When Christopher Lee finally decided to hang up his cape and fangs at Hammer after the box office flops, DRACULA A.D. 1972 and THE SATANTIC RITES OF DRACULA, things got really weird.
For the second time Hammer decided to make a Dracula film sans Lee — the first being BRIDES OF DRACULA — the immediate sequel to HORROR OF DRACULA (which at least had Peter Cushing as Van Helsing). This time, Hammer heads looked to the East — the Far East — for their next vampire flick: THE LEGEND OF THE SEVEN GOLDEN VAMPIRES.
Other than horror, the only other film genre dominating grindhouses in the pre-STAR WARS era was Kung Fu films — many of which were lavishly produced by the Shaw Brothers out of Hong Kong. Many exuberant tales of the Shaolin temple and various styles of fighting were showcased in such classics as THE FIVE DEADLY VEMOMS, THE 36th CHAMBER OF SHAOLIN, COME DRINK WITH ME, and THE FIVE FINGERS OF DEATH. These exploitation classics played in seedy theaters and drive-ins before Bruce Lee mania exploded, and also played for years on TV’s KUNG FU THEATER.
After the success of Lee’s ENTER THE DRAGON, Hammer wanted to broaden their appeal to capture some of the box office success these Kung Fu flicks enjoyed. In a novel crossover approach, they partnered with the Shaw Brothers to concoct a weird tale of “Black belt meets black magic!” (never mind that “black belt” has nothing to do with actual kung fu… but who knew that in 1974?)
Replacing Lee in the role of Dracula was John Forbes Robertson — seen only in the film’s prologue and denouement. Running time for the Vampire king’s total involvement? A whopping six minutes. Luckily, Drac uses his handy dandy shape-shifting skills to assume the identity of a Chinese warlord, Kah, in order to hot-foot out of Transylvania for some fresh fixings.
Thankfully, Drac’s old nemesis, Dr. Van Helsing (Peter Cushing) is lecturing at good ol’ Chungking U., discussing the mythology and/or possible reality of Chinese vampiric lore. He relates a local legend of a vampiric incursion on a small village that long ago had been terrorized by Seven Golden Vampires. When the vamp ringleader gets zapped by an irate Buddha, the other six flee. Van Helsing’s student, Hsi Ching (David Chiang) tells the doc that the vamps are now back — the legend is indeed fact — and the game is afoot for the venerable monster hunter.
Joining Van Helsing on his quest to the village are his son, Leyland (Robin Stewart), a wealthy widow (Julie Ege), Ching and his seven kung-fu fightin’ siblings. After fighting off an attack by the Tongs, they soon come face to face with Kah/Dracula, who has unleashed a horde of undead zombies!
A super kung-fun bloody battle erupts: Ching rips out his undead opponent’s jugular with only his two fingers! Skull-faced zombies rise from the grave! The six brothers and sister fight, jump and kick! Van Helsing stakes away! When one femme is fatally bitten by a vamp, she actually stakes herself!
The blood — in all its gory Hammer glory — spews in slow-motion bucketfuls in this wild, wild mash-up (which no doubt inspired many a Tarantino homage), all set to the wonderful accompaniment of horror music maestro James Bernard’s powerful score. Needless to say, Drac and his cadaverous cohorts are no match for the deadliest hands of kung fu!
Interestingly enough, the Chinese cast all speak English and aren’t dubbed, and while the direction is credited to Hammer vet Roy Ward Baker (5 MILLION MILES TO EARTH), his co-director Chang Cheh (THE ONE-ARMED SWORDSMAN), receives no screen credit in the Western release.
As was the case with many films, the production is known under different titles, including THE SEVEN BROTHERS MEET DRACULA and DRACULA AND THE SEVEN GOLDEN VAMPIRES. (These alternate titles were used in varying distribution territories to maximize sales potential.) The North American release version, naturally, censored some nudity and excessive gore, trimming several minutes from the far-out flick’s running time.
If you’ve never seen it, THE LEGEND OF The GOLDEN VAMPIRES is one of the few movies that kicks ass — literally!