October Horror Movie Series-The Legend of the 7 Golden Vampires

October 29, 2008

The Legend of The 7 Golden Vampires(1974); Dir. Cheh Chang & Roy Ward Baker. Anchor Bay DVD(1999)

Not released in the United States until 1979 under the title The 7 brothers Meet Dracula, this film is a unique coming together of the Hong Kong based Shaw Brothers Studios and England’s Hammer Studios.  These two genre studios represent the best of martial arts and horror films respectively and the collaborative effort they have produced, while not being a great film, is an exciting and action packed movie that plays to both genres very effectively.

Again assuming his iconic role as Dr. Van Helsing, Peter Cushing encounters his arch-nemesis Count Dracula(played with a little too much make-up by John Forbes-Robertson) in the Chinese village of Peng Kwei after Dracula took the form of a high priest who came to his castle in Transylvania to ask for his help. Of course, Count Dracula will not have any of that, and takes the form of the high priest in order to control the 7 Golden Vampires who have been terrorizing the town for many years.

The beginning of the film sets up a very nice prelude to the rest of the story, showcasing the standard but always atmospheric Hammer studio set of the cobwebbed Transylvanian castle as Dracula rises from his crypt and goes to the village of Peng Kwei. This provides a nice contrast for the rest of the film as we are introduced to Van Helsing giving a lecture to history professors at a university in China. Van Helsing relates the story of an unknown village where there is a legend of 7 vampires who arise every 7th moon and attack the villagers. Van Helsing has come to China to do research on vampires but he meets with resistance and disbelief and decides to give up when he is visited by a man from the village who confirms the legend and asks for Van Helsing’s help in vanquishing the 7 golden vampires. 

Here the martial arts elements of the story come into play and dominate the majority of the films’ action sequences leading up to an impressive final battle that is wonderfully choreographed.  Hsi Ching, his six brothers, and sister, all skilled with different weapons, enlist Van Helsing’s help and go with him, his son Leyland, and a Scandanavian heiress who is financing the trip, on a journey to the village. Along the way they battle armies of the undead, a mercenary army, and their own fear as they draw closer to the village and the source of the terror.

The fighting sequences are very stylized, as you would expect a Shaw Bros. production to be, and the characters tend to take a back seat to the action although there are parallel romance stories that are developed in a very standard, side plot fashion. It is nice to see Peter Cushing resuming his role as Dr. Van Helsing. He does not do anything new with this role but because he seems so comfortable in the role of Van Helsing, it also seems to come very naturally for him and he shows his ease with the character even though the direction of the film is not the standard one usually taken for vampire films. Also of note in this film is the makeup done by Wu Hsu Ching who has had a long and distinguished career as a makeup artist for many Shaw Brothers productions and a film that Quentin Tarantino released through his Rolling Thunder Pictures Mighty Peking Man.  The masks of the 7 Golden Vampires and the undead demons are wonderfully decrepit and the scenes of them dissolving and turning to ash are great stop motion effects which enchances the feel of the movie.

Up next for The October Horror Movie Series Boris Karloff is a novelist possessed by the spirit of a murderer in The Haunted Strangler 

Charles Jacob



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