So this is how Hammer Dracula ends, not with a bang but with a … cheesy 70s Kung-Fu film?! Yes, “The Legend of the 7 Golden Vampires” was a co-production between Hammer and a Hong Kong film company, seeking to blend horror with the booming martial arts genre. Peter Cushing was all for… a free trip to China, but Christopher Lee had finally had enough so Dracula was instead played by John Forbes-Robertson (no idea either). So is this any good, either as a horror film or as a martial arts film? … Not really. Let’s take a closer look anyway, because it’s Halloween and nothing is more spooky than karate guys thrust-kicking vampires!
In 1804 seven vampires clad in gold masks are resurrected by Count Dracula. A century later Professor Van Helsing, known in the world for his exploits with Dracula, is recruited by a man and his seven siblings after giving a lecture at a Chinese university to take on the vampires.
*spoilers appear from here on out!*
“I heard everyone was Kung Fu fighting, even that they were as fast as lighting, but I never thought the legend would be true!”
Honestly, if you’re looking for a laugh with friends then this film is a good one due to its bizarre premise and properly cheesy “cool kung-fu!” 70s fight scenes. I mean, I’m not expert, my exposure to 70s martial arts films are just a few Bruce Lee and Jackie Chan movies, and even then I watched those a long, long time ago, so it may actually be a really bad example of the genre, even for a laugh. All I can say is watching a massive fight break out between people in martial arts gis, villagers with farmer’s tools and Peter Cushing against zombies, vampires and golden armour-clad super vampires was hilarious.
That’s about it though. Just some fun mass fight scenes a few one-on-one showdowns that kept me smiling, often not for the right reasons. I did like that our Chinese lead in David Chiang’s Hsi Ching falls for wealthly widow Vanessa Buren (Julie Ege) and in the end she’s turned into a vampire so he embraces her and jumps onto a wooden stake planted in the ground to kill them both. That was an unexpected end and a good bit of drama… I guess.
“Post a screenshot that doesn’t look like a horror movie” competition winner, right here!
Looking beyond the weirdness though, there isn’t much to like. After a quick look at the far far inferior Dracula resuscitating the seven golden vampires and then possessing their leader’s body we’re treated to a long lecture by Van Helsing where he just dumps exposition about a village that was constantly under attack by the titular vampires and how a medallion was a source of each vampire’s power and one such medallion was placed on a Buda statue that caused the vampire to erupt in flames when he touched it *catches breath*. A lot of talking just led Hsi Ching to approach Helsing with the medallion to prove the fable was true and recruit him to help slay the vampires alongside his seven brothers (Damn, eight male children and they all learned to “kick ass” with marital arts skills. Forget the Van Helsings, this family is where the action is!)
Anyway, this leads to a long journey with a few of the fun fight scenes on the way, then the big fight scene at the village, then the final showdown between Van Helsing and Dracula, which just isn’t the same, even seeing Peter Cushing stake him with a silver spear just doesn’t give the same joy. We see a new member of the Van Helsing family in Leyland Van Helsing (Robin Stewart) but he’s just a duller version of Peter Cushing with a tenth of the charisma clearly created to do some of the more action heavy moments like horse riding to save the damsel in distress Mai Kwei (Shih Szu) but it just doesn’t work.
Why is this Dracula wearing lipstick?
The Legend of the 7 Golden Vampires is a good laugh if you’re looking for a cheesy 70s “kung fu film” that also mixes in vampires and Peter Cushing’s last performance as Van Helsing, but that’s a very specific thing to be looking for. In reality it’s just a poor, low-budget attempt to cash in on a craze with an already established British property that falls flat on its face, it’s neither a good example of either of the horror or martial arts genres. What a weird way to end the marathon!