The Legend of the 7 Golden Vampires (1974)

golden vampires

2.5mls

In terms of crossovers, the blending of Hammer Studios and the Shaw Brothers Studio is hypnotic. With The Legend of the 7 Golden Vampires, also known as The Seven Brothers and Their One Sister Meet Dracula, the exemplary horror of Count Dracula copes with the martial arts witchcraft of Hong Kong’s masters.

Directed by Roy Ward Baker and an uncredited Chang Cheh, The Legend of the 7 Golden Vampires counts as the ninth and final entry in Hammer’s Dracula series. It features a screenplay by Don Houghton and the cinematography of Roy Ford and John Wilcox. It’s the only Hammer Dracula film to not feature Christopher Lee.

Instead, it’s the body of John Forbes-Robertson and the voice of David de Keyser as Count Dracula. He’s introduced as the shaman Kah (Shen Chan) visits his Transylvania digs. Kah wants Dracula’s help to restore power to China’s Seven Golden Vampires, but the Count takes over the shaman’s body.

100 years later, Professor Van Helsing (Peter Cushing) is trying to land a chance to research vampires in China but the locals reject his naïve myths. The only man to believe is Hsi Ching (David Chiang). Chang knows where the vampires are and leads Van Helsing, his son (Robin Stewart) and a hot rich blonde (Julie Ege) to the location.

The Legend of the 7 Golden Vampires opens with a ridiculous bit of camp in Castle Dracula. Kah upsets a poor provincial farmer by his mere presence and wanders into the green-bathed citadel to kneel before the coffin with the giant D. Dracula rises looking like a dilapidated Smurf and sweeps the shaman away in a blur of fog.

The sequence sets the stage for the curious confluence of martial arts and horror to come, but the conceptual groundwork is worth noting. Cushing’s Van Helsing explains a local legend to some intellectuals and they dismiss him, stating that the Chinese are far too sophisticated for his mumbo-jumbo. It’s an interesting twist.

Of course, the intellectuals are wrong and there really are vampires wandering the countryside. Chang just so happens to have six brothers and one sister to fight the seven or six golden vampires and the Dracula-infused Kah, so it works out. It also works out that each of the brothers has a distinguishing weapon-related identity. It also works out that the one sister (Shih Szu) is all sorts of awesome.

Much of this Hammer/Shaw spectacular is built around such flukes, but there are some surprises. For one thing, the tense British characters act like the proverbial fish out of water until the closing frames. For another, the romantic pairings are “unorthodox” if a bit tentative.

Consider the scene as the brothers (and sister) display their prowess. The dopey son of Van Helsing has stumbled into trouble after offending a shady character. A gang sets upon the group and the brothers (and sister) spring into action. They kick ass, while the Van Helsing men and Ege’s character tremble by the horses.

Naturally, it could be argued that the Chinese dominate because they’re on their turf. It could also be argued that the impact of Chang and Co.’s arsenal only goes so far against the evocative power of Count Dracula. But for the majority of this campy East-meets-West smorgasbord, kung fu madness reigns supreme and that makes this picture a daffy surprise.

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