The Legend Of The Seven Golden Vampires Review

The 9th and final entry in the Hammer Dracula cycle and also the 5th to star Peter Cushing as Van Helsing.

Christopher Lee sadly did not reprise his role as Dracula. Still as it features Cushing as Van Helsing then every Hammer Dracula film therefore features either Cushing as Van Helsing or Lee as Dracula though only 3 feature them together.

This film also returned to the late 19th century, early 20th century setting of the previous entries in the series.

Plot

A taoist priest named Kah arrives at castle Dracula and revives Dracula from his slumber. The Vampire is angry at being awoken from his coffin.

Kah nevertheless asks for his help. According to Kah he is the high priest of the 7 Golden Vampires, but since one of their number perished the 6 remaining Vampires now sleep. He begs Dracula master of all Vampires to bring them back. As Kah was their high priest when the Vampires were awake he wielded considerable power, but now that they are asleep no one fears them any more.

Dracula is furious that a mere servant has asked him for help, spitting back that he does not grant favours. Just then however Dracula gets an idea to use the 7 Golden Vampires as tools of his vengeance on mankind. As his power is gone he decides to possess Kah. Though Kah refuses Dracula nevertheless takes him over and heads off for China to bring the 6 Golden Vampires out of their hibernation.

Some time later Van Helsing is in China teaching a class. He tells them of an old legend surrounding a village that states that it was terrorized by 7 Golden Vampires, said to be far more powerful and ferocious than regular blood suckers. These beasts are served by a horde of mindless zombies.

Every couple of nights the Vampires would venture into the village and capture several young women whom they then brutally torture and savagely kill.

All of the villagers are too scared to do anything against the monsters, but one night a farmer attempts to rescue his daughter who is captured by the Demons.

Making his way to the Monastry where the Vampires live he is unfortunately unable to rescue his daughter who is stabbed to death by one of the Vampires, but he still manages to snatch the golden amulet from one of the Vampires. 

He flees back to the village, with the Vampires and their hordes of Zombie minions in hot pursuit. Unfortunately the villagers fearing a reprisal from the Vampires shut the gates preventing the farmer from getting back in. Trapped outside with hordes of the undead after him the farmer runs through the woods but is eventually cornered by the Vampires who kill him by cutting his throat open.

Unfortunately for the Vampires as the 7th Golden Vampire goes to retrieve its amulet it discovers that the farmer has blessed it and thus made it a holy item. The Vampire is destroyed by its own amulet and the six remaining Vampires flee back to the monastry.

Van Helsing states that he believe that the Vampires still rule the village and that he wants to find it and free it from their rule. Unfortunately none of his students believe him and leave his class room. Later he is approached by one of his students named Hsi Ching who tells him that he knows the legend is true and that he knows the location of the village as his family came from there. He produces the dead Vampires medallion and agrees to help Van Helsing destroy the Vampiric menace.

Van Helsing takes a team consisting of Hsi Ching and his seven Kung Fu siblings, his own son Leyland Van Helsing and a wealthy widow named Vanessa Buren who funds the organisation.

Back in the village Dracula has revived he 6 remaining Vampire and plans to resurrect the 7th. The Vampires with Dracula as their leader resume terrorizing the village.

They later are sent by Dracula to destroy Van Helsing and his team and retrieve the amulet from them so that the 7th Golden Vampire can be revived. They attack Van Helsing’s team whilst they are in a cave, but ultimately Van Helsing’s team prove too much for them and 3 more of the Vampires are slain.

Following this Van Helsing and his team make their way to the village where they prepare to attack the Vampires.

That night Dracula summons the 3 remaining Vampires to destroy Van Helsing once and for all. A massive fight breaks out in the village where many villagers are killed and also several of Hsi Ching’s siblings. Vanessa is turned into a Vampire by one of the seven golden Vampires. She bites Hsi Ching who is forced to impale her on a stake. Before he himself turns he then impales himself on the same stake.

