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Reviews » Blu-ray Reviews » The Legend Of The 7 Golden Vampires (Blu-ray)
The Legend Of The 7 Golden Vampires (Blu-ray)
Shout Factory // R // April 9, 2019 // Region A
List Price: $29.99 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Ian Jane | posted April 3, 2019 | E-mail the Author
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The Movie:

"Hammer Horror! Dragon Thrills! The First Kung Fu Horror Spectacular!"

Directed by Roy Ward Baker in 1974 and co-produced by Hammer Films and Shaw Brothers, The Legend Of The 7 Golden Vampiresopens in 1804 where a Chinese monk named Kah (Chan Shen) makes the long walk to Transylvania to arrive at the castle of Count Dracula (James Forbes-Robertson). Here, Kah asks Dracula to resurrect the ‘7 Golden Vampires' so that he can work with them and control the area around his temple. Dracula, however, has a better idea: he possesses Kah and travels to China where, being Dracula and all, he sets up shop and feeds on the locals.

Fast forward a century or so and Professor Lawrence Van Helsing (Peter Cushing) arrives at a Chinese university where he's been invited to lecture attendees on vampirism. The local authorities don't believe that vampirism is a threat to their modern-day society, but Van Helsing knows better. He finds an ally in Hsi Ching (David Chiang), the great grandson of the man who was responsible for doing away with one of the ‘7 Golden Vampires' all those many years ago. In doing so, he also snagged a mystical medallion that had the ability to bring said vampire back.

Hsi Ching convinces Van Helsing to join he and is siblings to travel to a remote village. Who are those siblings? Kwei (Liu Chia Yung), Ta (James Ma), San (Chen Tien Loong), Sung (Fong Kah Ann), Po-Kwei, Chi-Tao and the lone sister, Mei Kwei (Shih Szu). Each one is a master of their own specific fighting and weapon style. Why do they want Van Helsing to go to this village? Because the Golden Vampires that are left are still sacrificing villagers there! Initially Van Helsing passes on the offer, but when his son, Leyland (Robin Stewart), comes to him with a Scandinavian widow Vanessa Buren (Julie Ege), he winds up getting involved and learns very quickly that Hsi Ching's suspicions were absolutely correct.

One of the more entertaining later day Hammer films, this one is a lot of fun. Yeah, it's clear that they were trying to cash in on the martial arts movie craze that was so popular at the time but that doesn't diminish the entertainment value that this picture offers up. It really does feel like equal parts Hammer and Shaw Brothers, mixing the gothic vampire elements that the English production house was known for rather effectively with the martial arts elements that the Shaw's made a name for themselves with on the international market. The Hong Kong locations are nicely used and at times really nicely shot (the vampire temple stands out in this regard) and the movie is paced quite well, offering up a good mix of action and horror.

As to the performances? Peter Cushing is his typically reliable self, cast once again in one of the roles he is best remembered for. He's not a young man in this film, but he handles things well and that effortless charisma and screen presence that made him a star is still very much a big part of the film's appeal. James Forbes-Robertson doesn't fare as well. Some will instantly dismiss him simply because he's not Christopher Lee but that's not really the issue here, it's more to do with his bad makeup job and his lack of intimidating ferocity. Still, he tries, and that has to count for something. Stalwart Shaw Brothers leading man David Chiang is really solid in his part, and the lovely Shih Szu quite good in hers as well.

Solid fight sequences help up the film's entertainment value and there's some decent effects work here as well. A really strong score from James Bernard anchors all of the action, horror, drama and yes, even the misguided and predictable romantic subplots, with some appropriately rousing music. The film is well-paced and features good cinematography as well.

The Video:

Shout! Factory brings The Legend Of The 7 Golden Vampires to Blu-ray on a 50GB disc in an AVC encoded 1080p high definition transfer that is generally pretty good, if not quite reference quality. Some mild print damage shows up here and there but it is just that… mild. Nothing serious there. Some scenes do look a little on the soft side, but those scenes looked a bit soft on the DVD as well. Colors generally fare well, though here and there contrast tends to lean a little hot for some reason. Other than that, the transfer shows pretty good detail, definitely a lot better than the old DVD from Anchor Bay Entertainment. There's no obvious noise reduction or edge enhancement and the transfer is free of obvious compression problems.

The Audio:

The English language DTS-HD 2.0 Mono track is problem free. Dialogue is crisp and clear and easy to follow and the levels are well balanced. Track is free of any noticeable hiss or distortion and the score has the right amount of power behind it. Optional subtitles are provided in English only.

The Extras:

Bruce G. Hallenbeck, the man who wrote The Hammer Vampire, starts off the extras with a commentary track that proves to be quite worthwhile. It's an interesting piece that does a great job of explaining where Hammer was at during this period in their history, and why. He then goes on to talk about Michael Carreras' involvement with the studio and how Hammer came to strike a production deal with Shaw Brothers. He then talks about how and why Dracula got crammed into the story, the casting of that particular part, Cushing's participation in the film and other details such as Roy Ward Baker's direction, Bernard's score, and quite a bit more. It's a good track that focuses more on Hammer's side of things than the Shaw's respective duties, but he packs a lot of valuable information into the track in an accessible and listenable way.

Also included on the disc is the original U.S. theatrical cut of the film, which runs seventy-five minutes and features The 7 Brothers Meet Dracula retitling. It isn't as good as the original version but it's interesting to have it here, not just for the alternate opening and closing credits but because it's also edited different. It features a bit more vampire footage and takes the scissors to the unnecessary romance, some of the early footage with Van Helsing (the lecture in particular) and a few other of the film's slower scenes. This is definitely a leaner cut of the film but the editing isn't done particularly well and when you watch it you're easily aware that ‘stuff is missing.' This is presented in 1080p high definition, also framed at 2.35.1, though some standard definition inserts have been used in a few spots.

Shout! Factory also includes a few featurettes here, the first of which is a twenty-minute interview with Rick Baker entitled Kung Fear. In this piece, the author of a few interesting books on Hong Kong cinema (including The Essential Guide To Hong Kong Movies), covers quite nicely the Shaw's side of things where Hallenback did not. Here he does a good job of explaining the importance of Chiang's presence in the film and how he came to be one of the studio's biggest stars at the time, as well as how lauded martial arts/heroic bloodshed director Chang Cheh, had a hand in helming some of the action set pieces in the picture. He also offers his thoughts on the film's place in Shaw history and what makes it unique. Good stuff. Chaing himself shows up in the seven-minute When Hammer Met Shaw featurette wherein he speaks about what he learned from working on the picture and with Peter Cushing, who he speaks very kindly of, as well as his own thoughts on the quality of the picture itself.

Extras close out with trailers for both versions of the movie, a TV spot, a still gallery, menus and chapter selection. Shout! Factory also includes some neat reversible cover art for this release.

Overall:

Shout! Factory's Blu-ray release of The Legend Of The 7 Golden Vampires presents one of Hammer's quirkiest, albeit very entertaining, horror pictures in nice shape and with a solid array of extra features as well. The movie itself is a lot of fun, particularly if you enjoy horror movies and martial arts films in equal measure, and Shout! has put together a nice package here. Recommended.

Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.

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