By 1974, Christopher Lee had played the role of Dracula in seven Hammer films. But he had grown weary of the role and upon reading the script for The Legend of the 7 Golden Vampires, he declined the offer to play it again. Hammer went to the vampire well for the last time in what was a big departure from its previous Dracula films. This is largely due in part to it being a joint production between Hammer and the Shaw Brothers Studio. The end result is best described as a vampire kung fu horror movie (you won’t find too many entries into that sub-genre). While we miss the presence of Christopher Lee, it’s comforting to know our good friend Peter Cushing is back for his fifth (and last) time as Van Helsing. Count Dracula is played by John Forbes-Robertson (who is sadly dubbed, which I believe takes away from his performance). After a prologue that sets up Dracula traveling to China, we find that Van Helsing is conveniently giving a lecture at a university there. He’s talking about Chinese vampire lore as it’s seems there is a village that has been terrorized by the seven Golden vampires, which just happens to be where Dracula is headed. Van Helsing travels to the village with his son Leyland (played by Robin Stewart), a student named Hsi Chang and his martial arts-trained brothers. There is a wealthy widow named Vanessa Buren (played by Julie Ege of The Creatures The World Forgot) that provides us our damsel-in-distress-turned vampire. What follows is a series of encounters as our traveler’s journey to the village and a final (?) battle between Van Helsing and Dracula.
This movie was a fun blend of martial arts 70s madness and Hammer goodness. However, it lacked that punch that would have been classic if we could have seen Cushing and Lee battle it out at the end. I didn’t find it as serious as the other Dracula films though since the fight scenes seemed out-of-place for a Hammer Dracula film. However, there are some cool touches along the way, including hopping vampires that are present in most Chinese vampire films. The movie is known under multiple titles, including The Seven Brothers Meet Dracula and Dracula and the Seven Golden Vampires. However, avoid the American release as it is actually missing some 20 minutes of footage. The recent DVD has both versions to choose from. Definitely worth checking out, this movie is sadly out-of-print. Shop around but expect to pay a little more to own this one.