All but one of the Vampires are destroyed. The final remaining Golden Vampire captures Hsi Ching’s sister and heads to the temple. Tying her up the beast prepares to drain her, but fortunately Leyland Van Helsing arrives and manages to hold it off long enough for her to get away.

He proves to be no match for the monster who overpowers him and prepares to drain him dry. Fortunately Van Helsing arrives and impales the beast from behind with a silver spear and the Vampire perishes.

With all of the Vampires dead Leyland and the rest of the surviving team leave the temple, all except for Van Helsing who remains behind, sensing that something is wrong.

He soon confronts the real mastermind behind the 7 Golden Vampires, his archenemy Dracula. Van Helsing states that he knew Dracula had to be here somewhere and provokes the Vampire into assuming his original form. Dracula quickly attacks Van Helsing and effortlessly batters him across the room. As he lunges forward to strike the killing blow Van Helsing quickly grabs a silver sharp and pierces the Vampires heart.

Dracula dies and crumbles into a pile of ash and Van Helsing relieved leaves the temple having brought an end to the reign of the 7 Golden Vampires.

Review

The final Hammer Dracula in many ways suffers from including the Count at all.

To start with John Forbes Robertson is not as strong a Dracula as Christopher Lee, though I think that goes without saying. Personally I don’t actually think Robertson is bad as the Vampire. He has a reasonable presence and he looks the part at least, but still he obviously isn’t quite as good a match for Cushing’s Van Helsing as Lee’s Dracula was and thus their final fight together is rather unspectacular which is a real shame. This isn’t Dracula’s worst death scene, but its probably his most unspectacular. He just walks onto a spear and he is also dispatched far too quickly.

Dracula’s presence in the story is also completely unnecessary. He’s in it for all of 2 minutes literally and he has no real baring on the events of the story either save one brief fight at the end. You could cut out the bit at the start and the end and absolutely nothing would be different at all.

Dracula’s presence in this story also creates a massive plot hole too. At the start of the film when we see Dracula take over Kah it says its 1804. The rest of the film takes place 100 years later.

Thing is when is Van Helsing supposed to have faced the Vampire if he was hiding out in China for the past 100 years?  Its possible that Dracula may have nipped back to Klausenberg to fight Van Helsing but it doesn’t seem likely and furthermore Dracula mentions wanting to use the 7 Golden Vampires to wreak havoc on mankind, yet all he does in 100 years is use them to terrorise a small village in the middle of nowhere? Not summon up an army of Vampires to overrun the earth or destroy your enemies, just stand about and terrorise one little village?

Also why does Dracula need to posses Kah anyway?  Why has he been confined to his little coffin at the start? I didn’t even know Dracula could posses people anyway.

Dracula’s scenes feel like a first draft in this film. Its like they were scribbled down and added in at the last minute and thus nothing about them makes sense. Its literally like in the middle of the film they thought “oh wait we better have Dracula in it” and tacked him on. Really this movie would have been better if it had just been Van Helsing fighting the 7 Golden Vampires.

Other than the Dracula problem however I think this is actually one of the better 70’s Hammer films.

The film shows Hammer branching out and trying new things. It incorporates Chinese myths about the Jiang Shi, hopping corpses.

These monsters were said to move by hopping up and down on both feet. They were as single minded as animals and would rip their victims limb from limb and had hideous repulsive,  rotting faces. They also were capable of consuming their victims souls as well as their flesh and blood.

Though the Jiang Shi myths evolved independently from European stories about Vampires, as western stories about Vampires and Zombies made their way to China and stories about the Jiang Shi made their way to the west they began to become associated with one another.

This movie manages to include most pieces of Chinese Vampire lore. The Golden Vampires minions hop up and down, all of the Chinese Vampires are animalistic and savage. They never speak, they just roar and hiss and scream and they are also hideous too, with rotting faces, and they also have the power to steal people’s souls and turn them into living husks.

