The Legend of the 7 Golden Vampires Blu-ray Review
Written by Robert Gold
Blu-ray released by Scream Factory
Directed by Roy Ward Baker
Written by Don Houghton
1974, 83 minutes, Nor Rated
Released on April 9th, 2019
Peter Cushing as Prof. Van Helsing
David Chiang as Hsi Ching
Robin Stewart as Leyland Van Helsing
Julie Ege as Vanessa Buren
Shih Szu as Mei Kwei
John Forbes-Robertson as Dracula
Shen Chan as Kah
At the dawn of the twentieth century, Professor Lawrence Van Helsing is researching Chinese history in the city of Chungking. He lectures at the local university and warns his students about the undead, citing the legend of the seven golden vampires. According to the story, a farmer visits an ancient temple in attempt to rescue several female captives held by the villainous Kah. When he is attacked by vampires, the farmer steals a gold medallion and flees to the woods outside his village. He is pursued by an army of the walking dead following Kah’s bidding. The farmer places the medallion on a shrine, which gives it holy properties that prevent the creatures from reclaiming it. This item is supposed to be able to ward off evil and protect the villagers.
Later that night, Van Helsing is visited by one of his students, Hsi Ching, who reveals that he is a direct descendant of the farmer from the legend and shows the medallion as evidence. He enlists the professor and his son Leyland to come to his remote village and rid them of their vampire problem. The trip is financed by Ms. Vanessa Buren, a strong-willed, wealthy English woman intrigued by Van Helsing’s reputation. Protecting the group will be Ching’s seven siblings – six brothers and one sister – all highly trained in martial arts. Their journey is marked by numerous attacks from both the living and the dead as they get closer to the source of the evil menace – the dreaded Count Dracula.
By 1974, audience tastes were changing. Stuffy gothic horror pictures were no longer a sure thing at the box office, as the genre was evolving in the wake of pictures like The Exorcist (1973). With Bruce Lee’s Enter the Dragon (1973), a fresh wave of kung-fu movies was finding success with viewers. Ever resourceful, Hammer Films felt that adding an Asian element to their next Dracula movie would be the key to profits. A deal was struck with the Chinese studio Shaw Brothers and it was decided the picture would shoot in Hong Kong. Peter Cushing (Horror Express) agreed to return as Dr. Van Helsing one final time, but Christopher Lee declined the project. The story was rewritten to minimize Dracula’s involvement, shifting the focus to ancient Chinese lore.
The Legend of the 7 Golden Vampires was directed by Hammer veteran Roy Ward Baker (The Vampire Lovers) and written by Don Houghton (Dracula A.D. 1972) and is the fastest-moving entry in the franchise. Following the template of contemporary kung-fu movies there is a fight scene roughly every ten minutes. The Asian cast is led by David Chiang (Tiger on Beat) as Hsi Ching, who holds his own opposite Cushing with an impressive performance. Most of the supporting Chinese cast members do not speak, remaining underdeveloped and are primarily on hand to fight. Rounding out the core cast are Robin Stewart (Horror House) as Leyland Van Helsing and Julie Ege (On Her Majesty’s Secret Service) as Vanessa Buren, the adventurous Englishwoman. Filling the role of Dracula with minimal screen time is John Forbes-Robertson (Lifeforce), seen in only two scenes that bookend the picture.
The vampires in this picture remain silent but are good fighters backed by an army of the walking dead. In an odd twist, the vampires are prone to kidnapping women to their temple and stripping them topless before biting them and killing them. The picture is better than one would expect from this sort of mash-up and it did well upon release in both England and China, but languished for years in the United States before being dumped into theaters in a dreadfully re-edited version that doesn’t always make sense. The Legend of the 7 Golden Vampires is fun and fast paced and everyone involved plays it straight. Hammer fans will be happy to see the film in HD and newcomers will find it intriguing in its crazy blending of genres.
Video and Audio:
Presented in the 2.35:1 aspect ratio, the original film elements have been restored with an all-new 2K scan and the results are gorgeous. Colors and black levels are rock solid and flesh tones appear natural throughout.
The mono mix is represented here with a DTS-HD MA 2.0 track that remains true to its source. Dialogue levels are crisp and clean and kung-fu sound effects are heartily enhanced.
Optional English subtitles are included for anyone in need.
Author/ film historian Bruce G. Hallenbeck provides an audio commentary that traces the history of this production, starting with the pairing of Hammer Films with Shaw Brothers studios. He details the rocky road of culture clash behind the scenes and the difficulties of shooting. There is talk of the troubled domestic release and the downfall of Hammer. The last half hour is full of extended pauses and on screen narration, but Hallenbeck manages to keep things interesting.
Actor David Chiang was recently the subject of a documentary and the discussion turned to this picture. Excerpts from that interview are included here in When Hammer Met Shaw (7 minutes). He reflects on his time working with Peter Cushing and his appreciation of Run Run Shaw, who launched his career and exposed him to international audiences.
In Kung Fear (20 minutes), Hong Kong film expert Rick Baker shares his love of Hammer horror and kung-fu flicks and how this film was the perfect blend. He talks about the balance of genre material and provides some information on the production. Baker also details the differences between the original edit and the U.S. export version.
The 7 Brothers Meet Dracula (75 minutes) is the alternate cut of the film released in U.S theaters featuring numerous changes to up the exploitation factor and quicken the pace. This version has been included on this release.
Theatrical trailers for both versions of the film and a TV spot are on hand for a look at the marketing campaign.
A still gallery (6 minutes) plays as a silent slideshow featuring international poster art, lobby cards, publicity shots and newspaper ads.
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