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Legend of the 7 Golden Vampires, The (1974)

Courtesy Turner Entertainment Co.

Main image of Legend of the 7 Golden Vampires, The (1974)
DirectorRoy Ward Baker
Production CompanyHammer Film Productions
 Shaw Brothers
ProducerDon Houghton
 Vee King Shaw
Executive ProducerMichael Carreras
 Run Run Shaw
ScreenplayDon Houghton

Cast: Peter Cushing (Professor Lawrence Van Helsing); John Keung Dai-Wai (Hsi Ching); Julie Ege (Vanessa Buren); Robin Stewart (Leyland Van Helsing); Shih Szu (Mai Kwei)

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Professor Van Helsing travels to a remote Chinese village to defeat the legendary Seven Golden Vampires. Fortunately, he takes seven kung fu experts with him - and their various fighting skills are sorely needed.

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This bizarre kung fu/horror hybrid dates from the early 1970s, when Hammer Films saw their traditional gothic cycle petering out and looked to cut the formula with elements from other exploitable genres. Having flirted with sexploitation in The Vampire Lovers (d. Roy Ward Baker, 1970) and modern-day action in Dracula AD 1972 (d. Alan Gibson, 1972), the company formed a pact with Hong Kong's Shaw Brothers, masters of the then-flourishing martial arts movie market.

The plot finds an excuse to send such Hammer staples as Dr Van Helsing (Peter Cushing) and his arch-enemy Count Dracula (John Forbes-Robertson replacing Christopher Lee) to China, where they are mixed up in an extremely weird rerun of The Magnificent Seven (US, 1960), in which the Hsi family, martially-skilled siblings, are sworn to protect a remote village from the periodic ravages of the eponymous golden-masked Eastern bloodsuckers and their zombie hordes.

Made well before the cycle of 'hopping corpse' films (e.g. Mr Vampire, Hong Kong, 1986) established a distinctively Chinese variation of the vampire movie, Legend recklessly stirs Eastern and Western myths into one big stew - Van Helsing explains reasonably that while a European vampire cringes at the cross, an Eastern fiend will be repelled by a statue of Buddha. Director Roy Ward Baker handles what little plot there is, including a couple of interracial relationships between blonde heroine Julie Ege and kung fu fighter David Chiang and Van Helsing's callow son (Robin Phillips) and Hsi sister Shih Szu, while fight choreographer Tan Chia handles the lengthy battles that take up much of the running time.

In its eagerness to cover all the bases, the film throws in the topless maiden victims of the vampires who are drained into a big vat and a streak of tear-jerking tragedy (when Ege becomes a vampire, the hero impales her and himself on the same stake) but it boils down to yet another confrontation between the indomitable Cushing and an arrogant, soon-to-crumble cloaked Count.

Kim Newman

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Video Clips
1. Eastern philosophies (1:43)
2. Kung fu vampires! (1:16)
Baker, Roy Ward (1916-2010)
Carreras, Michael (1927-1994)
Cushing, Peter (1913-1994)
British-Chinese Cinema
Hammer Horror