Van Helsing's work is never done. It's not until 1904 that he finds time to tackle China's vampire problem, an adventure depicted in 1974's The Legend of the 7 Golden Vampires. A collaboration between Britain's legendary low budget horror studio, Hammer, and Hong Kong's legendary Shaw Brothers studio, the film featured a Hammer director and star--Roy Ward Baker and Peter Cushing--and Shaw director and stars--Chang Cheh and stars David Chiang and Shih Szu. The result is a definitely campy but rather enjoyable mixture of wuxia and broad, western horror fantasy. It is also Peter Cushing's final appearance as Van Helsing.
He easily gives the best performance in the film and in his frequent dialogues with David Chiang one can see the younger actor a little intimidated by Cushing's ability to infuse lines and reactions with sincerity. During the acrobatic action scenes, though, it's Cushing who's forced to stand aside and watch as Hsi Ching (Chiang) and his seven expert martial artist siblings dispatch gangsters or vampire controlled zombies.
I somehow loved these zombies with their heavy skull masks. They're led by the golden vampires, their names related apparently to ceremonial gold masks they wear over their withered faces.
Lest anyone think I'm being hard on Chinese performers, Cushing outshines his white costars, too, including Robin Stewart as Van Helsing's son and Julie Ege as a wealthy heiress who provides the prodigious funding for the expedition to the vampire village Van Helsing for some reason insists is necessary.
Ege was Norwegian and her accent in the film is thick--it seems like a role that may have been intended for Ingrid Pitt and Pitt would have been a welcome substitute for Ege's dead eyed, listless performance as she delivers awkward expository lines about how she craves adventure even though she's a woman.
Shih Szu as the film's other female lead stands out far better. She's Mai Kwei, one of Hsi Ching's siblings, and she holds her own as a fighter among them. One can see in this movie a precursor to to-day's horror action films which frequently combine acrobatic martial arts with supernatural horror.