort of kung fu fighters travel to a cursed village somewhere
in China to rid it of the vampire curse that holds it. One of the
reasons why Hammer horror is so brilliant is that it isn't afraid to
make a film that most other film studios would regard as stupid and
then make it work. The main reason why Hammer horror does work is that
the films, despite showing many macabre images, are always good natured
and made with a lot of heart so they're easy to like; and this one is
The Eastern style makes for a very different vampire film to what we're used to, and Legend of the 7 Golden Vampires seems keen to capitalise on that as it changes many of the traditional vampire rules to suit the east (for example, the traditional cross to ward off vampires is replaced by the image of Budha). As usual with Hammer, the effects are hokey to say the least, the production values are low and everyone except Peter Cushing leaves a lot to be desired acting-wise...but without these traits, this film wouldn't be Hammer, so these things are not only forgivable, but welcome. Peter Cushing's performance in this movie isn't his best, but fans of his will still relish it. There's something about Cushing's persona that makes him very watchable, and every film with him in it is worth watching, if only for that reason. He also gets involved in some of the martial arts fights, which is nice to see. The fights themselves are very well staged, much better than I was expecting with this being a horror film with kung fu elements, rather than a full blown fight-fest.
This is the fifth film I've seen by Hammer director Roy Ward Baker and although it's not the best, it's still a very solid offering from the man who was probably Hammer's finest director. This film is a lot of fun, and I don't doubt that it will delight anyone who sees it, and therefore it comes with the highest recommendations from me.
Although Hammer's audiences [and budgets] were declining in the 70s, they
still made some interesting movies which are ripe for reappraisal. This film
is a case in point. A collaboration with the Hong Kong martial arts film
studio Shaw Brothers[ there was also another one, the very poor Shatter, a
routine modern day thriller], it mixes horror and martial arts to extremely
entertaining effect. Yes, the idea of mixing the two genres was done better
in later Hong Kong films like Spooky Encounters, but there is a great deal
of trashy fun to be had here.
Shot in extremely lurid colour, the first half hour has two amazingly vivid scenes- Dracula possessing a Chinese priest in Transylvania, and a terrific setpiece in China soon after with a peasant trying to rescue some women from a castle and encountering the wonderfully decrepit looking Seven Golden Vampires and than an army of zombies who come out of the ground in a stunning sequence, the use of speeded up film to convey their movement oddly effective. Thereafter, as our bunch of protagonists sets off to rid China of this evil, the film does tend to become a series of very bloody battles, but they are blisteringly staged. David Chiang has little charisma as the main hero, but Peter Cushing is solid as ever as Van Helsing ,and does look as if he his having fun. John Forbes-Robertson has quite a bit of presence as Dracula, but he's only in the opening and ending, and after all the terrific action beforehand, his death at the hands of Van Helsing is something of a damp squib. There are some somewhat stilted dialogue scenes, but James Bernard's music is typically exciting [Hammer fans will spot the cues from Taste The Blood Of Dracula though!].
Hardly classic Hammer, or Shaw Brothers for that matter, but this just sets out to provide a fun gory time, and succeeds.
I usually try to avoid "defending" movies that I like. If people get it
fine, if they don't, well them's the breaks. However I too profess to
having been unsold on the charms of LEGEND OF THE 7 GOLDEN VAMPIRES for
ages. But now after finally having seen a restored widescreen
presentation courtesy of Anchor Bay I am convinced that one of the
reasons why the effort left me cold the first few times through was due
to the miserable, scrappy, fullscreen home video versions available
previously which excluded as much as 12 minutes of footage.
I came of age during the home video years and heading out every week to the various rental shops in our area to see what Hammer or Hammer related flicks we could find became a regular past time. Certain movies were relatively easy to locate but we'd always heard about this legendary kung-fu/Dracula hybrid by Hammer that was made significant by Peter Cushing's final appearance as Professor Van Helsing, the world expert on the Undead. Rumor had it that the movie involved Van Helsing tracing the elusive Count Dracula to colonial era China where he'd set up shop and acquired a taste for the local food. Hijinx awaited in the form of supernatural kung-fu battles with a band of seven specialist martial arts masters, who were of course brothers, fighting off legions of vampiric barbarians. Somehow the combination sounded like trying to mix oil with water and when I finally managed to find the meager VHS release of the film my apprehension was proved well- founded by a muddled mix of Gothic horror chills with difficult to follow chop-socky interludes. The pan-and-scan compression of the widescreen shots was dizzying, the vampire interludes were anything but the dreamy "foggy castle on a hill" variety that Hammer had become specialists in, with lots of insert shots of Peter Cushing standing around looking concerned while Julie Ege's bosoms heaved, cruelly encased in her cleavage baring tops.
