Starring: Peter Cushing, David Chiang, Julie Ege, John Forbes-Robertson
Directed by: Roy Ward Baker, Cheh Chang (uncredited)
Written by: Don Houghton (screenplay by)
Distributor: Scream Factory
Original Year of Release: 1974
I have no problem telling you that my fandom of Hammer Films derives from Star Wars. I hit a certain age and realized I had only ever seen Grand Moff Tarkin, Peter Cushing, in one other film, Top Secret (1984). To my surprise, he was in a slew of films that featured Frankenstein's Monster and Count Dracula. Here I am years later and I am now on a quest to cross them all off my watch list.
While watching the special features of Scream Factory's recent release of Dracula: Prince of Darkness (seen HERE), the World of Hammer episode “Dracula and the Undead” pointed out that the first ever Kung Fu/ Horror movie was by Hammer and the Shaw Brothers. Peter Cushing would again don the guise of Van Helsing, only this time he would be Lawrence Van Helsing, and journey to the far east to hunt down Dracula. Dracula (John Forbes-Robertson) has joined a larger coven of vampires and is wreaking havoc in China. Do you need any more?
First and foremost, Christopher Lee, who usually played opposite Cushing's Van Helsing, is obviously not the count here. Lee had read the script and turned the part down. This may be the reason why Dracula inhabits the body of a Taoist monk for the majority of the film. A quick change in appearance and we quickly forget that Lee is not in the film, nor that Forbes-Robertson is substituting in for Lee. What does this mean for the story? Well, fans of Cushing will love that we are given more time with him. This would be his fifth and last time playing a Van Helsing. We find him lecturing about vampires at a university on Chungking, China. He is scoffed at by all those that attend his lecture, save one, Hsi Ching (David Chiang). Hsi Ching, knows that vampires are real as his village is overrun by the 7 Golden Vampires.
So why haven't you heard of this before? To be brutally honest, it is not very good. There may have been something lost in translation or the mixing of East and West filmmaking, for the first time, ran sour instead of sweet. Cushing and Chiang work well together, however many others (such as the likes of Julie Ege, who plays Vanessa Van Buren, the rich backer of the adventure, and Robin Stewart, Leyland Van Helsing, the adventurous son) seem out of place. By today's standards, the Kung Fu action scenes are tame. Case in point below. I didn't find the film to be a complete bore, but it lacks a real flare. The concept is great and more than enough to get you to watch it, however, it is a one-timer.
Scream Factory, in their infinite love of the genre, has included the alternate US theatrical release of the film. That cut is actually 17 minutes shorter. I am saving that one for an October screening. The picture quality is amazing and if you have seen it only on VHS, you are going to be blown away. I highly recommend watching David Chiang's new interview about the making of the film. The lessons he learned from Cushing on how to prepare for a film is one that he still carries with and teaches to others to this day.
- NEW 2K scan of the original film elements
- NEW Audio Commentary with author/film historian Bruce G. Hallenbeck
- NEW When Hammer Met Shaw – an interview with actor David Chiang
- NEW Kung Fear – an interview with Hong Kong Film Expert Rick Baker
- Alternate U.S. Theatrical version – The 7 Brothers Meet Dracula (in HD with some standard definition inserts)
- Theatrical Trailers
- TV Spot
- Still Gallery