Whilst some see the movie as nothing more than a cheap cash in on the Kung Fu craze that was sweeping the world at that point, and in many ways it was. At the same time I think it shows how Hammer were still even at the very end trying to find ways to reinvent their characters rather than just doing the same thing over and over again.

The Jiang Shi myths are fascinating and sadly they are a subject that even today is ignored largely by film makers in the west. Thus I think it was very bold of Hammer to make them the focus of this film. Remember this was before even Chinese cinema would begin to produce films featuring the Jiang Shi in the 1980’s with the classic Mr Vampire film series.

Also the idea of kung fu Vampires is something that we would see appear in many western films and tv series following this film too such as Blade and Buffy.

Once again this film despite often being seen as a sign of Hammer running out of steam is actually decades ahead of its time. Chinese Vampire myths are something that Lam Ching Ying and Sammo Hung would later capitalize on, practically creating a whole new sub genre of horror films as result, the Kung Fu Vampire or monster film which ran for close to twenty years. In addition to this we would later see Western Vampire fiction like Blade and Buffy begin to become more action oriented.

Its just such a shame that fans and critics alike always bash the final three Dracula films as really I think they represent the series at its most daring and bold after the first few films.

To me the stagnated period of the Hammer Dracula series is Dracula Has Risen From the Grave to Scars of Dracula. Now all of those films are in their own right good, solid horror stories, but really they don’t bring anything new to the Vampire story.

They are literally just the same idea over and over again. Dracula gets brought back, kills one girl usually a red head, seeks to kill a blonde, usually to get back at some older relative of her that pissed him off, there is some old guy who gives the young hero who will probably be named Paul advice on how to kill Dracula, and then Dracula will die by accident.

There’s far more creativity and originality in those final 3 Hammer Dracula’s than there is the middle 3, Dracula Has Risen From The Grave, Taste the Blood of Dracula and Scars of Dracula.

So many tropes that we see in Vampire fiction come from these three films.

Things like Buffy, Blade, Supernatural, Mr Vampire all have Vampires in modern day, Vampires and Demons posing as benevolent business men, Vampires or Demons planning to end the world, lineage’s and families of Vampire hunters from the Slayers to the Mr Vampire family to the Winchester Family, and Kung Fu Vampires and Vampire Hunters.

The Golden Vampires also I think can be seen to create a new type of Vampire. The totally inhuman Vampire that looks absolutely repulsive, is seemingly unstoppable, never speaks just roars, lives only for the kill, is seemingly no more than an animal, yet has a tiny hint of intelligence.

Whenever it corners its victims there will be a little evil smile, perhaps even a little laugh that lets you know its sentient enough to enjoy the pain it inflicts on its victims. These Vampires will kill you in the most gruesome way possible. It won’t just be a quick bite on the neck, and these guys certainly will not seduce their victims. They’ll chain them up, torture them, maim them, mutilate them, shred them to pieces, cut their throats, bleed them like animals. These creatures are horrors in every way.

They are also often depicted as being another race of Vampires and are often contrasted with the Vampires who still posses their humanity to an extent whether that’s just in terms of intelligence.

Pre Legend of the Seven Golden Vampires I don’t think in film and television we had Vampires like that. We did have ugly Vampires sure, but they were not quite like these monsters, hissing, and snarling.

After 7 Golden Vampires we’d get creatures like that all the time such as the Jiang Shi in the Mr Vampire series, the Reapers in Blade 2 and the Turok Han in Buffy the Vampire Slayer. They all follow the Golden Vampire pattern beat for beat.

Thus I’d say this film is an important one for helping to establish this type of Vampire. Certain prominent works help to shape particular depictions of Vampires. The Lugosi Dracula established the otherworldly, gentlemanly Vampire, whilst the Lee Dracula established the more physical, sexual Vampire and other works such as Carmilla, Interview with the Vampire and Langella’s Dracula cemented the idea of the romantic, tormented Vampire.

Thus this film definitely created the idea of the second race of more vicious, feral, wild, sadistic, outwardly monstrous Vampires.