It turns out however that much of this muddling and cockamamie mish-mashing was due to the confinement of Roy Ward Baker (directing the talking scenes) and Cheh Chang's (directing the martial arts scenes) marvelous widescreen 2:35:1 Techniscope photography into a claustrophobic, nappy lookin' fullscreen image. Fading of color and reduction print distortions didn't help much, and my opinion now after seeing the widescreen print is that much of the disdain aimed at the film is in fact aimed at the miserable presentations that have been available until now.
Sure, it's still a bit cobbled together. Hammer's grip on the marketplace was tenuous at best by 1974, THE EXORCIST and NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD had happened and they were still banking on Gothic shenanigans to sell movie tickets. One result was the creation of these genre crossing hybrids like LEGEND OF THE 7 GOLDEN VAMPIRES mixing martial arts mayhem with Gothic chills, and CAPTAIN KRONOS - VAMPIRE HUNTER which effectively blended the Spaghetti Western, swashbuckling high-adventure and the Gothic nightgowns blowing in the wind. The public didn't seem to care but the result were two very charming movies that had the gall to be different, even if horror fans had moved on. Hammer was hoping to extend their life by coming up with some new series and their collaboration with Shaw Brothers productions was perhaps both ahead of its times while a year or three too late to save the company. It was a glorious failure that deserves to be seen again now that present day technology can give viewers a better estimation of the movie's intended form. It is surprisingly entertaining and compulsively watchable.
What I would recommend is that anybody who may have heard of LEGEND OF THE 7 GOLDEN VAMPIRES should give it a try, and anyone who had dismissed it before as a crummy home video oddity to try it again now that the original full-length widescreen version is readily available. It's still somewhat confusing if you are looking for a discreet, beginning-middle- end story progression. But when taken as it's individual moments strung together into a greater whole some of it is actually quite compelling: Slow-motion legions of the Undead riding horseback whilst slaughtering the populace & making off with all the hot chicks (the Blind Dead, anyone?), torture chambers with topless girls strapped down to a bizarre rack designed to drain their blood, the re-insertion of some amusingly clever gore shots, James Bernard's at times utterly surreal & way under-appreciated musical score recalling some of his Dracula themes while experimenting with more Eastern inspired sounds, traditional non-wire guided kung fu fights with all the bravado and forced sentiment of a classic martial arts film, and rest assured, plenty of insert shots of Peter Cushing standing there looking concerned.
Just by turning his head slightly to the side and raising an eyebrow Peter Cushing is a treat, nobody can look concerned or impart a sense of dire urgency into an audience like Peter Cushing: It may be an odd movie but it does feature some of his best work at appearing concerned and some of the urgencies that he imparts within viewers are the most dire of his career. Yeah, he was getting old and tired and probably looked upon the movie as an expense paid trip to China to help him forget the sorrow of his wife's passing. But by golly he made the movie and if he means anything to you it simply must be seen because it is his last screen turn as one of his classic Gothic horror characters. Try it again, make sure it's a widescreen version, pop plenty of popcorn, perhaps an adult beverage or two, and put down the lights. Turns out it's not a bad movie after all.
Well as you have been reading the reviews of this film, two definite trends seem to emerge. One is that this film has been critically panned for a couple of decades, and, two, this film seems to be genuinely liked by those that take actual effort to watch it. The film surely has its faults, but the overall effect it creates diminishes its shortcomings. The film is about a small town in China that has been ravaged for many years by a band of seven vampires. Professor Van Helsing, giving a lecture in China, is approached by someone from that village that requests Van Helsing's assistance. The rest of the story concerns Van Helsing, his son, a lady benefactor, and seven Chinese brothers and their talented sister trekking across China to get to the village and face the seven deadly vampires in the charge of the one and only European Count Dracula. Along the way, we the audience are treated to some first-rate martial arts, scary atmospheric settings which include zombie servants rising from fog-filled cemetaries, and the ultimate climax of good fighting evil. All in all it is one exciting piece of entertainment. The story at the end is a bit weak, as is the character of Van Helsing's son, who seems to manage to stay alive despite being a weakling.
