The Legend of the 7 Golden Vampires (1974)

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Released 6-Oct-2004

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Action Main Menu Audio
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 1974
Running Time 85:32
RSDL / Flipper No/No Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 2,4,5 Directed By Roy Ward Baker
Cheh Chang
Studio
Distributor
Hammer Productions
Warner Home Video
Starring Peter Cushing
David Chiang
Julie Ege
Robin Stewart
Szu Shih
John Forbes-Robertson
Robert Hanna
Shen Chan
James Ma
Fong Lah Ann
Liu Hoy Ling
Chia Yung Liu
Wong Han Chan
Case Amaray-Transparent-Secure Clip
RPI $19.95 Music James Bernard


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 1.0 (192Kb/s)
French Dolby Digital 1.0 (192Kb/s)
German Dolby Digital 1.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.35:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 2.35:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English
French
German
Dutch
Arabic
Finnish
Swedish
Greek
Hungarian
Turkish
English for the Hearing Impaired
German for the Hearing Impaired
Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    Three things you were almost guaranteed to see in your local cinema in the early 1970s were vampires, kung fu films and nudity. This one has all three, and it is not a very good mix.

    The film opens with a lengthy pre-credits sequence set in Transylvania 1804 where a Chinese priest, Kah (Shen Chan), ventures into the domain of Dracula (John Forbes-Robertson). His mission: to convince Dracula to help him resurrect the Seven Golden Vampires, of whose temple he is the High Priest. Dracula, however, decides that he will use the shell of Kah's body to leave his castle and venture forth into the world, though he does in fact go to China to use the Golden Vampires as his host.

    After the credits, we join a haggard-looking Professor Van Helsing (Peter Cushing) who is lecturing to Chinese students about the legend of the Seven Golden Vampires which, despite not knowing where or when the legend is set, he believes to be true. Some years ago a villager had, in attempting to rescue his daughter from the Seven, caused the demise of one of them. The audience scoffs, apart from one man who turns out to be from that very village. Hsi Ching (David Chiang) and his brothers offer to take Van Helsing to the village so that he can help destroy the Golden Vampires forever. There is also a subplot involving Van Helsing's son Leyland (Robin Stewart) and the lovely Vanessa Buren (Julie Ege), harassed by a Chinese triad who lusts after her.

    Now these vampires are not your ordinary befanged Western vampires dressed in dark cloaks and scared of the crucifix, and only able to be destroyed by a stake through the heart, the rays of the sun or immersion in running water. Nor are they the more familiar Chinese vampires, who hop around until stopped with a paper affixed to the forehead, the paper having a magic spell written on it. Those vampires (made popular by the Mr. Vampire series) are blind but can smell the breath of their victims, so holding one's breath is a defence against them.

    No, the Golden Vampires are gold sword-wielding, gold masked and gold bat amulet-wearing creatures with decaying flesh. One method of destroying them is to remove their bat amulets, which seems to allow their vital essence to escape (it looks like steam). Staking still seems to be the most effective method however.

    One can almost hear the death rattle of Hammer with this film. This was a co-production with the Hong Kong studio Shaw Brothers, who were looking to expand into international markets, including in this opus one of their biggest stars in David Chiang. He had featured in some classic martial arts films for Shaw like New One-Armed Boxer, The Boxer From Shantung and Blood Brothers. The film was shot in Hong Kong on location and in the Shaw studios. Hammer for their part provided the director (Roy Ward Baker), their best actor in Peter Cushing, and Scandinavian beauty Julie Ege. Cushing is able to deliver some terrible dialogue as if it was Shakespeare, but Ege reveals the lack of acting talent that curtailed her career.

    The mixture of martial arts and horror does not quite gel together, and while some of the former is impressive, there is none of the latter. The Golden Vampires look ludicrous and are not scary in the slightest, while Dracula only appears briefly, and then somehow shape-shifts in some unexplained manner. Christopher Lee wisely steered clear for once in his career.

    Despite the various elements of this film being poorly handled and the storyline being just plain daft, there is enjoyment to be had, if only because the overall effect is so strange. When released in the US, the film was severely cut to 75 minutes and retitled The Seven Brothers Meet Dracula, but what we have on this disc is the original version.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    The film is presented in an original aspect ratio of 2.35:1 and is 16x9 enhanced.

