THE LEGEND OF THE 7 GOLDEN VAMPIRES (1974) Reviews and overview

 

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The Legend of the 7 Golden Vampires is a 1974 supernatural horror martial arts feature film co-produced by Hammer Studios and Shaw Brothers Studio. The movie stars Peter Cushing, John Forbes-Robertson, Robin Stewart and Julie Ege.

It was belatedly released in North America in June 1979 in an edited version as The Seven Brothers Meet Dracula, and is alternatively known as The Seven Brothers and Their One Sister Meet Dracula. The North American release version was trimmed of twenty minutes of the film’s footage and soundtrack and loops several remaining scenes to fill the running time.

The Legend of the 7 Golden Vampires was released on Blu-ray from a 2K scan of the original film elements by Scream Factory on April 9th. It includes both the uncut UK version and the US edit.

Special features:

Audio commentary with author/film historian Bruce G. Hallenbeck (new)
Interview with actor David Chiang (new)
Interview with Hong Kong film expert Rick Baker (new)
Theatrical trailers
TV spot

Still gallery

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The film is notable for having an actor other than Christopher Lee to portray Count Dracula in the Hammer Dracula series. The role of Dracula is played by John Forbes-Robertson (though the actor’s voice was dubbed by David de Keyser).

Plot:

In 1900s China, vampire hunter Professor Van Helsing (Peter Cushing) has travelled to China to lecture students about the legend of a remote Chinese village that lives under the curse of seven deadly vampires. The vampires strike every year at the time of the seventh moon, tormenting the villagers and causing terror and bloodshed in the community.

The villagers approach Van Helsing and ask him to join forces with local kung fu experts to rid the village of the tyrannical vampires and restore peace and order. He complies with their request, and along with his son Leyland (Robin Stewart) and a pretty young heiress, Vanessa (Julie Ege), he sets out to rid the village of its curse.

However, in the meantime, Count Dracula (John Forbes-Robertson) has arrived in the vicinity in the guise of a warlord to restore the power of the vampires and add to the carnage…

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Both Roy Ward Baker, a British director who had helmed previous Hammer films such as Scars of Dracula; Doctor Jekyll and Sister Hyde; and Quatermass and the Pit, and Chang Cheh, a veteran Hong Kong action director, worked on the movie, though only Baker is credited.

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During some scenes involving roving gangs of the undead, several vampires can be seen hopping up and down, as vampires tend to do in Chinese vampire films.

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Reviews:

“It’s pretty much as ridiculous as it sounds, but there’s something inherently entertaining about make-up-splattered vampires, distinguished British actors, and martial artists squaring off in periodic eruptions of kung-fu fighting.” The AV Club

“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…” Dread Central

“Cushing, in his last Hammer Dracula film, is as commanding as ever, but he and his Western companions are pretty disposable to the plot until the end, where the professor is left alone with the Count, who is hardly needed. Nevertheless, this last Hammer vampire outing has a real energy, in spite of being a mish-mash, and is different enough to get by on sheer novelty alone.” The Spinning Image
“Alternately campy and spellbinding, and punctuated by entirely enthusiastic martial arts sequences, this one makes for a very fun watch indeed. Certainly, it falls into the “what’s going on here!??” category. But that’s part of its charm, and nevertheless, it’s guaranteed to hold your interest.” The Terror Trap

“One of the great disasters in horror film history, this turkey put the final nail in Hammer’s bankruptcy coffin.” Videohound’s Complete Guide to Cult Flicks and Trash Pics

“Really, the only thing missing from this one is Christopher Lee who’s absence in the Dracula role does hurt things a bit. But we do have a very atmospheric affair taking place with our creepy Golden Vampires who provide if nothing else at least the weirdest looking vampires you might remember on film.” Zombies Don’t Run

Cast and characters:

Peter Cushing … Professor Van Helsing
John Forbes-Robertson … Count Dracula
Robin Stewart … Leyland Van Helsing
Julie Ege … Vanessa Buren
Robert Hanna … British Consul
David Chiang … Hsi Ching/Hsi Tien-en
Shih Szu … Mai Kwei
Chan Shen … Kah the High Priest/Count Dracula’s host
Lau Kar-wing … Hsi Kwei (archer)
Huang Pei-Chih … Hsi Po-Kwei (spearman)
Wang Chiang … Hsi San (twin swordsman)
Feng Ko-An … an assassin
Hsu Hsia … an assassin
David de Keyser … the voice of Dracula [uncredited]

Technical credits:

89 minutes
Aspect ratio: Panavision 2:35:1
Eastmancolor
Audio: Mono

The deleted DVD from Anchor Bay also includes both The Seven Brothers Meet Dracula version as well as the original uncut Legend of the 7 Golden Vampires version.

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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.

The 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 audiobook, 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.

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The original album is now a collectable item, but fans also have the opportunity to hear it on the Anchor Bay DVD release of The Legend of the 7 Golden Vampires, where it is included as an extra. In 2012, Bsx released the album alongside the original, unadulterated score on CD.

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