Quantcast

The Legend Of The 7 Golden Vampires (Blu-ray Review)

Hammer Films was always known for its horror output, but its “Golden” franchises were its lengthy Frankenstein and Dracula series. Those films made legends and iconic turns for both Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee. While the Dracula films span 9 films, only 3 of them found both Cushing and Lee in them and going head to head, their confrontation being The Satanic Rites Of Dracula. Some might officially call that the end, but technically it continues on for one more film. Cushing reprises his role of Van Helsing in the Hammer and Shaw Bros team up The Legend of the 7 Golden Vampires. A bonkers idea that should never have worked, but its actually succeeds in regards as both a martial arts and gothic horror tale. Its one of the most bizarre additions in the horror genre to this day. Scream Factory is debuting it on Blu-ray which completes the Hammer Dracula run on Blu-ray for Region-Free Blu-ray collectors. If you’re not, I hope Scars of Dracula is around the corner (The UK Region-B locked Studio Canal release is terrific). The Legend of the 7 Golden Vampires arrives on April 9th, pre-ordering is available below.

Film 

Originally published as a part of the Naptown Nerd Hammer Dracula Retrospective (October 2014)
Professor Van Helsing (Peter Cushing) and Count Dracula (John Forbes-Robinson) meet again in this spectacular Kung Fu horror thriller set in the village of Ping Kuei. After learning about the seven golden vampires of the village, Hsi Ching (David Chiang), Vanessa Buren (Julie Ege) and Mai Kwei (Szu Shih) offer to guide Van Helsing and his son to Ping Kuei to free it from the curse of Count Dracula. Throughout their journey, the group encounters several unwanted attackers until they arrive at the golden vampires’ derelict temple, inhabited by Count Dracula. In the temple, Van Helsing and the count begin a fearsome battle to the death – an ultimate clash between good and evil!
.
There are some who wouldn’t count this with the Hammer Dracula series, like they don’t count Brides Of Dracula.  No, it doesn’t have Christopher Lee but Dracula is in the film and its prime villain.  This is indeed a Hammer film too.  It also has Peter Cushing once again reprising his role as Van Helsing.  Also, while not in the film, Hammer wanted Christopher Lee in the film as Dracula but for the first time ever he successfully declined.  This is a crossover with the super popular at the time, Shaw Brothers studio who made grindhouse-style kung fu films.  For me, I count the damn thing as its a Hammer film, with Dracula and its got Peter Cushing as Van Helsing.  While its wildly different than anything before, I still think its part of the family.
.
I don’t consider this one totally canon at all.  Its more in the realm of some elseworld or one-off to only work for this film.  Yes, you have your preconceived and recognizable characters in Van Helsing and Dracula.  7 Golden Vampires is just taking them and pitting them in a fun move that’s repercussions don’t really count toward anything in any main storyline except for its own.  Its just there to do what it does, have fun, tell its own self contained story and then take off.  You can have this movie be wildly different and still a part of the series.  Consider it the Halloween III: Season Of The Witch of the Hammer Dracula Series.  Except, unlike that one, it actually does have some characters and ties to the original.
.
What a crazy movie this turns out to be.  Its pretty much every and anything you’d expect from just reading the crossover.  There are boobs, blood, limbs being torn off, monster melting or turning to ash, crazy kung fu moves, big large group fights that pop up randomly and seemingly from nowhere and much more.  This film has a plot that’s pretty murky.  I’m still not quite sure what the point of the film is aside from the basic “Dracula is bad, lets stop him”.  The last thing someone could say about this movie is that it is boring.  Its shot in epic scope and something either action oriented or super weird is happening at all times.  And when its not, you get Peter Cushing in there to deliver the mythos with prestige.
.
Our new Dracula isn’t all too bad.  He’s a little more cartoony than Lee (plus he has a bunch more “horror” makeup), but its more fitting of the tone of the film.  I can’t say too much about him as he doesn’t appear for but maybe five minutes total in the entirety.  He ends up possessing a guy named Kah, and Kah is pretty much defacto Dracula til the final minutes.  Kah is basically any sort of dubbed villain in one of these 70s kung fu movies.  Hard to really judge him as a “Dracula” as its really its own entity here.  When Dracula does return, the final showdown ever between him and Van Helsing in a Hammer film feels like someone slowly letting the air out of a balloon.  His disintegration is pretty cool, but the overall scene just is too quick and simple.  Dracula gives on last monologue to Van Helsing, approaches him, gets stabbed with a wooden handle and dies.  That’s its.  Cue the “Wump waaaa” sound.
.
Here’s the obligatory Peter Cushing section of the Hammer Dracula review.  Man, is this guy ever game for anything Hammer threw at him.  You’d think maybe this would be the straw that had him going “Are you f***ing kidding me?”, but no.  His Van Helsing here has all the gravitas with spewing out history and mythology.  However, this time around there’s a little more sense of fun and adventure to his performance.  I really feel watching this that Cushing was having a terrific time shooting this batshit crazy movie when many actors his age and at this point in their career would have grumped their way through the whole thing.  Even if he didn’t like the movie or filming it, it doesn’t show through at all.
.
Some of the set design is pretty cool for the film.  Dracula’s castle is exceptionally different than what we’ve seen before.  I especially liken to the whole green filtered room where they have bare chested women lying in a circle with their blood being drained in to a boiling vat.  From a photographic perspective it just looks really neat.  In addition there are a lot of crazy sort of outfits and nice kung fu style gore to go around.  The gore is slightly Hammer, but seemed to be more in line with the work of the Shaw Brothers than anything.  The fights and stuff are also mixed with a nice sense of humor to them as well.  Everybody involved knew how crazy this was and they seemed to take pride and embrace it a little.
.
And this is where it all ends.  At least the Hammer Dracula series ends with something wild and energetic as opposed to tired and out of gas like the previous two installments.  The craziness of jumping the shark for me outweighs the dull drab boringness of stretching something out longer than need be.  It would have been hilarious to have Lee in this movie, but alas we get the only non-Lee Dracula performer.  I can see people seeing two sides of the coin with this one.  If you hate this movie and don’t like what it stands for, okay, I gotcha.  But then there’s just this charming craziness to the ambitious and silly concept of the cross-over that I’m sure there are many that can see the enjoyment of.  Me?  I had some fun with this one.  Being a fan of both Hammer and 70s Kung Fu movies, I welcomed the mix just because of how ludicrous it was.  The ending stinks, but don’t let that deter you from vampire kung fu craziness.

