DirectorRoy Ward Baker/Chang Cheh
Release Date(s)1974 (April 9, 2019)
Studio(s)Hammer Films/Shaw Brothers/Dynamite Entertainment (Shout!/Scream Factory)
- Film/Program Grade: C+
- Video Grade: B
- Audio Grade: B-
- Extras Grade: B-
Grindhouse kung-fu meets Hammer horror in the fists and fangs classic The Legend of the 7 Golden Vampires (released in North America as The 7 Brothers Meet Dracula). Dracula (John-Forbes Robertson) has returned and has taken over the body of the High Priest Kah in order to leave his castle and summon seven deadly vampire spirits to do his evil bidding. Standing in his way is professor Van Helsing (Peter Cushing) and a group of dedicated fighters who all travel to Dracula’s castle together to stop him and his armies of the undead.
Trying to find something of artistic value in a film like The Legend of the 7 Golden Vampires seems a bit far-fetched. After all, it’s relatively cheap entertainment on the surface, mixing martial arts and horror in a way that only genre fans could appreciate when it was originally released and beyond. It’s a goofy movie, but fun nonetheless with plenty of high-kicking, weapon-wielding, throat-ripping action, but also a heavy dose of Asian vampires, which to my mind are quite distinct and actually fairly creepy to look at, even all these years later.
There’s also quite a bit of style to it. Early on, you can see that Roy Ward Baker and company were going for a bit of a traditional horror look, complete with vividly colorful backgrounds and dimly-lit corridors, in comparison to the sun-drenched daytime hand-to-hand battles with Dracula’s minions. Chang Cheh (famous for The One-Armed Swordsman series) co-directed many of the fight scenes, but only Baker was given full credit in the end. And according to who you ask, Christopher Lee either refused to take part in the film or was simply not approached due to not wanting to pony up for his salary. It was probably for the best since Dracula was an afterthought in the process as American financiers demanded that his character be included.
The film’s long-awaited Blu-ray release comes from Scream Factory with a transfer taken from a “2K scan of the original film elements,” likely meaning an interpositive or internegative source. There are also a couple of brief shots that appear to be taken from a standard definition source, particularly the nighttime siege upon a village. Otherwise, everything is fairly organic with decent grain levels and a good amount of detail on display. The color palette is well-represented, highlighting a variety of reds, greens, blues, and golds, as well as natural skin tones. Blacks are deep with good contrast and brightness, and only minor speckling and scratches are leftover. Otherwise, the transfer appears clean and stable throughout.
The audio is presented in English 2.0 mono DTS-HD with optional subtitles in English SDH. It’s a fairly narrow and limited soundtrack, particularly when there’s a multitude of sounds all happening at once, but it appropriately represents the film’s Grindhouse feel without any heavy damage leftover other than some mild hiss. Dialogue comes through well, as does the film’s score, but sound effects are dated and lack punch (no pun intended).
Extras for this release include an audio commentary with film historian Bruce G. Hallenbeck; the alternate U.S. theatrical release The 7 Brothers Meet Dracula, which has been primarily assembled from the new 2K scan, but utilizes more standard definition footage in order to complete it; Kung Fear: Rick Baker on The Legend of the 7 Golden Vampires, a 20-minute interview with the author and critic about the film; When Hammer Met Shaw, a 7-minute interview with actor David Chiang about his work in the film (in Japanese with English subtitles); a single TV spot; the trailers for both The 7 Brothers Meet Dracula and The Legend of the 7 Golden Vampires; and a still gallery containing 67 images of posters, lobby cards, behind-the-scenes photos, publicity stills, newspaper clippings, and the film’s soundtrack LP. Not carried over from the Anchor Bay DVD release of the film is The Story of the Legend of the 7 Golden Vampires, a 46-minute audio narration of the film’s story by Peter Cushing.
Long-time fans of The Legend of the 7 Golden Vampires should be more than pleased with the film’s presentation. More and more of Hammer’s output has been receiving high definition attention as of late, and this is one of the many titles that fans have been asking for. With a decent transfer and nice set of extras, it’s a no-brainer. Highly recommended to vampires and black belts alike.
– Tim Salmons