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legend of 7 golden vampires



In 1974, legendary Hammer Studios teamed up with the equally legendary Shaw Bothers Studios for this martial arts/horror mash-up, bringing Hammer’s gothic, vampire storytelling style together with the fast-paced martial arts action of a classic Shaw Brothers production!

Martial arts horror, also known as The 7 Brothers Meet Dracula in the United States, has Kah (Chan Shen), high priest of the 7 golden vampires, coming to Transylvania to beg Count Dracula himself (John Forbes-Robertson) for help in resurrecting the creatures he serves. Dracula betrays him and takes his form to return to China and bring the golden vampires back to life to serve his own sinister purposes instead. Lucky for us, Dr. Van Helsing (Peter Cushing) is touring China to lecture about vampires! Soon he, his son Leyland (Robin Stewart), and a rich widow (Julie Ege) are teaming with martial arts warrior Hsi Ching (David Chiang) and his brothers and sister, to battle Dracula, the golden vampires and a vampire army.

Film is directed by Roy Ward Baker, with Chang Cheh directing the martial arts sequences, from a script by Don Houghton. The flick is a delightfully well-balanced mix of gothic Hammer style horror and Shaw Brothers martial arts period fantasy. The visuals are quite spooky, and the film embraces both Western and Eastern styles in its portrayal of the undead and their supernatural hijinks. There are grotesque walking corpses armed with swords and weapons, fog shrouded graveyards, spooky castles both European and Asian, and, of course, the fanged, golden masked villains of the title. There is quite a lot of bloodshed and a surprising amount of nudity from a host of nubile young Chinese woman who fall prey to the vile villains. Add to that some fast-paced martial arts battles and you have a very entertaining mash-up that, unfortunately, was poorly received critically and failed at the box office, despite combining two very popular types of movies at the time in the 70s. The flick is simply lots of fun and has some spooky and disturbing sequences mixed in with all the bloody martial arts action. Sure, a lot of the FX are cheesy by today’s standards, but that adds to its nostalgic charm and charm is something this entertaining flick has to spare!

Speaking of charming, the film has a splendid cast of both Eastern and Western actors. Peter Cushing is his usually scholarly and dignified self as Van Helsing, a role he played many times. Make no mistake, when faced with supernatural dangers, this dapper professor can kick vampire butt with the best of them. Cushing took every performance very seriously, yet still had fun with the role. Robin Stewart is a chip off the old block as Van Helsing’s son Leyland. Dashing and handsome, while at the same time, dangerous and full of fight, like his dad. Julie Ege is pretty and spunky as the rich widow Vanessa Buren, though is utilized more as a damsel in distress. John Forbes Robertson is fine as the briefly seen Dracula, though, to be honest, Christopher Lee would have been far more imposing in what amounts to as an extended cameo. Our Eastern heroes are good as well! David Chiang is a noble warrior as Hsi Ching, a descendant of another vampire slayer, and Shih Szu is cute yet quite formidable as Mai Kwei, Hsi Ching’s sister and a love interest for Leyland. Rounding out is a properly sinister Chan Shen as Kah/Dracula. A solid cast who all get the material!

Filmed entirely on location in Hong Kong, this is a fun martial arts/ horror mash-up whose initial failure is all the more disappointing when one sees how enjoyable it is. It has the perfect blend of horror and martial arts, along with a nice mix of Eastern and Western supernatural folklore. It looks great, with some very effective visuals, along with plenty of martial arts action and bloody horror film mayhem. Sure, it’s cheesy at times, but that adds to the overall 70s charm and nostalgia. A really fun, yet sadly one-time collaboration from Hammer and Shaw Brothers Studios! Currently available on a special edition Blu-ray from Scream Factory!

-MonsterZero NJ

Rated 3 and 1/2 (out of 4) martial arts swords.
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DRACULA A.D. 1972 (1972)

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Hammer Films tried to freshen up the Dracula series and did so by bringing The Count (Christopher Lee) to modern day London and brought back Peter Cushing as Van Helsing! They also brought in a new writer and director and the film appears to have no continuity with the other previous films in the series.

The story opens in 1872 with a stage coach hurtling through the forest with Dracula and Van Helsing battling on and about it. The coach crashes and both the good doctor and the fiendish vampire die in one final battle. A disciple (Christopher Neame) of Dracula’s takes his remains and buries them outside the cemetery that now holds the body of Van Helsing. We cut to 1972 London were a group of thrill seeking, young hipsters, including Jessica Van Helsing (Stephanie Beacham), are planning a dark ritual at a de-sanctified, abandoned church. Their leader Johnny (also Christopher Neame) is actually a decedent of that Dracula disciple from the prologue and the black mass he holds, raises Count Dracula from his grave to start feeding on the members of the group. Now it’s up to Jessica’s grandfather, Lorrimer Van Helsing (Peter Cushing), to take up his ancestor’s cause and send Dracula back to Hell where he belongs!

I understand why purists of the series might consider this one a low point for bringing Dracula to the 70s and surrounding him with swinging hipsters and funky music, but I think it’s good fun. Don Houghton wrote the script and while it may not be the strongest of stories, it is refreshing to have a different setting and Cushing back as Dracula’s arch-rival. It also gives a fairly good reason for Dracula’s return as Johnny resurrects him to gain immortality. Alan Gibson directs fairly by-the-numbers, but imbues the film with so much of the 70s youth culture of the time with it’s music and fashions that, if nothing else, it gives the film a heavy 70s nostalgia to make it a treat. Sadly, the film also gives Dracula limited screen time focusing on Van Helsing, but as Cushing has been away from the series since 1960’s Lee-less Brides Of Dracula, we’ll allow it. There is some blood spattered, but after Scars Of Dracula’s R rating caused distribution problems, they went back to PG and it is limited and there is no nudity. The film has a fairly moderate pace, but there is a lot of action and there is some nice cinematography from Dick Bush and a jazzy 70s score by Mike Vickers, who replaced series regular James Bernard. A fun entry with a very 70s vibe and while Dracula’s screen time is limited, there are two nice confrontations with arch-nemesis Van Helsing bookending the film.

A good cast as usual. Again, Lee is in top form giving Dracula a sense of menace despite limited screen time. A testament to his work ethic that he performed so well, a role he came to hate. Cushing is as charming as ever and he provides a welcome boost to the film and gives his performance a nice energy and sincerity as the occult expert and ancestor of the legendary Lawrence Van Helsing. Stephanie Beacham’s Jessica Van Helsing is pretty and a bit more independent than some of the series’ ladies, but ends up being a damsel anyway. Christopher Neame seems to be channeling Malcolm McDowell’s Alex here, to a good degree, but it works in context to the character and setting. Michael Coles is functional but, a bit by-the-numbers as Inspector Murray, a cop investigating the ‘mysterious’ deaths. Last, but not least, we get hot British bird Caroline Munro as an unfortunate member of the hipster group and future Dracula snack.

So, while many feel this was the series’ low point, I respectfully disagree. I really love the 70s vibe and despite a minimal appearance by The Count, it is evened out a bit by the return of Cushing as Van Helsing. The film is loaded with 70s nostalgia, there are some very effective set pieces and is definitely enough fun to make it an entertaining watch. Lee and Cushing would return one more time to battle it out in the follow-up, The Satanic Rites Of Dracula.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 fangs.



Even surrounded by Dracula A.D. 1972‘s bevy of Hammer beauties, Lee can’t help express how tired he is of all this.