The Legend of the 7 Golden Vampires

05/08/2020 06:00

Film: The Legend of the 7 Golden Vampires

Year: 1974

Director: Roy Ward Baker

Writer: Don Houghton

Starring: Peter Cushing, David Chiang and Julie Ege



This is a movie that during my first viewing I didn’t really know what I was getting into and didn’t really appreciate it. Thanks to podcasts, I learned more about the significance of it and actually gave it a rewatch thanks to Duncan over at The Podcast Under the Stairs for their movie club challenge for April of 2020. The synopsis is while lecturing in China, Van Helsing (Peter Cushing) agrees to help seven kung fu trained siblings reclaim their ancestral mountain village, now the domain of seven powerful vampires and their army of undead slaves.

For this movie we actually start in Transylvania back in 1806. Kah (Shen Chan) is climbing up a mountain until he comes to Castle Dracula. Inside he meets the legendary vampire, portrayed by John Forbes-Robertson. He informs him that in China, there were 7 golden vampires that once ruled, but due to them being defeated, man has moved on. He asks for Dracula’s help. He agrees to do so, but takes the form of Kah and heads to China.

We then shift to 1906. Professor Lawrence Van Helsing (Cushing) is there lecturing and goes into a legend of a small village that is plagued with vampires. The movie shows us the legend where a farmer decides to fight back and kills one of them. Those in the lecture are upset with him and the story he’s telling causing them to leave. They feel he’s living in the past of superstition where they feel the country is more modern one. There’s one man, Hsi Ching (David Chiang) who seems to believe him.

The film then introduces us to Leyland Van Helsing (Robin Stewart) who is the son of the professor. He gets in a spot of trouble as he’s introduced to Vanessa Buren (Julie Ege) and dishonors a Chinese man who asks to escort her home. This causes assassins to attack, but the two of them are saved by a man with a bow and someone with two axes. It turns out that they’re Ching’s brothers. He has 4 of them, Ta (Tsan-His Ma), Kwei (Chia Yung Liu), Sung (Hark-On Fung) and San (Tien Lung Chen). They also have a sister Mei Kwei (Szu Shih).

They’ve taken an interest in Van Helsing as he’s an expert on vampires and they want his help to liberate their ancestral village. They will protect him and his son to venture there, but it is an issue of money. That’s where Vanessa comes in, a rich widower who wants the adventure. Together they head into wilderness where they’re attacked by the man Leyland offended and things that are much darker and worse on their journey.

I’ll be perfectly honest, I was pretty indifferent to this movie the first time I saw it. I was really confused as to why a movie like this was made, but it wasn’t until I got into podcasts that I understood. On an episode of Cinema Attack, they did a Shaw brothers show and this is a co-production with Hammer. Seeing this with fresh eyes and more of an open mind, I think this does really well at combining these two types of films together.

To delve into the story and mythology, I’ll start at the beginning. I’m not a fan of having Dracula become Kah, only because I don’t really think that’s a power that Dracula has. It seems pretty convenient to move the plot and to use Kah more than Dracula. I don’t mind the idea of not using Dracula, but I get why it is there. It is needed for the showdown in the end as Van Helsing knows Dracula.

Moving this to the positives, I love the idea of combining the mythology of vampires from Europe with those of China here. I’m pretty versed on Western world, but I’ll admit I’m limited for the East. I’ve seen some vampire films from China and Japan before, so I know that it’s a bit different. These 7 golden vampires here look like monsters. Their skin looks rough and they don’t have the distinguished gentlemen you got with Universal or Hammer. They even have the undead people that follow them that seem to hop, which I know their take on vampires are more like ghouls from what I remember.

Going along with this notation of combining them, they did a great job with taking the classic Hammer horror feel with the Shaw Brothers’ martial arts films. I’ll admit, this might be the only one of the latter I’ve seen and I also haven’t checked out a lot of ones from this era. I have heard podcasts cover them, so that does help me to understand for sure. This really is action packed and kept my interest all the way through. Some of the weapons they use made me chuckle, but they needed to be silver in order to kill the undead.

Since I’ve already moved into this a bit, the pacing of the movie I thought was really good. I think I got bored the first time, but coming in with a more analytical take really helped. The action comes at intervals where we don’t go long stretches without it. I think that the mythology here was good in driving the story. If I have any complaint, it would be that much like most Hammer films, we get a kind of abrupt ending. I think this actually works better in this regards them most from the production company.

That will take me to the acting, which I thought was fine. Cushing is one of my favorite actors and he really just steps right back into the role of Van Helsing. I’m not really sure if this necessarily falls in the canon of his previous takes on the role or not, but I don’t really worry about it either. Chiang I thought was really good as well. I do believe this the first thing I’ve seen him in and he’s quite talented when it came to the martial arts scenes. Ege is beautiful, but kind of out of place if I’m honest. I do like that she’s showing interest in Ching as that seems pretty progressive to be honest. Going along those lines, the same could be said for Stewart’s character of Leyland with Mei. Both of them were fine and props to her for doing the fight scenes along with the rest of her brothers in the movie. I thought overall the cast rounded this out for what was needed.

To the effects of this movie, I thought that they were good. The cinematography and choreography were on point. I should probably give a lot of credit that this is what the Shaw Brothers were known for. Roy Ward Baker also shoots this like a Hammer film so that helps as well. The blood is a bit red, but I dig it and have a soft spot for it. Aside from that, the only issue I had is with the bats that we get before a fight scene. They clearly are fake, but being the era this came out, I’m not going to come down too hard on it.

Now with that said, I’m really glad that I was asked to rewatch this movie as I had a lot of fun with it and it was much better than I remember. I really like the blending of these two different types of films, meshing the mythology to really help making it feel like it does. The acting really helps to bring this to life. It is paced and shot in a way where you never get bored so that helps. The effects aside from the bats were really good. Soundtrack fit the movie for what it needed and helped make this feel like it is in China. Overall I’d say above average movie that is a lot of fun. If you like vampire, Hammer, martial arts or the Shaw Brothers, I’d give this a go. It is really one to turn off your brain and just enjoy it for sure.


My Rating: 7.5 out of 10