Legend of the 7 Golden Vampires
Reviewed by David Conner
Rating: 3 Beans
his movie has a particularly convoluted history, so bear with me. However, it can be neatly summed up as one of the best kung-fu vampire movies featuring Dracula disguised as a Chinese monk ever made.
It's a Hammer Films/Shaw Brothers co-production, starring Peter Cushing as Dr. Van Helsing. The plot deals with Van Helsing, his upper-class twit nephew, seven Chinese brothers and their one sister (all skilled in various martial arts), and Julie Ege as the beautiful rich widow of a Swedish diplomat who finances a vampire-hunting expedition to destroy the Seven Golden Vampires who are rampaging in the countryside.
Apparently, late in the production of this movie, somebody said "Hey, this is a Hammer vampire movie without Dracula! Drac's good box office, let's put him in!" So a framing sequence was added establishing that the evil Chinese monk leading the vampires was, in fact, Count Dracula (played in his Transylvanian form by John Forbes-Robertson) in disguise. This movie is thus technically Hammer's last Dracula movie.
OK. So this movie was released as "Legend of the 7 Golden Vampires." It's actually a very entertaining action-fantasy-adventure, unlike any other Western vampire movie I can think of (apparently, this sort of thing is not uncommon in the Hong Kong cinema, though).
The Golden Vampires are pretty cool monsters - unlike the movie Dracula archetype, these guys basically look like rotting corpses in shining armor. They also have the power to raise other rotting corpses to fight for them, though I think these guys are more like zombies than true vampires. The zombie-guys earn the movie most of its Beans, as they're particularly unconvincing monsters who seem confused most of the time (apparently, because it was hard for the extras to see where they were going in their masks).
The seven brothers ("and their one sister", as the included trailer intones over and over) don't have a heck of a lot of characterization, but they each have an individual weapon specialty. The action scenes are generally colorful and well-done.
One thing that surprised me a bit was the treatment of the romantic interests. It seemed like the young Van Helsing and the Swedish babe were being set up for a romance as the only two young European-types in the movie. But, in actuality, the Van Helsing twit falls for the Chinese sister, while the Swedish babe falls for the lead brother. I thought this was kind of a neat little multicultural twist.
Anyhow, "Legend" doesn't really belong on this site. In fact, I'd highly recommend it. The real reason it's on this site is that the widescreen-format video I bought also contains, in its entirety, the re-edited 1979 U.S. release of the same movie, entitled "The Seven Brothers Meet Dracula." Watching both versions is extremely educational, showing how wretched editing can turn a good movie into a terrible one.
The American distributor apparently cut the movie from 83 to 72 minutes by eliminating almost all of the movie's expository dialogue and repeating each vampire scene two or three times, usually in random order. I think the few brief topless shots may have been repeated even more than that.
Another oddity is that, while the U.S. title prominently features the Dracula name, the re-editing slashes Drac's longest scene to bits! In the original prologue, we see the evil Chinese monk making a pilgrimage to Castle Dracula to ask a favor of the big guy. The original dialogue explained who the golden vampires were, and how the monk wanted Dracula to come to China, revive the vampires, and basically make the monk rich and powerful. Dracula replies (I'm paraphrasing a bit) "F*** that! Good idea, but why don't I just kill you and use the golden vampires to increase my own power?" The re-edited version cuts almost all of the dialogue out, so we see this Chinese guy inexplicably in Transylvania who inexplicably goes to wake up Dracula, who then inexplicably attacks the Chinese guy and takes his form.
Well, anyhow, I highly recommend the widescreen video edition of this movie. "Legend," because it's a legitimately fun movie, and "The Seven Brothers Meet Dracula" as essential education in the art of making a Bad Movie through horrible editing.
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