Video 

Encoding: MPEG-4 AVC

Resolution: 1080p

Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1

Layers: BD-50

Clarity/Detail: The Legend of the 7 Golden Vampires see Scream Factory giving it a new 2K transfer from original film elements. The US cut of the film is presented in HD with standard definition inserts. I’m sure that they used the best elements available. The video features burned in subtitles for the English translations. Details are pretty solid, and the image is decently crisp. This is the best the film has looked, but its sorta just above average in its appeal. There are a few blurry camera shots that reveal themselves more pronounced in this transfer as well as a couple makeup effects that really show the strings. The SD inserts for the English version match the color timing of the HD ones quite well but the dip in quality is pretty obvious (Well assuring you this release is still FAR better than a DVD upconvert). Maybe I’m underselling it as I was satisfied, but coming off of the recent The Witches release, this was a bit of a step down for the Scream Factory Hammer transfers.

Depth:  Depth of field is slightly above average. The pushback isn’t really there, but the actors are free enough moving around in the frame smoothly with no motion distortion.

Black Levels: Blacks are very deep and consuming. Much detail is lost withing the shadows and black clothing. However, the tone is pretty close to natural, a little lighter than your matte above and below. No crushing issues witnessed

Color Reproduction: Colors are pretty solid and bold in the image. Reds really pop with blood and the light filtering used to prop up some sequences. The blue gi worn and Van Helsing’s blue tie include a decent sting to them as well.

Flesh Tones: Skin tones are natural and consistent start to  finish. Texture and details on faces is quite present and clear and close ups and decent in medium shots.

Noise/Artifacts: There is some print dirt and specs present throughout, but not distracting at all.

Audio 

Audio Format(s): English 2.0 Mono DTS-HD MA

Subtitles: English

Dynamics: The Legend of the 7 Golden Vampires comes with its original mono audio track and it does the trick with both the analog sounding charms of Hammer and a martial arts film. Its not too deep on the low end sounds, coming off rather light, but is very much in the vein of the feeling of a kung fu film of the time. Effects work, the balance in the mix is strong and this just really does the trick overall. Anything else would require a complete overall and revision.

Height: N/A

Low Frequency Extension:  N/A

Surround Sound Presentation:  N/A

Dialogue Reproduction: Vocals are clear and crisp, a little dated carrying an analog hiss to it, but it works in charming fashion.

Extras 

Audio Commentary

  • With author/film historian Bruce G. Hallenbeck

Alternate U.S. Theatrical Version: “The 7 Brothers Meet Dracula” (HD/SD, 1:14:58) – Presented in HD with some standard definition inserts.

Kung Fear: Rick Back On The Legend Of The 7 Golden Vampries (HD, 19:39) –  An interview with Hong Kong Film Expert Rick Baker. The author and critic, not the iconic make-up artist. While he has a historical look at how this all came together and where both production parties are coming from at the time and the cinematic landscape at the time, Baker does have a very personal touch to it all, making it a bit more passionate and less matter of fact for a historian-type interview.

Interview With Actor David Chaing (HD, 6:38) – Chaing speaks Chinese, subtitled in English. He opens with a wonderful story of a dinner with Peter Cushing where he tutored him line by line on the script and performance for 4 hours before they even went to dinner. “Learning from him was the greatest thing ever!”. He also talks of how he learned directing from Chang Cheh while working on this and studying his swordsmen films. Chaing also mentions that Hammer tried to pull him over to the UK, but he couldn’t because Shaw had him under contract in Hong Kong. He closes on a story of being noticed and asked for an autograph on the streets of New York when visiting.

TV Spot (SD, :31)

The 7 Brothers Meet Dracula Trailer (SD, 2:36)

The Legend of the 7 Golden Vampires Trailer (HD, 2:54)

Still Gallery (HD, 6:26)

Summary 

The Legend of the 7 Golden Vampires surprisingly works and is a blast of fun. Its quite admirable and surprising how this works as equally both a classic Hammer film AND a Shaw Bros feature. This film should never have worked, but it completely does. Scream Factory has done a pretty admirable job in getting this to Blu-ray with solid audio and video. The extras provided are quite nice and really complete a solid package for this release, given who would be alive and available still from the production. Something collector’s should add to the shelf alongside the other Hammer Dracula’s without hesitation.

Share

Writer/Reviewer, lifelong obsessive film nerd. As eager to educate in the world of film as I am to learn. An avid lover of horror, schlock and trash, Brandon hosts the Cult Cinema Cavalcade podcast on the Creative Zombie Studios Network (www.cultcinemacavalcade.com) You can also find more essays on his blog Naptown Nerd (naptownnerd.blogspot.com).

  1. No Comments