I think far from this being a sign the series was on the way out The Legend of the Seven Golden Vampires could have breathed new life into the series.

The idea of Van Helsing travelling the world and battling Vampires from different mythologies would have been a great idea for a series. The next film after Legend was intended to feature Indian Vampire myths such as the Vetala and would have featured Van Helsing battling Kali. Its such a shame that it was never made.

I tend to look at Hammer as being like the original Doctor Who series in the sense that much like Doctor Who the Hammer movies started out brilliantly and ran for many years, but then towards the end they begin to decline with awful stories like Timelash or films like Lust for a Vampire, before finally finishing. In both cases however there was a big improvement towards the end and in actual fact it was a shame that they both finished when they did.

Sadly however in both cases it was assumed that they had just burnt out, but in Doctor Who’s case the later years were re evaluated and are now for the most part highly regarded. Sadly however this has not happened yet with the later Hammer films like the final three Dracula movies which I think in spite of all their faults are decades ahead of their time.

Aside from its importance and originality this film still holds up in a number of other ways.

Peter Cushing is fabulous as ever as Van Helsing. By this point he could play the character in his sleep. Despite his advanced age he copes well with some of the more physical scenes too. Van Helsing is older, but still tough like an old turkey in this film. This movie also casts Van Helsing in a more interesting role by showing him in take on Vampires who he is unfamiliar with in the East.

The film’s action sequences are very entertaining too. The choreography is not quite as strong as the later Mr Vampire films of course, but there are still lots of great moments. Hammer seem to have fun coming up with over the top and creative ways to kill each of the Golden Vampires, we have one get set on fire, one impaled, one sliced to bits by an angry mob.

There are some quite interesting shocks in the story. I was very surprised the first time I watched this film to see Hsi Ching die. He’s the young hero of the film and his death is quite brutal as he is forced to impale himself after being infected by his lover.

The direction of this movie is also somewhat superior to some of the other Hammer horrors. One impressive shot in particular is when the Vampire/Zombie army is chasing after the farmer. Its a never ending line of monsters emerging from the darkness, screaming and roaring. This scene gave me nightmares when I was young. I used to dream that much like the farmer I was locked out of the village begging and screaming to get back into the village and I could see the army of the undead coming in from the distance getting closer and closer and I knew there was nothing I could do to fight them or plead with them as they were such savage monsters.

Overall I’d rank this as an excellent Vampire film overall. I’d give it 4 and a half stars.As a Dracula film it doesn’t work, but as a good send off for Van Helsing its superb and and its a very original and important horror flick overall.  A great finish to the series.

Kali Devil Bride of Dracula

Hammer intended to produce a sequel to The Legend of the Seven Golden Vampires called Kali Devil Bride of Dracula. It would have seen Peter Cushing reprise his role as Van Helsing and the plot would have had Van Helsing travel to India to battle Dracula who would have entered into an alliance with Kali. It would have explored Indian Vampire myths such as the Vetala. Apparently it would have also featured eyeless zombies (as can be seen on the poster) who would have been Kali’s minions.

It is not known who would have played Dracula, but it is possible that Hammer would have gone for a younger actor. Sadly however Hammer’s money troubles meant that the film was shelved.

Vampirella

Hammer planned to produce an adaptation of this popular horror comic about a Vampire super heroine. Caroline Munro was among the names selected to play the character.

This series would have been linked to the Dracula films as it would have seen Peter Cushing reprise his role as Van Helsing, though given the stories were set in modern day then it would most likely have been a sequel to the modern day Dracula’s rather than Legend of the Seven Golden Vampires.

Sadly this movie was also axed as Hammer ran into troubles.

Vampire vs Vampire

Though there was no sequel ever made this Chinese horror movie was a loose sequel. This film was part of the classic Mr Vampire film series.

