Saturday, 30 March 2013

The Legend Of The Seven Golden Vampires (1974)

With Christopher Lee hanging up his cape, it was up to Hammer to come up with a Dracula movie featuring the character without leaving someone floundering in Lee's enormous shadow. To be fair to them, they came up with a great way to let everyone involved off the hook, although it would have been nice to see how Mr. Lee would have fared in this curious adventure.

So Dracula (John Forbes-Robertson) takes over the body of a Chinese man (Shen Chan) and heads off to a Chinese village that is home to other vampires who prey on the locals. Fortunately for the villagers, the famous Van Helsing (Peter Cushing) is lecturing in the country and persuaded by a young student (David Chiang) to visit the village and help try to destroy the evil.

One of those bizarre hybrid movies that should perhaps never have come about, The Legend Of The Seven Golden Vampires (to use the UK title) squeezes some Hammer horror moments in between some Shaw Brothers fight sequences and ultimately fails to wholly satisfy fans of either company.

That's not to say that there aren't a number of enjoyable aspects. There are actually some nice, eerie moments here and there and the fight scenes are energetic and athletic enough, but there's nothing making you care for anything in between. The actors are all generally pretty poor. Cushing is as great as ever, Chiang does well enough, but the likes of Robin Stewart, Julie Ege, Robert Hanna and Shen Chan fail to make much of an impression. Of course, when the action sequences start it's easy enough to forget about the failings and just enjoy the unique spectacle.

Direction from Roy Ward Baker (with some uncredited work by Cheh Chang) is pretty uninspired and the script by Don Houghton seems to line up one groan-inducing moment of dialogue after another. If there had been more action or more horror then this could have been a much better movie. As it is, it stands as a lightweight Hammer movie and a fun experiment that didn't really pay off. Although it's still better than the two movies that preceded it.


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