To say that THE LEGEND OF THE 7 GOLDEN VAMPIRES, the ninth and final movie in Hammer Film Productions’ DRACULA series, differs from the rest would be the ultimate understatement. This 1974 outing is a joint production between Hammer and the venerable Shaw Brothers Studio. Roy Ward Baker is credited as the director, but Chang Cheh had a hand in things as well. The screenplay is the work of Don Houghton.
The movie opens in Transylvania circa 1804, with a shaman (Chan Shen) summoning Count Dracula (John Forbes-Robertson). This pisses off the vampire, but he inhabits the body of the shaman and heads for China. A century later, Professor Van Helsing (Peter Cushing) is trying to convince the Chinese intelligentsia of the existence of vampires. Only Hsi Ching (David Chiang) believes him. Ching tells Van Helsing about vampires in his village and the fight is on.
THE LEGEND OF THE 7 GOLDEN VAMPIRES is about as good as it has any business being. It manages a rather sophisticated meshing of worlds and cultures, with the Westerners admiring the martial arts displays of Ching and his siblings and the Chinese surprised by the starchy brainpower of the Brits. One character, the well-heeled Vanessa Buren (Julie Ege), seems to straddle the line. She eschews the anticipated “fragility” of the Western woman while craving adventure.
Also shunning the notion is Mai Kwei, played by Shaw Brothers stalwart Shih Szu. She draws the eye of Van Helsing’s son (Robin Stewart) and holds her own against the vampires and gangsters of the unknown. She is as tough as the rest of the characters, which leads things back to Cushing and his brain. He delivers the final blow, both to the Count and to the series, and his command is as assured as ever. It’s a remarkable conclusion to a remarkable series.