THE LEGEND OF THE 7 GOLDEN VAMPIRES (1974)
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!
Rated 3 and 1/2 (out of 4) martial arts swords.