The Mr Vampire films began in the early 80’s. They revolved around the character of Kau, a Vampire hunter whose nickname was Mr Vampire. Mr Vampire was played by the late Lam Ching Ying in all of his appearances. The character proved to be very popular not only appearing in a number of sequels, but also a television series and a number of other films such as The Dead and the Deadly which saw him take on other supernatural creatures such as Demons, Ghosts, Mummies and Zombies, though he also fought non Vampires in the Mr Vampire films anyway. A Ghost is featured in the first Mr Vampire movie alongside the Vampires whilst the third film does not feature Vampires at all.

Still the Vampires were obviously the focus of the series. These Vampires were obviously based on the Jiang Shi. They were hopping corpses, didn’t speak, tore their victims apart, had hideous rotting faces and had different weaknesses to European Vampires.

This film meanwhile is really the same idea as The Legend of the 7 Golden Vampires but in reverse. A European Vampire is brought back to life in a small Chinese town and begins to slaughter the inhabitants. Mr Vampire is called in to defeat it, but just as Van Helsing found it difficult to combat the Golden Vampires, Mr Vampire finds his normal Chinese Vampire repellents not working against the European Vampire.

Now this film was inspired by The Legend of the 7 Golden Vampires, but it was also intended as a loose sequel. The Vampire in the film though not named on screen was intended to be Dracula. Furthermore he was intended to be the Dracula from THIS film. This Dracula was slain in China and the Dracula in this movie’s remains are found in China. Furthermore this Dracula is brought back to life when blood is spilled on his remains which is how the Vampire was always brought to life in the Hammer films. He is also shown to have a silver sharp imbedded in his heart which is how Dracula died in this film, he also has the power to control bats just like the Dracula in Scars.

Ultimately however as the European Vampire is never actually named in the film its open to interpretation as to whether or not it is the same Dracula as the one in this film.

One discrepancy between this Dracula being the one in Legend of the 7 Golden Vampires is that at the end of Legend of the 7 Golden Vampires Dracula crumbles to dust whilst the remains of the Vampire in this film are a skeleton.

Where Does This Take Place In The Hammer Dracula Series

There is some debate among fans as to when this film takes place in relation to the other Hammer Dracula’s.

Some fans believe it to be a stand alone due to the goof at the start that states Dracula left for China in 1804 and spent 100 years there leaving no room for Van Helsing who is around in 1904 to have previously fought him. It doesn’t even make sense within itself never mind other films of the series.

Still this is why I ignore all the dates in the series. To me its like the UNIT dating controversy in Doctor Who there’s no way to make sense of all the different dates or timelines.

So instead I personally view the Hammer Dracula timeline like this

Horror of Dracula: Dracula’s century long reign of terror comes to an end as Lawrence Van Helsing manages to destroy the Vampire.

The Brides of Dracula: One of Van Helsing’s many adventures later where he continues to learn about the different species of Vampires.

In between this and Dracula Prince Van Helsing’s books on Vampires become more widespread allowing others to learn about their weaknesses.

Dracula Prince of Darkness: The Vampire is brought back to life only to be slain by Father Sandor. Dracula Has Risen From The Grave, and Taste the Blood of Dracula all take place not long after this. Also before the events of Scars of Dracula the Father Sandor series takes place explaining why he isn’t there in Scars of Dracula to oppose the Vampire.

Scars of Dracula: The Vampire returns to Klausenberg after a bat brings him back in London after his death there in Taste the Blood of Dracula. His second reign of terror begins and lasts for a few years until he is destroyed by lightening.

At some point after Scars another one of Dracula’s servants brings him back but perhaps the resurrection goes wrong and he is weaker. Dracula is reduced to a mere shell of his former self, perhaps his appearance also changes too as a result of the resurrection going wrong explaining why he looks like John Forbes Robertson.

Weak and depressed Dracula consigns himself to his coffin, having had enough of his constant deaths and resurrection he wants it just to end forever and hides in his coffin.

Later he is awoken by Kah. Kah inadvertantly gives Dracula a new lease of life as the Vampire having grown bored with his existence up until now decides he has a new purpose to destroy mankind and make it suffer for all of the deaths it has inflicted on him. This marks the beginning of his desire to destroy mankind. Dracula still too weak to be a threat himself takes over Kah.

