Tuesday, April 7, 2009
Legend of the 7 Golden Vampires (1974, Roy Ward Baker)
I have watched many Hammer Horror films recently but for some reason just never got around to reviewing any of them until now. You all know the more famous Hammer films: Horror of Dracula, Curse of Frankenstein, The Mummy and their numerous sequels usually starring Peter Cushing and/or Christopher Lee. But what about the lesser known Hammer films? Don't they deserve to be recognized? Well I haven't seen them all, but I'm sure many of them don't. Some of them though, while flawed, definitely have something going for them. Legend of the 7 Golden Vampires is no exception.
Legend...(if you think I'm going to type that title out over and over again then you're on crack) starts with a Chinese traveler visiting the castle of Dracula to help him aid the 6 golden vampires from his village (the 7th was killed). When Drac arises from his tomb we think "yes, it's Christopher Lee!", but then we get a better look and realize that it's some guy who kind of resembles Lee but is wearing a face-ful of makeup. Apparently Dracula's slumber has allowed him time to get in touch with his inner vampiress. Anyway, he takes over the body of the Chinese traveler, Kah (Chan Shen) and travels back to Kah's village to lead the 6 remaining golden vampires. Dracula's nemesis, Van Helsing (much better name for a band then Van Halen, IMHO) happens to be giving lectures on the legend of the 7 golden vampires in China, though most of his students think he is crazy. One student, Hsi Ching (David Chiang), knows that Van Helsing's legend is true and asks him to save the village from the 6 remaining vampires. After Van Helsing's son meets up with a rich widow (the beautiful Julie Ege), she agrees to pay for the trip if she can come along. So Van Helsing, his son and new girlfriend embark on the trip, along with Hsi Ching and his group of kung fu experts.
Sounds like an interesting, yet unusual plot, doesn't it? Well, it is very unusual. Fortunately, the film moves very fast and the Chinese/martial arts aspects of the film work very well. There are a few martial arts battles between Van Helsing's companions and zombies brought back to life by the Golden Vampires (yup, there are zombies too) that kick ass (pun intended). The fights last several minutes and you can tell the actors are all well trained. It's actually the whole vampire/zombie thing about the movie that is a little silly. The zombies look similar to the Templars in Amando de Ossorio's Blind Dead films - basically skulls with robes, which would be fine but every time they come out of the ground they make this ridiculous sound that had me in hysterics. Sort of a high pitched "mamamama" sound. Great stuff. The golden vampires had cheesy prune-face makeup with gold lone ranger masks on. Tonto, get these guys some cool Kabuki masks or something, would ya? Anyway, the film itself was fun and silly. The action was great and the fast pacing made it very watchable. I just wish Dracula himself looked more like a scary vampire and less like a wig-less cross dresser. To each his own, I guess.