The Legend of the 7 Golden Vampires
|The Legend of the 7 Golden Vampires|
UK theatrical release poster by Arnaldo Putzu
|Written by||Don Houghton|
|Music by||James Bernard|
|Edited by||Chris Barnes|
The Legend of the 7 Golden Vampires is a 1974 horror film/martial arts film produced by Hammer Film Productions and Shaw Brothers Studio. It is the ninth and final film in the Hammer Dracula series. It was released in the US by Dynamite Films in 1979 in a heavily edited version as The 7 Brothers Meet Dracula, and was alternately known on the US trailer as The 7 Brothers and their One Sister Meet Dracula. In the Far East, it was titled Dracula and the 7 Golden Vampires. The film is notable for having an actor other than Christopher Lee portray Count Dracula in the Hammer Dracula series; before this film was made, Lee had left the role of the Count. The role of Dracula is played by John Forbes-Robertson (though the actor's voice is dubbed by David de Keyser).
In Transylvania in 1804, a lone figure makes his way through the countryside and into the towering Castle Dracula. He heads over to the tomb of the legendary vampire before summoning him. Soon, Count Dracula appears from his crypt and demands who has disturbed him. The figure announces, in his own language, that his name is Kah, a Taoist monk and the High Priest of the Temple of the Seven Golden Vampires in rural China. He goes on to tell the Count that the Seven Golden Vampires' power is fading and he needs him to restore them to their former glory. Dracula considers the offer and accepts on one condition: that he takes on Kah's body and image to escape his castle, which has become his prison.
Despite Kah's pleas for mercy, the vampire takes hold of the monk in a cloud of unearthly mist and they are both subdued. When the mist clears, Kah speaks with the voice of Count Dracula, who then triumphantly leaves the tomb, bound for China...
In 1904 Professor Van Helsing (Peter Cushing) gives a lecture at a Chungking university on Chinese vampire legends. He speaks of an unknown rural village that has been terrorised by a cult of seven known as the "Seven Golden Vampires" for many years. He goes on to explain that a simple farmer, armed with a pitchfork and who had lost his wife to the vampires, trekked his way to the temple of the vampires, where he saw many other unfortunate women strapped to tables, waiting for their blood to be drained. The farmer burst in and battled the vampires. He is unsuccessful as his wife is killed in the fight, but in the chaos, he grabbed a bat-like medallion from around one of the vampire's necks, which he sees as the vampires' life source. Defeated, the farmer flees the temple, but the High Priest orders the vampires after him. After they leave on horseback, the High Priest summons the vampire's former victims: the undead rise from their graves to aid the seven vampires. Still carrying the medallion, the farmer places it around a small model of a jade Buddha. He knocks desperately on the locked village gates, but it is in vain. The vampires and their undead catch up with him and kill him. One of the vampires spies the medallion around the Buddha and goes over to collect it. The moment the vampire touched the Buddha, the creature is destroyed in flames.
Van Helsing goes on to say that he is positive the village still exists and is still terrorised by the six remaining vampires. He is only unsure of where the village lies. Most students disapprove of the story and leave. Back in Van Helsing's rented house, a student named Hsi Ching (David Chiang) informs him that the legend is true and that he knows the location of the village. He goes on to say that the farmer from the story was his grandfather. He proves it by producing the dead vampire's bat-like medallion. He then asks Van Helsing if he would be willing to travel to the village and destroy the vampire menace. Van Helsing agrees and embarks with his son Leyland (Robin Stewart), Hsi Ching, and his seven kung fu trained siblings on a dangerous journey, funded by a wealthy widow named Vanessa Buren (Julie Ege), who Leyland and two of Ching's siblings saved from an attack by the tongs.
On the journey, they are ambushed by three of the six remaining vampires in a cave along with the undead. The group are quickly engaged in battle and soon kill the three vampires. The remaining three, sensing that they are outnumbered, are quick to retreat, taking their army of undead with them. The following morning, the party reach the village, partly ruined but still populated, and prepare to make their final stand. They use wooden stakes as barriers and dig a large trench around them filled with flammable liquid. In the temple that evening, Kah calls on the remaining vampires to kill Van Helsing and his party once and for all. The vampires ride on horseback, followed by their army of undead, to the village.
The vampires reach the village, and soon, Van Helsing's group once again do battle with the last of the golden vampires and their undead, resulting in nearly all their party and the villagers being massacred. During the fight, Vanessa is bitten by one of the vampires and she quickly becomes one herself. She then seduces Ching and bites his neck. Knowing what he will become and what he has to do, Ching throws himself and Vanessa onto a wooden stake, impaling them both. Elsewhere, the last remaining vampire captures Mai Kwei (Shih Szu), Ching's sister, and takes her back to the temple to be drained of her blood. Seeing this, Leyland steals a horse from one of the dead vampires and pursues. The undead defeated, Van Helsing and his remaining party follow to help Leyland at the temple.