The Legend of the Seven Golden Vampires marries two disparate genres - the
period horror film and the martial arts film - with surprisingly
entertaining results. It features a lovely performance from Peter Cushing,
as Professor Van Helsing, who is travelling around China trying to convince
its people of the worldwide threat of vamprism in 1904. Not many of the
Chinese academics believe him, but one young man does.... he comes from a
village in the Chinese interior cursed by seven deadly vampire warriors. He
hires Professor Van Helsing to travel with him to this desolate place to rid
it of its vampire curse. Guess who the main vampire is behind the horrid
happenings in the village? Well, it wouldn't be a Peter Cushing/Hammer
horror film without everyone's favourite Count Dracula, would
The film is badly acted by everyone except Cushing. Julie Ege plays a Norweigan noble woman and looks beautiful, but her performance sucks. The Chinese and Hong Kong actors look distinctly uncomfortable in the talky scenes, chatting away about Transylvanian vampire lore but struggling to get their tongue around much of the dialogue. However, when the martial arts action kicks in, they are good value for money. It's a shame Christopher Lee wasn't available to play Dracula in this one.... I'm not sure who the guy is playing the evil count, but his performance is an embarrassment.
The Legend of the Seven Golden Vampires is unusual enough and fast-paced enough to be entertaining. However, it's not a classic, so don't expect it to be.
THE LEGEND OF THE 7 GOLDEN VAMPIRES
Aspect ratio: 2.39:1 (Panavision)
Sound format: Mono
Whilst lecturing in Chungking at the turn of the 20th century, Professor Van Helsing (Peter Cushing) is asked by a poor villager (David Chiang) to help defend his community from a plague of vampires controlled by Count Dracula (John Forbes-Robertson).
Filmed on location in Hong Kong under difficult shooting conditions, this Hammer/Shaw Brothers co-production attempts to meld the antiquated Gothic melodrama of Hammer's bygone glories with the new breed of kung fu thrillers emerging from a newly revitalized HK, spearheaded by the worldwide success of KING BOXER (1971) and ENTER THE DRAGON (1973). Roy Ward Baker (THE VAMPIRE LOVERS) took the reins from original director Gordon Hessler (THE OBLONG BOX) after only a few days, though his work was clearly hampered from the outset by co-producer Don Houghton's simplistic script, which describes events either in broad strokes or hasty scribbles, leaving most of the actors in disarray.
Cushing is urbane as ever, trading successfully on his established screen persona, but co-star Julie Ege (a former Bond girl) is merely decorative, while Chiang - an accomplished screen actor (also known as John Keung) whose work stretches all the way from STREET BOYS in 1960 to THE ADVENTURERS (1995) and beyond - is ultimately defeated by the English dialogue, which he's forced to deliver in a stilted, phonetic style. Robin Stewart (THE HAUNTED HOUSE OF HORROR) and Shih Szu are also featured as the juvenile leads, alongside hugely prolific actors Fung Hak-on (later a regular in Jackie Chan's movies) and Lau Kar-wing (an experienced performer and director in his own right). Elsewhere, Forbes-Robertson does a fair impersonation of Christopher Lee in Dracula-mode, though his first on-screen appearance is almost ruined by a comical makeup design. Les Bowie's special effects are also quite feeble, even for 1974. However, the studio sets are appropriately vivid, and the widescreen photography (by John Wilcox and Roy Ford) makes a virtue of Johnson Chow's atmospheric art direction - note the haunting prologue in Dracula's castle, where ghostly shadows billow softly on a multicolored wall just before the Count begins to stir from his coffin - and the fight scenes (arranged by veteran choreographers Liu Chia-liang and Tang Chia) are lively and energetic.
The film was subjected to major re-edits for its original US release, where it went out under the title "The 7 Brothers Meet Dracula". This shabby hatchet job rearranges most of the key sequences in a miserable attempt to reduce exposition and characterization to the barest minimum, thereby transforming a fair-to-middling potboiler into an 'audience-friendly' mish-mash of violent horror and kung fu skirmishes. Not only does it cheapen the production and blacken the name of all involved with it, this variant edition treats American viewers as dim-witted simpletons, emphasizing cheap thrills over plot development for the sake of a quick buck. The film was screened in HK - completely intact - under the HK-English title "Dracula and the 7 Golden Vampires".