    This is a pretty good transfer in most respects. The transfer is nice and sharp. There is a good level of detail, both in general and in shadows. Contrast seems good, and colour is very good, with rich and vivid colours on display throughout. Black levels are also good, with no noticeable low level noise. Whites are fairly pure, not there are not too many whites in this film.

    Film to video artefacts are limited to minor aliasing, such as on the stairs at 2:36.

    There are plenty of film artefacts, most of white are white flecks and spots. Some sequences are quite clean, but the bulk of the film has frequent speckling.

    Optional English subtitles are provided. These are in a clear white font and match the dialogue. They are well timed and easy to read. There are also burned-in subtitles during the sequence where Kah meets Dracula at the beginning of the film, which translate the Kah's Cantonese into English. These subtitles are quite small, and may be difficult to read on smaller display devices.

    The film is presented on a single-layer disc.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    The default audio track is Dolby Digital 1.0, with a couple of alternate languages available.

    Audio is reasonable, with the dialogue being quite clear. While the sound is a bit thin and lacking in body, it is pretty much par for the course for a film from this era.

    A lot of the film is dubbed, in the Hong Kong tradition of shooting silent and adding a post-synced soundtrack afterwards. Even the English actors are dubbed on occasion, though their own voices are used. This means that audio sync is not very good, although this is inherent in the source and not introduced in the transfer.

    The score is by Hammer veteran James Bernard. Perhaps I have heard one too many of his scores recently, as this one just seemed repetitive and lacking in ideas. It sounds like it is cobbled together from his previous scores, and it includes the familiar Dracula theme.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

    Not even a trailer this time.

Main Menu Audio

    Music from the score is played over the static menu.

Censorship

    There is censorship information available for this title. Click here to read it (a new window will open). WARNING: Often these entries contain MAJOR plot spoilers.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    The US Region 1 release is from Anchor Bay, and is available in two formats: as a stand-alone disc by itself, or in a two-disc set with Frankenstein Created Woman. The extras are the same in each case. I have the latter of these releases, which I must admit I acquired for the Frankenstein film.

    There are considerable differences in terms of transfer quality between the two releases. Warners have made a new transfer with what appears to be better source material, and their release does not have the level of artefacts of the Region 1, which is not 16x9 enhanced. Not only are there less film artefacts, but the Anchor Bay release has noticeable edge enhancement, which the Region 4 does not have. The colour on the Region 4 release also seems better, with richer hues and more realistic flesh tones. Shadow detail also seems to be marginally better. There are numerous instances of pixelization on the Region 1 disc and more aliasing. The visually quality simply does not compare with the Region 4.

    The Region 1 also has Dolby Digital 2.0 mono audio. To my ears, there is little difference between the two audio transfers. I marginally prefer the Region 4 though it has a higher level of hiss than the Region 1.

    In terms of extras, the Region 1 wins easily. Not only is there a theatrical trailer, but also the complete US release The Seven Brothers Meet Dracula. If that is not enough, there is an audio-only extra of the complete soundtrack album, which runs for 45 minutes and features James Bernard's music and what amounts to a audio re-creation of the story. The slick indicates that it is narrated by Peter Cushing, but this is not true. Cushing merely voices Van Helsing, and the narrator is someone else, possibly John Forbes-Robertson. Annoyingly there are no chapter points on this item, and my player would not allow fast forward or reverse. But that's Region 1's problem.

    Overall I would recommend the Region 4 for the vastly improved quality of the transfer, given that the alternate version of the film is terrible. There is also a UK Region 2 release which is identical to the Region 4.

Summary

    If you like vampire kung fu films, you will love this one. Others should take time to consider.

    The video quality is very good.

    The audio quality is satisfactory.

    There are no extras.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Philip Sawyer (Bio available.)
Friday, October 29, 2004
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer DV-S733A, using Component output
DisplaySony 86CM Trinitron Wega KVHR36M31. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to DVD player, Dolby Digital, dts and DVD-Audio. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum.
AmplificationSony TA-DA9000ES
SpeakersMain: Tannoy Revolution R3; Centre: Tannoy Sensys DCC; Rear: Richter Harlequin; Subwoofer: JBL SUB175

Other Reviews NONE
Comments (Add)
Seven cheers for seven golden vampires! - ROB