The Legend of the 7 Golden Vampires Blu-ray Review: The Genre Blending Works Well

"You got your horror on my martial arts!"
"You got your martial arts in my horror!"
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Released on Blu-ray from Scream Factory, The Legend of the 7 Golden Vampires is the ninth and final entry in Hammer's Dracula film series and finds Hammer Film Productions teaming up with Shaw Brothers Studio to create a fun horror/martial arts mash-up. In the '70s, horror was on a down turn for Hammer but martial arts had become an international sensation thanks in part to the movies of Bruce Lee, so the blending made business sense. While Peter Cushing performs his fifth and final portrayal of Van Helsing for Hammer, Christopher Lee finally gave up the mantle of Dracula. Instead, the character is played by John Forbes-Robertson, who was dubbed by David de Keyser, and bookends the film.

Opening in 1804 Transylvania, Kah (Chan Shen), the High Priest of the titular vampires, has come from China seeking Dracula's help in resurrecting them from their slumber and returning them to their glory. The Count agrees but does so after taking over Kah's form. Not only is that a power I was unaware he had, the Chinese vampires are different from their European counterparts, so for those well versed in vampire lore, the plot is especially full of surprises.

Jumping ahead 100 years to the city of Chung King, Van Helsing is teaching about vampire legends at a university. He tells of a farmer whose wife was kidnapped by the seven golden vampires. On his own, the farmer sneaks into the vampire temple where seven women are held prisoner. (Three of them farthest from the camera topless which seems odd since it should be all or nothing storywise, but producers were likely happy to get what they could.) The farmer defeats one vampire by taking off its bat medallion, meaning the film's present-day story tells “The Legend of the 6 Golden Vampires.” Only one man takes Van Helsing and the legend seriously: Hsi Ching (David Chaing), whose grandfather was the farmer. Together, they team up to venture out and battle the remaining vampires.

The video has been created from a 2K scan of the original film elements and appears in an aspect ratio of 2.35:1. The colors appear in strong hues, and a wide spectrum appear in the production design. Blood is particularly a bright shade of red. Black are inky but during night exteriors some objects crush, such as when vampires attack a village at night. Long shots have depth, but other shots reveal limited depths of field. At their first campsite, the foreground is out of focus as Hsi and Van Helsing talk. The image looks clean except for a few during transitions and establishing shots which exhibit white and black specks.

The audio is available in DTS-HD MA 2.0. The dialogue sounds clear. James Bernard's score is compressed, due to source limitations, and isn't as effective when it's too loud, such as when Dracula rises from his tomb. The audio mix also suffers from being set too loud during the first battle when the girls are screaming and the score is blaring. Some effects are a tad exaggerated and don't sound right.

Special features include

  • New audio commentary by author/film historian Bruce Hallenbeck, who offers a wealth of information about the making of the film.
  • Alternate U.S. Theatrical release: The 7 Brothers Meet Dracula (HD, 75 min): Running 14 minutes shorter and with the scenes edited together differently, the title isn't accurate.
  • Kung Fear: Rick Baker on The Legend of the 7 Golden Vampires. (HD, 20 min) - Identified on screen as an “autor and critic,” Rick Baker demonstrates himself to be knowledgeable about the film and matters related to it.
  • Interview with David Chaing (HD, 7 min) - Recorded at the end of a shoot for an unnamed documentary, Chaing talks about learning about making movies while working on the movie and with Peter Cushing.
  • Promo material includes TV Spot (30 sec), trailers for both versions (3 min ea.), and a Still Gallery.

The Legend of the 7 Golden Vampires offers more fights than frights, but the genre blending works well. The vampires and zombies on the loose deliver chills, and the action, directed by uncredited Chang Chech, offers thrills because Hsi's brothers and sister fight with different types of weapons. The story takes some interesting turns as the plot plays out, and the Chinese vampires operating under different rules keep those monsters fresh. The Blu-ray presents pleasing high-def visuals and satisfactory audio. This release should please fans of both genres.

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