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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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With the passing of Shaw Brothers Studios founder Sir Run Run Shaw, I thought I’d take a look back at one of his most famous classics and a film highly regarded by martial arts film enthusiasts as one of the greatest martial arts films ever made…

This martial arts classic tells the story of a village that has been taken over by oppressive Manchu warriors. A rebellion is brewing, but the Manchu’s are making a strong effort to squash it before it can overthrow them. Student Liu Yude (Gordon Liu) wants to get involved, but his involvement soon puts him on the run and hunted. Injured from an encounter with his Manchu pursuers, he finds himself going to the Shoalin Temple for help and once there, begs the monks to take him in as a student and train him. They reluctantly do and now going by the name of San Te, he trains and becomes their greatest and most skilled student and is granted the privilege of taking charge of one of Shaolin’s 35 chambers of training. But, San Te asks to start a new 36th chamber to train common folk in the ways of martial arts. His rebellious request gets him sent out to collect offerings as penance, but it also returns him to his village where he finds his fellow students and family dead and the rebellion all but destroyed. Greatly skilled, San Te is now in a position to finally help his people overthrow and cast out the Manchu thugs once and for all…but should he?

We all know the answer to that question, but it sure is fun watching it transpire. The 36th Chamber Of Shaolin…also known as The Master Killer…is widely regarded as one of the greatest martial arts films ever made and in regards to the spirit of these kind of films, it is. It has everything you could want from one of these flicks…an unskilled hero up against insurmountable odds, grueling training sequences where our hero slowly gains the skills he lacks, then his ultimate return to exact vengeance against those who wronged him and his people/family…and of course fights, fights, fights. In this, director Liu Chia-liang delivers all the above in exciting and dramatic style. We are treated to some of the greatest training sequences ever filmed and some really exciting and well choreographed fight scenes and all with a very colorful and grand visual style, despite being on what must have been a very small budget. We are also treated to a really cool opening title sequence, which perfectly sets the mood for the rest of the film.

The cast are all good with star Gordon Lui leading the pack with a portrayal of a brash, angry and somewhat arrogant young man being gradually humbled and turned into a noble and strong warrior, who seeks peace through the enlightenment and strengthening of those around him. Lui is considered a legend of the martial arts cinema and this film is why. He is also a skilled martial artist and his fight scenes show it. The rest of the cast do well in creating noble monks, rebellious villagers and evil villains accordingly and help bring this time-honored story to vibrant life. While it is a story told many times in martial arts cinema, this is one of the best examples of how it should be done.

Despite the advancements in FX and technology, the expanding of budgets and overall progress the Hong Kong cinema has made since the prolific days of the 70s era, this film still holds up and with added nostalgic charm, can proudly still be considered one of the greats. A must see for martial arts movie fans of all generations…and a hell of a lot of fun.

-MonsterZero NJ

Rated 4 (out of 4) legendary Lius!

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Sir Run Run Shaw 1907-2014

Today one of the most important figures in the history of Hong Kong martial arts cinema, Sir Run Run Shaw, passed away at the ripe old age of 106.  Shaw founded the legendary Shaw Brothers Studios which produced over 1,000 films including the martial arts classics The 36th Chamber Of Shaolin and Five Fingers Of Death (King Boxer). Shaw was also one of the producers of the classic film Blade Runner. Farewell to a true giant in the world of film.