Forgotten Films: The Legend of the 7 Golden Vampires (1974)


Further proof of Bruce Lee’s legacy was this most unusual studio team-up between goth horror meisters Hammer and martial arts maestros Shaw Brothers at the height of the 70’s “chop socky” craze. Hammer Studios was struggling to keep au courant, hence the updating of Dracula to post-swinging London in DRACULA AD: 1972 and THE SATANIC RITES OF DRACULA. Christopher Lee didn’t like these retro-fittings and after his contract, he retired from the Dracula biz. Hammer even went to the back pages of Famous Monsters of Filmland asking readers to send in a subject checklist — “What do YOU want Hammer to do next?” I wonder how many kids wrote in, Make A Kung Fu Vampire Movie.

1812697802_ab22f2196cSo they did anyway. Thank your lucky movie stars because the result, THE LEGEND OF THE 7 GOLDEN VAMPIRES is perfect Saturday night fun, a rare Hammer film with terrific action scenes and startling horror scares. The film veers from Peter Cushing as Van Helsing trying to convince scholars that vampires and Dracula exist, then cutting to outrageous kung fu battles between Chinese villagers and undead warriors. It’s BIG TROUBLE IN LITTLE CHINA meets TOMBS OF THE BLIND DEAD. Somehow this crazed buffet works for me and has more style than most Hammer films of the period. It’s E.C. Comics colorful, and Roy Ward Baker’s direction is more lively here than most of his work. Lau-kar Leung and the Shaw Brothers crack team of fight choreographers are responsible for the kinetic, bloody duels that include dismembered swordplay and smoking chest punctures. The main set design, a circular blood-letting cauldron for the semi-nude female victims, is pure pop horror pulp and provides a fitting backdrop for the climax. The zombie minions rising from graves is also effective along with the Golden Vampires and their individual costumes. And James Wilcox’s wide-screen cinematography is positively Bava-esque in palette and compositions. Plus, the vampires melt.

Co-starring Shaw Bros. regular, David Chiang, who speaks in phoentic English and the only Chinese heard is when a minion asks Dracula to revive the Seven Golden Vampires; it’s cool that the Prince of Vampires needs no translation. Peter Cushing is always a joy, and for his last Van Helsing role, he turns in a particularly energetic performance, battling kung-fu vampires with the best of them. He even has a nice chemistry with Chiang and Swedish beauty, Julie Ege.

legendgoldenvampTHE LEGEND OF THE 7 GOLDEN VAMPIRES has suffered over the years from an undeserved bad rep, as it was Hammer’s last Dracula film and released in America in a severely-truncated version called THE 7 BROTHERS MEET DRACULA (with the great tag,”Black Belt Against Black Magic!”). The film is representative of the extreme direction Hammer went to carve out a 1970’s horror niche, which they never did. Anchor Bay released a dual version of both films in glorious wide-screen and it’s an interesting drive-in comparison test. I wish this film wasn’t the scapegoat as it’s easily one of the most entertaining films made by Hammer Studios, and historically, led to the birth of the Hong Kong horror genre with films like MR. VAMPIRE. I’ve always thought this was ripe for remake and last week, a company announced a new version. And what a perfect double-bill this would make with Hammer’s other cool 1974 genre mash-up, CAPTAIN KRONOS: VAMPIRE HUNTER

3 Responses to “Forgotten Films: The Legend of the 7 Golden Vampires (1974)”

  1. […] (but it’s still fun: mod vampires!). The last Peter Cushing and Hammer Dracula epic, THE LEGEND OF THE SEVEN GOLDEN VAMPIRES (1974) is fantastic kung-fu blood-sucker fun and with more energetic inventive direction, could have been […]

  2. I just discovered this film. It’s amazing. Peter Cushing is wonderful as the out-of-sorts expert, open to Chinese ways, and yet proud of his heritage without being weird about it. The fights are awesome, and Julie Ege is…well, what can be said. As a HUGE fan of Big Trouble in Little China, this is so up my alley it’s amazing I’ve never heard of it until this month. What a great surprise.

  3. […] (but it’s still fun: mod vampires!). The last Peter Cushing and Hammer Dracula epic, THE LEGEND OF THE SEVEN GOLDEN VAMPIRES (1974) is a fantastic kung-fu blood-sucker mash-up and with more energetic, inventive direction, could […]

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