The Legend of the 7 Golden Vampires was one of Hammer’s final horror films until the company’s recent revival, appearing in 1974. It marked the final appearance of Dracula in a Hammer film (and for the first time, the character was not played by Christopher Lee) and was also Peter Cushing’s last movie for the company (though he did appear in an episode of Hammer House of Horror in 1980).
An uneasy co-production between Hammer and Shaw Brothers of Hong Kong, the film mixed traditional horror with martial arts, then very much in vogue. Not a box office success, the film was unreleased by Warner Brothers in the USA, eventually being sold on to the independent circuit, where it was clumsily re-edited and released as The Seven Brothers Meet Dracula at the end of the decade.
Curiously, in Britain, the film spawned a soundtrack album – the first Hammer film to do so. It was part of a plan to move into the record world by Hammer boss Michael Carreras, and appeared alongside Hammer Presents Dracula. It was, however, a short lived project, as these were the only two LPs released, the planned Hammer Presents Frankenstein never appearing amidst claims of dodgy deals with the unnamed head of Hammer City Records.
Like Hammer Presents Dracula, this LP was unusual in that instead of simply featuring James Bernard’s music for the film, it instead had Peter Cushing (as Van Helsing) reading a novelised version of the film (written by screenwriter Don Houghton), complete with sound effects. The story was introduced by David De Keyser, and also features a brief vocal performance from Pik-Sen Lim as Miao Kue (the character played in the film by Shih Szu. The record features a new suite based on Bernard’s score, arranged by Philip Martell, which underscores the narration. It was produced by Roy Skeggs and Philip Martell. Warner Brothers Records released the LP in 1974.
This album was heavily criticised by some soundtrack collectors, most notably Richard Klemensen in Hammer fanzine Little Shoppe of Horrors, who was aghast that Hammer would release a ‘kiddy album’ instead of simply a music soundtrack. However, in truth, the disc is far removed from the world of Disney albums, and is perhaps closer to an audio book, enhanced with a dramatic musical score. Houghton’s adaptation of his screenplay is tight and punchy, the action benefits from allowing the listener to play it out in their own mind (rather than watching the rather lacklustre kung fu scenes) and Cushing is an excellent narrator. All in all, the album is entertaining, in unconventional – though probably has more limited repeat listening appeal than a standard soundtrack album.
The original album is now a collectible item, but fans also have the opportunity to hear it on the Anchor Bay DVD release of The Legend of the 7 Golden Vampires, were it is included as an extra. In 2012, Bsx released the album alongside the original, unadulterated score on CD.
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