2 stars out of 4. Kung-fu vampires. Need I say more?
The final installment in Hammer’s Dracula cycle was a co-production with the famed Shaw brothers in Hong Kong. Thus, the first and only kung-fu vampire film was born.
It isn’t pretty to look at. It isn’t a very literate story. It isn’t even the year’s best kung-fu film crossover. (The honor is reserved for the oft-maligned but brilliant The Man With The Golden Gun.) 7 Golden Vampires is just a young boy’s imagination run rampant. This film is almost Hammer’s attempt at a 1930’s action serial, and is the reason why it tops many of their other output from the same era.
Check your brain at the door and remember a time when you used to like doing odd crossover stories with different action figures. (And then setting them on fire…oh wait, whoops-wrong story. Another time perhaps.)
The film opens with a random Chinese monk wandering around Transylvania. He reaches Count Dracula’s castle where he begs the Count to help him restore the full power of the 7 Golden Vampires. Dracula, in one of the most unconvincing Dracula performances, (Christopher Lee isn’t in this film) agrees and takes the form of the monk in order to travel back to China. Later, Van Helsing (Peter Cushing, thank god!) is giving a university lecture in 1904 China. He recounts the Legend of the 7 Golden Vampires which we are treated to in flashback. One of those in the audience is a young man skilled in kung-fu. He tells Van Helsing that he knows the location of the village and begs him to join him on a quest to rid the world of the golden vampires once and for all.
After some coercion, Van Helsing sets off with his son, a wealthy European woman to fund the expedition and the young man who leads their way. They are joined and protected by the man’s seven kung-fu siblings, each with their own specialized form of combat.
That’s all there really is to it. The simplicity of the plot allows the story to keep flowing from one setpiece to another. There’s a fight nearly every fifteen minutes so the long dialogue scenes aren’t allowed to let things get stagnant.The climax takes about 90 seconds to occur and the credits roll just as abruptly as the previous Hammer Draculas.
Peter Cushing throws himself into the proceedings with absolute glee. Van Helsing once again does all kinds of physical feats in addition to his wonderfully staged monologues. And yes, we are finally shown that addition to being vampire-proof and bullet-proof, Professor Bad-ass Van Helsing is fireproof.
Call it trash, call it whatever you want to. The vampires are terrible, most of the acting is terrible, the fight scenes aren’t that well done, it’s terribly unconvincing, and features possibly the worst Dracula performance on celluloid but it is damn fun. And that is more that can be said for any of the other Hammer Dracula sequels leading up to it. The series ends with a higher note than expected after the awful trilogy of travesty (Scars, AD 1972, Satanic Rites) in this gleefully ridiculous mishmash of kung-fu vampires.
NOTE: This film was re-cut (loses about 20 minutes.) and released in the USA as The Seven Brothers Meet Dracula. Not recommended.
Anchor Bay’s DVD is anamorphically enhanced with standard Dolby 2.0 mono. The 2.35:1 image looks nice and clean but relatively unremarkable. But this film isn’t meant to jump off the screen, and the DVD gives a nice theatrical representation. The flipside of the disc gives the shortened American cut The Seven Brothers Meet Dracula. This exact disc was also later re-packaged with Frankenstin Created Woman. Both are now out of print, but the original disc is available as a manufactured on demand DVD-R from Amazon.com.