Kill the fiends... or become one of them! Skewering vampires isn't easy when the bloodsucking monsters know every martial-arts move ever tried by the living and the undead! Van Helsing goes to China to learn the truth about haemoglobbing ghouls terrorizing a village and enslaving their victims. The vampirologist and his elite warrior band (David Chiang) don't search long. Dracula himself arrives to oversee his henchmen's reign of death!
The Seven Brothers and Their One Sister Meet Dracula (1974)
- The Legend of the Seven Golden Vampires review by NP
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Hammer films were grinding to a halt by the time this film was released. Even James Carreras admitted ‘we can’t go on remaking Dracula every year.’ And yet it seemed Dracula was still Hammer’s most well-regarded monster/villain. As ‘Brides of Dracula’ had proven over ten years earlier, Christopher Lee wasn’t essential to the success of such a venture, and so John Forbes-Robertson played The Count (briefly) in what was tagged as ‘The First Kung Fu Horror Spectacular’.
Whilst not exactly living upto the hype, the film (also known as ‘The Seven Brothers Meet Dracula’ and ‘The Seven Brothers and Their One Sister Meet Dracula’) isn’t as bad as its reputation sometimes suggests.
Despite the familiar Hammer music by James Bernard, and the inclusion of Peter Cushing as Van Helsing, the atmosphere is markedly different from the opening shot, as the lone Shaman Kah makes his way to Castle Dracula. Once inside, he meets Forbes-Robertson’s Count(dubbed by David de Keyser – which makes one question why cast Robertson if he is to be so heavily bewigged, made-up and dubbed). The effective scene is powerful, and ends with Dracula assuming Kah’s physical appearance, allowing him to escape the castle, which appears to have become his prison.
From then on, any attempt at character is quickly glossed over, at best. We’re familiar with Van Helsing, of course – his son Leyland (Robin Stewart), Hsi Ching (David Chang) and wealthy widow Vanessa Buren (Julie Ege) are given the most cursory of introductions, but still fair better than Ching’s brothers and one sister. However, this is perhaps the point – the characters are merely ciphers, relentless participants in the many kung-fu exchanges with the vampires. These vampires look very effective en masse. Roy Ward Baker directs some supremely creepy scenes of them rising from graves, hands and skull-like faces emerging from the dried soil, and there is a true nightmare ambience as they make their way through the night – on horseback, marching, or in some cases hopping in the style of the Chinese jiangshi reanimated corpses. In close-up, however, their somewhat tatty design becomes apparent.
The picture ends with Cushing facing Kah alone and chiding him to reveal his true face. In the resulting slo-mo transformation, there is a moment where Forbes-Robertson looks exactly like Christopher Lee – which answers my earlier question of his casting. Before a hoped-for exchange has really begun, Dracula appears to leap onto Van Helsing’s upturned spear, destroying him once and for all via some unusually rubbery decomposition effects.