Shaw Brothers martial arts. Hammer horror. Two delicious cinematic flavors—but do they still taste great together? The Legend of the 7 Golden Vampires seeks to answer this question, combining the classic Victorian vampire with the soul-sucking reanimated corpses of Asian folklore. So, is the result of this unlikely pairing as satisfying as a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup?
Before I dig into the meat of the movie itself, I must admit to being utterly baffled that this particular home video release even exists: official Blu-ray copies of the two studios’ solo productions tend to be difficult to acquire in the States (the handful of DVDs I own are more ancient than Count Orlok), so I find it surprising that their collaborative effort made the digitally-remastered cut. Not that I’m complaining: as a huge fan of unusual mashups (see: Zatoichi Meets the One-Armed Swordsman), I absolutely adored the film’s unique blend of stylistic sensibilities—God bless Shout! Factory for making such a truly bizarre hidden gem so readily available for my consumption! It features pretty much every element that viewers love about both genres: spooky sets strewn with cobwebs, eerie multicolored lighting, fast-paced fight choreography, and violence so over-the-top that it frequently borders on absurdist comedy.
Of course, like the cursed undead, these strengths come with their fair share of weaknesses: the villains aren’t very intimidating (they’re supposed to be supernatural abominations akin to the Nazgul from The Lord of the Rings, but they more closely resemble the Bogeymen from Babes in Toyland), the special effects haven’t aged terribly well (I could purchase more convincing rubber bats at my local Halloween shop), and the central premise is undeniably silly (in a nutshell: Dracula, fed up with Van Helsing’s incessant meddling in his affairs, decides to abandon Transylvania in favor of conquering China).
And yet… that campy atmosphere only contributes to The Legend of the 7 Golden Vampires’ irresistible charm. Sure, the plot is flimsy and disjointed, and the marriage between kung fu action and gothic horror is occasionally… uneasy, but whenever the legendary Peter Cushing appears onscreen to do what he does best, you kind of forget to care about such inconsequential blemishes.