Format: DVD from Reddick Library through interlibrary loan on rockin’ flatscreen.
Where has this movie been all my life? Think of the most ridiculous plot you can for a vampire movie, and you wouldn’t come up with what is presented in The Legend of the 7 Golden Vampires. This is a Hammer horror movie—the last of the Hammer Dracula films. It is also equally a Hong Kong action cinema Kung Fu movie. I can’t believe that I’m saying this and that it’s taken me this long in life to watch this--The Legend of the 7 Golden Vampires is a Peter Cushing Dracula movie that features Kung Fu battles. If I had known this movie existed when I was 15, it would have been my favorite thing in the entire world.
We get a short intro, where a Chinese man named Kah (Chan Shen) arrives in Transylvania, asking for help from Count Dracula (John Forbes-Robertson). Kah is the emissary of the 7 Golden Vampires, who hold sway in a remote area of China. But their power is fading, and Kah has come to ask for help. Dracula does help, but does so by essentially absorbing Kah, stealing his appearance, and going to take charge of the vampires himself.
We jump 100 years into the future, to just after the turn of the century. Professor Van Helsing (Peter Cushing) is lecturing in China about the dangers of vampires, but this is not seen as anything serious by his students. The exception is Hsi Ching (David Chiang), who comes from the village plagued by the vampires, and whose grandfather killed one of the seven. He enlists the help of Van Helsing, and as a part of the bargain, he gets Van Helsing’s son Leyland (Robin Stewart). Also coming along are the wealthy Vanessa Buren (Julie Ege), who finances the expedition to Ching’s village, and all of Ching’s siblings. This includes his sister, Mai Kwei (Shih Szu). Naturally all of the Hsi siblings are well-versed in martial arts, and as expected they are essentially the same person except for their weapon of choice.
That’s pretty much the whole plot. The expedition goes to the village and fights the six remaining vampires along the way along with their army of undead minions. This culminates in a Magnificent 7-style attack from the vampires and ultimately the conclusion that we all know is coming. This isn’t about the ending, though; it’s about the journey and the glorious Kung Fu battles that are going to get us to the end.
The Legend of the 7 Golden Vampires is completely ridiculous, and I mean that as a positive. So much of this doesn’t make sense even in the context of the world of the movie. For instance, the second major battle set piece happens in a cave as the group makes its way to the village. Three of the remaining vampires attack the group and are eventually slain. Van Helsing’s group survives the attack without casualties. However, immediately afterward, Hsi Ching tells Van Helsing that there is no way that his siblings can survive another attack. This is despite the fact that they have killed off half of the remaining vampires as well as a bunch of their undead minions without suffering a loss.
There is also a moment in this battle where, when the vampires are gone, the undead minions just…trot off and everyone lets them. They know they’ll have to fight them again once they reach the village, the undead minions are leaderless, and still, they just let them go rather than killing them. It is also during this battle that we learn that the undead creatures can be killed by attacking their hearts. This doesn’t seem to transfer into the next battle, where it appears that no one is willing to get rid of the undead monsters in this way. They just Kung Fu battle them without specifically going after that weakness. I suppose the reason is for cinematic value, but it doesn’t make a lot of sense.
For all of the fun of this movie, the ending is really disappointing. We’re finally going to get the showdown we want—Professor Van Helsing versus Count Dracula. This final battle takes about 30 seconds. In fact, the actual fight between the two of them lasts almost exactly as long as it takes Dracula to shed his disguise of Kah and reveal himself in his true form. It’s really disappointing.
The Legend of the 7 Golden Vampires should be about three minutes longer than it is. Those three minutes should cover an actual final battle between Dracula and Van Helsing that isn’t the sort of anticlimactic afterthought that we got instead.
Why to watch The Legend of the 7 Golden Vampires: Kung Fu vampire cinema.
Why not to watch: The ending is very disappointing.