He then heads to China and revives the 6 surviving Golden Vampires and hopes to use them to build an army of Vampires that he can use to sweep the earth and destroy mankind. Whilst there in Kah’s body he also drinks enough blood to restore his strength.

He’s only in China for a short while however (this ignores the 1804 date) and Van Helsing soon destroys the Golden Vampires and Dracula himself just as he has regained his former strength and sheds Kah’s body.

Vampire vs Vampire: What the hell I’m including it. Dracula is revived by accident in China and battles Mr Vampire who barely manages to defeat him (this means that all of the Mr Vampire Franchise takes place in the Hammer universe which is cool). At some point after this the Vampire now back in his original form arrives in London. Just like in Stokers novel Dracula plans to use the British Empire to spread the cult of Vampirisim around the world and take control of it. He is opposed by an elderly Lawrence Van Helsing and the two have a final fight atop a moving carriage in London where Dracula is destroyed.

Dracula AD 1972: The Vampire is brought back from the grave in modern london where he is obsessed with destroying the Van Helsing family above all else. He is ultimately destroyed by Lorrimer Van Helsing, grand son of Lawrence.

The Satanic Rites of Dracula: Dracula is revived again and tries to destroy the world. He now has the means to do so much more quickly using chemical warfare and thus finally plans to exterminate humanity something he has wanted since after the events of Scars of Dracula. Fortunately he is stopped once again by Lorrimer Van Helsing.

Chinese Vampires

This movie continues the idea of there being many different species of Vampire an idea begun in The Brides of Dracula and continued in Captain Kronos Vampire Hunter.

This movie reveals that each continent has its own set of Vampires. The Chinese Vampires that we see in this film are repulsive creatures with rotting faces, long fangs, and inhuman strength. They enjoy torturing and killing innocent people and are incapable of speech, though they are intelligent enough to use weapons and ride horses. They have the power to make people into Vampires like them through a bite, though according to Van Helsing they can also steal a persons soul and turn them into zombie like creatures who obey their every command. They are served by hordes of these Zombies who are shown to hop up and down on both feet when they move.

The Vampires Zombie servants

These Vampires also have the power to change into bats as well.

They do share some weaknesses with European Vampires. They can be killed by a wooden stake or a silver sharp through the heart like European Vampires as well as fire. They are also vulnerable to holy items, though in this case it is the symbol of Buddha that drives them away rather than the cross.

Notes and Trivia

  • This marks the 5th and final time Peter Cushing plays Van Helsing in a Hammer movie. Cushing also played a Vampire hunter in two other Hammer films, The Vampire Lovers which saw him slay Carmilla Karnstein and Twins of Evil which saw him play a more villainous Vampire/Witch hunter. To this day Cushing is associated with the role of Van Helsing more so than any other actor. His name has become almost as associated with Vampire hunting as much as Van Helsing’s himself. Lam Ching Ying’s character Mr Vampire was inspired by Cushing’s Van Hesling. He was even referred to as China’s answer to Peter Cushing many times. The character of Peter Vincent in Fright Night is named after Peter Cushing and Vincent Price, though he is more heavily based on Cushing as Peter Vincent is known for playing Vampire killers. There is also a reference to Peter Cushing in the British sitcom The Young Ones when the four main characters lock a Vampire in their bathroom one of them states “I got it Peter Cushing! We got to drive a stake through his heart!” Similarly in From Dusk Till Dawn directed by Quentin Tarrantino when talking about Vampire weaknesses someone mentions putting two sticks together to create a cross to which another character replies “He’s right Peter Cushing does that all the time”  In the Buffy the Vampire Slayer comic book Tales of the Slayers Van Helsing appears and his first name is revealed to be Peter rather than Abraham as an homage to Peter Cushing.
  • This is Peter Cushing’s final Hammer Horror film, though he made one more for the studio Shatter.
  • The last Hammer Dracula

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