In 1804, in Transylvania, a Chinese walker heads to the castle of
Dracula. He awakes Dracula from his tomb and explains that he is Kah,
the High Priest of the Seven Golden Vampires in China that are
powerless. He needs Dracula to restore their power and the vampire
takes Kah's body and image.
One hundred years later, Professor Laurence Van Helsing (Peter Cushing) gives a lecture at a Chinese university about the legend of the Seven golden vampires but the students leave the auditorium finding that the all the exposition is superstition. However the student Hsi Ching (David Chiang) meets Van Helsing at home and tells that the legend is true and he knows the location of the vampires. Van Helsing accepts to travel to the village in the countryside to help to destroy the vampires and the wealthy widow Mrs. Vanessa Buren (Julie Ege), who has befriend his son Leyland Van Helsing (Robin Stewart), offers to sponsor the expedition provided she may go with them. Soon they embark with seven siblings skilled in kung-fu in a dangerous expedition to destroy the Golden Vampires and Dracula.
"The Legend of the 7 Golden Vampires" is the worst Dracula's movie produced by Hammer, with a ridiculous story that combines vampires with martial arts. This movie is a co-production of the Shaw Studio from Hong Kong and was released with different titles. The Anchor Bay DVD presents also the American edited version "The 7 Brothers Meet Dracula" that I did not see. It is also funny to see Vanessa Buren and Leyland in a hard expedition dressed like they are going to a party. My vote is five.
Title (Brazil): Not Available
In 19th century China Count Dracula takes the form of a Chinese tyrant
who has control of a cult that contains six sword -wielding vampires
and hordes of zombies. The legend is said that they mount a bloody
reign of terror on a cursed remote village by taking young woman from
the village to feed on them. Professor Van Helsing (Peter Cushing)
leads an expedition with some martial art experts, his son and a
wealthy widow to the village to prove the legend is true and to rid the
undead from this earth.
Hammer production gives us something a bit different in this film by making a far journey to the east: Honk Kong. Hammer horror meets Kung Fu for this outing, with a lot of exorbitance and flair to show. It might be a bizarre mix and ridiculously over-the-top hokum, but you can't deny the shocks and fun factor it achieves. It's rather silly stuff and that makes it enjoyable viewing. What's a Hammer film without Peter Cushing as Van Helsing, but Christopher Lee didn't return to play Dracula and John Forbes-Robertson took his place. He just lacked the charisma and gave a rather odd, if dour performance. Cushing on the other hand gave a solid performance and some value-added class to the film. Julie Ege is fine as the elegant Vanessa Buren the wealthy lady who funded the expedition. This film gives us what we expect, a lot of horror, flesh and blood.
The premise is a rather engrossing adventure even though it has a very formulaic narrative. The plot might be flawed, make not much sense and come across as disjointed. But it totally makes up for it with some unpredictable sequences of suspense and an intriguing mythology involving vampires of the East. Showing how their customs are far different to those of the traditional vampires. The colourfully taut action sequences are well set up and are terrifically paced. When these rather hectic martial art battles start they really do go on, but still don't overshadow the horror element of the film. The battles involving the golden vampires are dazzling and the zombies coming out of the ground was well established and a sight to see. The final set-up for the grand battle scene reminded me very much of "The Seven Samurai" and "The Magnificent Seven", especially in protecting them from an onslaught. The difference is that they weren't asked or paid to protect them. One thing it lacked was a seductive female vampire (there was one for 10 seconds or so). The plot's thin love story felt out of place in the overall context and so did Helsing's son Leyland who came across as nothing more then a annoying bystander. So was Dracula, as he didn't do that much and only had a small amount of screen time. The climax between Dracula and Helsing isn't much of a tussle. It was that brisk it felt like they wanted to get the film over pretty quickly.
The film was very atmospheric, especially at night with the howling wind, blankets of mist and menacing shadows. On the journey to the village the scenery provided by the countryside is fairly graceful. Ranging from the grassland, rocky terrain and the woodlands. The heart pounding score goes in hand to hand with the scenes. The production valves weren't great, but not bad. The set designs of Dracula's domain and the village are somewhat vivid. The effects were rather shoddy (rubber bats on strings) and props looked ludicrous (the weapons). The make-up and costumes on the vampires and zombies were rather fair. You get some close ups of rotting vampire's faces after dying. This is when you get some oozing, bubbling and steaming skin decay. Also there are cheesy sound effects and a glorious amount of blood splattering.
Rather entertaining, if unconventional horror by Hammer productions.
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