I usually try to avoid "defending" movies that I like. If people get it fine, if they don't, well them's the breaks. However I too profess to having been unsold on the charms of LEGEND OF THE 7 GOLDEN VAMPIRES for ages. But now after finally having seen a restored widescreen presentation courtesy of Anchor Bay I am convinced that one of the reasons why the effort left me cold the first few times through was due to the miserable, scrappy, fullscreen home video versions available previously which excluded as much as 12 minutes of footage.
I came of age during the home video years and heading out every week to the various rental shops in our area to see what Hammer or Hammer related flicks we could find became a regular past time. Certain movies were relatively easy to locate but we'd always heard about this legendary kung-fu/Dracula hybrid by Hammer that was made significant by Peter Cushing's final appearance as Professor Van Helsing, the world expert on the Undead. Rumor had it that the movie involved Van Helsing tracing the elusive Count Dracula to colonial era China where he'd set up shop and acquired a taste for the local food. Hijinx awaited in the form of supernatural kung-fu battles with a band of seven specialist martial arts masters, who were of course brothers, fighting off legions of vampiric barbarians. Somehow the combination sounded like trying to mix oil with water and when I finally managed to find the meager VHS release of the film my apprehension was proved well- founded by a muddled mix of Gothic horror chills with difficult to follow chop-socky interludes. The pan-and-scan compression of the widescreen shots was dizzying, the vampire interludes were anything but the dreamy "foggy castle on a hill" variety that Hammer had become specialists in, with lots of insert shots of Peter Cushing standing around looking concerned while Julie Ege's bosoms heaved, cruelly encased in her cleavage baring tops.
It turns out however that much of this muddling and cockamamie mish-mashing was due to the confinement of Roy Ward Baker (directing the talking scenes) and Cheh Chang's (directing the martial arts scenes) marvelous widescreen 2:35:1 Techniscope photography into a claustrophobic, nappy lookin' fullscreen image. Fading of color and reduction print distortions didn't help much, and my opinion now after seeing the widescreen print is that much of the disdain aimed at the film is in fact aimed at the miserable presentations that have been available until now.
Sure, it's still a bit cobbled together. Hammer's grip on the marketplace was tenuous at best by 1974, THE EXORCIST and NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD had happened and they were still banking on Gothic shenanigans to sell movie tickets. One result was the creation of these genre crossing hybrids like LEGEND OF THE 7 GOLDEN VAMPIRES mixing martial arts mayhem with Gothic chills, and CAPTAIN KRONOS - VAMPIRE HUNTER which effectively blended the Spaghetti Western, swashbuckling high-adventure and the Gothic nightgowns blowing in the wind. The public didn't seem to care but the result were two very charming movies that had the gall to be different, even if horror fans had moved on. Hammer was hoping to extend their life by coming up with some new series and their collaboration with Shaw Brothers productions was perhaps both ahead of its times while a year or three too late to save the company. It was a glorious failure that deserves to be seen again now that present day technology can give viewers a better estimation of the movie's intended form. It is surprisingly entertaining and compulsively watchable.
What I would recommend is that anybody who may have heard of LEGEND OF THE 7 GOLDEN VAMPIRES should give it a try, and anyone who had dismissed it before as a crummy home video oddity to try it again now that the original full-length widescreen version is readily available. It's still somewhat confusing if you are looking for a discreet, beginning-middle- end story progression. But when taken as it's individual moments strung together into a greater whole some of it is actually quite compelling: Slow-motion legions of the Undead riding horseback whilst slaughtering the populace & making off with all the hot chicks (the Blind Dead, anyone?), torture chambers with topless girls strapped down to a bizarre rack designed to drain their blood, the re-insertion of some amusingly clever gore shots, James Bernard's at times utterly surreal & way under-appreciated musical score recalling some of his Dracula themes while experimenting with more Eastern inspired sounds, traditional non-wire guided kung fu fights with all the bravado and forced sentiment of a classic martial arts film, and rest assured, plenty of insert shots of Peter Cushing standing there looking concerned.
Just by turning his head slightly to the side and raising an eyebrow Peter Cushing is a treat, nobody can look concerned or impart a sense of dire urgency into an audience like Peter Cushing: It may be an odd movie but it does feature some of his best work at appearing concerned and some of the urgencies that he imparts within viewers are the most dire of his career. Yeah, he was getting old and tired and probably looked upon the movie as an expense paid trip to China to help him forget the sorrow of his wife's passing. But by golly he made the movie and if he means anything to you it simply must be seen because it is his last screen turn as one of his classic Gothic horror characters. Try it again, make sure it's a widescreen version, pop plenty of popcorn, perhaps an adult beverage or two, and put down the lights. Turns out it's not a bad movie after all.
The Legend of the 7 Golden Vampires
Action / Horror
The Legend of the 7 Golden Vampires
Action / Horror
Count Dracula journeys to a remote Chinese village in the guise of a warlord to support six vampires who are dispirited after the loss of a seventh member of their cult. At the same time, vampire hunter Prof. Van Helsing happens to be lecturing in the country and is persuaded by villagers to help them fight this curse of the ages.
Uploaded By: FREEMAN
May 01, 2021 at 10:35 AM