Starring Peter Cushing, David Chiang, John Forbes-Robertson, Robin Stewart
Directed by Roy Ward Baker
Distributed by Scream Factory
Audiences of 1974 mostly ignored what, to me, is one of cinema’s most ass-kicking pairings: the spawn of Hammer Film Productions paired with Shaw Brothers Studio, The Legend of the 7 Golden Vampires. Both Hammer and Shaw are venerable institutions of their respective genres – horror and kung-fu – producing some of the greatest films those fans have seen, but the amalgamation of the two hit with a dull thud. History has been kinder to the film than audiences of the day, with it now being seen as a mostly awesome adventure filled with plenty of chop-socky and bloodletting. The original U.S. cut was trimmed by around 20 minutes and re-titled The 7 Brothers Meet Dracula, which isn’t quite as cool as the original title. The production brings together the Gothic atmosphere of Hammer’s British horror and the lightning-fast hand and foot action from the most prolific studio in the game, with genre veteran Peter Cushing donning his Van Helsing hat one last time. It’s a mash-up that seems almost too crazy to work… but it does.
A prologue set in Transylvania, 1804, finds Kah (Chan Shen), High Priest of the Temple of the Seven Golden Vampires, seeking out Count Dracula (John Forbes-Robertson) to aid in restoring the vampires’ fading powers. Dracula agrees… on the condition he can possess Kah’s body and escape his castle prison. Kah isn’t given much of an option as to whether or not he agrees and soon Drac is using Kah’s body to make his way to China. The film then cuts to 1904, with Prof. Van Helsing (Peter Cushing) lecturing a class about Chinese vampire myths. He tells the story of the seven golden vampires, the town they lorded over, and how a villager was able to defeat one using a medallion each vampire has around their neck. Van Helsing believes the remaining six golden vampires are still out there, terrorizing the same village.
A student of Van Helsing’s, Hsi Ching (David Chiang), tells the professor the legend is true and he has a medallion as proof to back it up. Ching wants Van Helsing to help rid their village of the vampires, and he’ll have Ching’s seven deadly siblings as backup. The journey to the village is perilous, with the golden vampires and their army attacking along the way. Many lives are lost on both sides, but Van Helsing and the group carry on for one final showdown with these legendary bloodsuckers.
Listen, if watching Chinese vampires with scarred, ghoulish faces, wearing golden masks, and fighting kung-fu while Peter Cushing looks on in horror doesn’t sound remotely appealing them this isn’t the film for you. Hammer and Shaw made sure to pack this film with plenty of eyeball candy, most of which is combat action with horror taking a bit of a backseat to all the fisticuffs. The most impressive part about the action set pieces is their size; the choreography is staged so there are multiple layers to every skirmish. The frenzied nature of shooting the fights like this makes the film feel bigger, especially when high quality stunt work is involved. The performers are high flying and brimming with wild energy – and that level of skill on screen is magnetizing.
Cushing spends much of the film informing and then hiding, since he isn’t quite the martial arts expert literally every single one of his co-stars is, but he gets to shine in the final moments when it comes down to a battle for the ages: Van Helsing vs. Count Dracula. That isn’t to say their fight is particularly exciting, but Cushing spends so much time feeling sidelined during all this melee it was nice to get the reminder he still had a major purpose. Also, as I have said before I will watch anything in which he stars and this also happens to be one of his more entertaining entries, so his presence was a nice bonus.
The 2.35:1 1080p image features a new 2K scan from “original elements” and the result is a technically sound presentation. Colors have a good bit of punch to them. The new scan has minimized damage and debris to very minor instances. Interior scenes look best, with the many exteriors having a variable appearance. Close-ups look crisp and lifelike.
An English DTS-HD MA 2.0 mono track does a decent job of delivering the goods. The dialogue sounds a touch muffled at times and only so-so at others. The main theme music kicks in with a fever pitch volume that had me scrambling for the remote. The entire affair sounds a bit worn & dated but it works well enough for an exploitation picture like this so I wasn’t bothered much. Subtitles are available in English.
Wild, exciting, and loose in a way only ‘70s films can be “The Legend of the 7 Golden Vampires” is a mash-up movie that doesn’t seem to get enough praise. It may not be the best either studio has to offer but the sheer novelty of seeing these two iconic studios work together on a horror/kung-fu hybrid makes this one worth a watch for sure.
- BRAND NEW 2K REMASTER OF THE FILM
- NEW Audio Commentary with author/film historian Bruce G. Hallenbeck
- NEW When Hammer Met Shaw – an interview with actor David Chiang
- NEW Kung Fear – an interview with Hong Kong Film Expert Rick Baker
- Alternate U.S. Theatrical version – The 7 Brothers Meet Dracula (in HD with some standard definition inserts)
- Theatrical Trailers
- TV Spot
- Still Gallery