Having reached the temple, the vampire straps Mai Kwei to one of the altars. It is about to drain her blood when Leyland leaps onto the creature's back and throws it to the ground, before freeing the sister. The vampire comes around and attacks Leyland, throwing him onto one of the altars in the struggle. Leyland is about to be drained when Van Helsing and his group burst in. Van Helsing thrusts a spear into the vampire's back, impaling it. Dying, the last of the golden vampires stumbles and collapses into a vat of boiling blood, where it quickly evaporates, leaving behind the bat-like medallion, its mask and a pile of dried blood and red dust.
The survivors depart from the temple, save for Van Helsing, who feels a familiar atmosphere. Sure enough, a familiar voice bellows from behind him. Van Helsing turns around to face Kah the High Priest. Recognizing the voice, Van Helsing realises that Dracula has been using the form of the monk to control the seven golden vampires and their undead. Van Helsing demands Dracula to show himself, calling him a coward. Dracula reverts to his true form and attacks Van Helsing. In the ensuing struggle, Van Helsing succeeds in stabbing Dracula with a spear through the heart. Defeated, the Count collapses onto one of the altars and gradually decays to bones. The spear that killed him collapses, smashing the vampire's skull. Soon, there is nothing left of the Count, save for his dusty remains and the blood-stained spear.
- Peter Cushing as Professor Van Helsing
- John Forbes-Robertson as Count Dracula
- David de Keyser as the voice of Dracula (uncredited)
- Robin Stewart as Leyland Van Helsing
- Julie Ege as Vanessa Buren
- Robert Hanna as British Consul
- David Chiang as Hsi Ching/Hsi Tien-en
- Shih Szu as Mai Kwei
- Chan Shen as Kah the High Priest/Count Dracula's host
- Lau Kar-wing as Hsi Kwei (archer)
- Huang Pei-Chih as Hsi Po-Kwei (spearman)
- Wang Chiang as Hsi San (twin swordsman)
- Feng Ko-An as an assassin
- Hsu Hsia as an assassin
Both Roy Ward Baker, a British director who had helmed several previous Hammer films, and Chang Cheh, a veteran Hong Kong action director, worked on the movie, though only Baker is credited. He took over the making of the film after Gordon Hessler left it weeks before. Filming was hard, as both Chinese and British crews had to work together despite the language barrier.
The Legend of the 7 Golden Vampires was a co-production with Hong Kong's Shaw Brothers Studio, made in the hope of garnering some of the kung fu movie market share. Michael Carreras later said this "wasn't such a good idea" although he felt "some of the film is quite good."
The movie was released with various titles in different locations, including The 7 Brothers Meet Dracula in the US and Dracula and the 7 Golden Vampires in the Far East. During some scenes involving roving gangs of undead, several vampires can be seen hopping up and down, as vampires tend to do in Chinese vampire films.
The US version trims twenty minutes of the film's footage and soundtrack and loops several remaining scenes to fill the running time.
Critical reaction to the film has been mixed. Keith Phipps of The A.V. Club called the film "flawed" but "enjoyable," adding, "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."
Phil Chandler of DVD Cult wrote, "Is it the best Hammer horror film ever made? Hell no. Is it the best Hammer film of the seventies? Hell yeah."
Graeme Clark of The Spinning Image said, "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 mishmash, and is different enough to get by on sheer novelty alone."
Writing in The Zombie Movie Encyclopedia, academic Peter Dendle called the raising of the undead army "one of the most visually spectacular in zombie cinema". Glenn Kay, who wrote Zombie Movies: The Ultimate Guide, called the film "boisterous, action-packed, and very likeable".
The film was not a box office success. There was a planned sequel, Kali: The Devil Bride of Dracula to be shot in India but it was not made.
The DVD from Anchor Bay Entertainment features both the edited The 7 Brothers Meet Dracula version, as well as the original unedited The Legend of the 7 Golden Vampires version. The DVD also features a recording of Peter Cushing telling the story of the film with music and sound effects, which was released as an LP record at the time of the film's release.
- "Dracula Goes Martial Arty". The Age. Melbourne: Fairfax Media. 28 November 1974. p. 21. ISSN 0312-6307. OCLC 224060909. Retrieved 31 March 2012.
- Gross, Linda (19 September 1979). "'7 Brothers Meet Dracula' in China". Los Angeles Times. Los Angeles, California, US: Eddy Hartenstein. p. G16. ISSN 0458-3035. OCLC 3638237. Retrieved 31 March 2012.
- Swires, Steve (1992). "Fall of the House of Hammer". Fangoria. p. 57.
- Chandler, Phil (2001). "Legend of the Seven Golden Vampires DVD". DVD Cult. DVDCULT.COM. Archived from the original on 21 December 2008.
- Phipps, Keith (2002). "Legend of the 7 Golden Vampires". The A.V. Club. Onion Inc. Retrieved 31 March 2012.
- Clark, Graeme (2004). "Legend of the 7 Golden Vampires". The Spinning Image. Darren Jones. Retrieved 31 March 2012.
- Dendle, Peter (2001). The Zombie Movie Encyclopedia. McFarland & Company. p. 102. ISBN 978-0-7864-9288-6.
- Kay, Glenn (2008). Zombie Movies: The Ultimate Guide. Chicago Review Press. p. 97. ISBN 978-1-55652-770-8.
- Swires, Steve (1992). "Fall of the House of Hammer". Fangoria. p. 57.
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