A weary traveller from far away China arrives at the castle of Count Dracula (John Forbes-Robertson) in Transylvania with the hopes of reviving him. As he enters the crypt of the castle, the lid of the tomb slides open, and Dracula arises. The traveller, Kah (Shen Chan), explains that back in China he was the leader of a group of seven vampires who held the land in their terrible grip, but now they have lost their power over the locals. Dracula agrees to help, but takes over the body of Kah, and sets off for the East, not realising that his old nemesis Professor Van Helsing (Peter Cushing) is already in China on a lecture tour...
Vampire movies have their fans, right? And martial arts movies also have their fans, right? With this in mind, British studio Hammer teamed up with Run Run Shaw to combine the two, hoping to double their audience and profits with a kung fu vampire adventure. Scripted by Don Houghton, the results are like watching two different films wrestling for control over one another, but not without entertainment value, with horror star Cushing and martial arts star David Chiang making an interesting, if not entirely comfortable, duo to be pitted against evil from beyond the grave.
When Van Helsing tries to convince the students at a Chinese university that "vampires do exist", he's greeted by scepticism from the sophisticated class. Only one man believes he has a point, Hsi Ching (Chiang), the reason being that his village is afflicted by those seven golden bloodsuckers, except that now there are only six, because his grandfather despatched one of them a few years ago. Ching persuades Van Helsing to accompany him to the village, the excursion being funded by holidaying noblewoman Vanessa Buren (Julie Ege), with Van Helsing's son Leyland (Robin Stewart) along for the ride, as well.
As bodyguards to the party, there are a collection of skilled fighters, who are handy to have around when a gangster the Westerners have offended tries to have them killed. Cue the first big fight sequence, with the European actors standing about looking anxious while being outclassed by the stuntmen, a pattern that is repeated throughout the film. The martial arts overpowers the horror aspects, simply because it is more spectacular to watch than the grotty, blood drinking, chiller sequences. That's not necessarily a bad thing, but if you're expecting a high kicking Van Helsing battling a Dracula version of Bruce Lee, then you'll be let down.
The vampire lore is adapted to the Chinese way in superficial terms, such as having the villains fear the image of Buddha instead of the cross (so we're told, but there doesn't seem to be much evidence for it). The Seven Golden baddies have a curious device for draining blood, which involves chaining down seven young ladies to slanted platforms, opening a vein or two, and letting the blood run into a bubbling pot - why they want super-heated blood I don't know. Cushing, in his last Hammer Dracula film, is as commanding as ever, but he and his Western companions are pretty disposable to the plot until the end, where the professor is left alone with the Count, who is hardly needed. Nevertheless, this last Hammer vampire outing has a real energy, in spite of being a mish-mash, and is different enough to get by on sheer novelty alone. Music by James Bernard.
Reliable British director who worked his way up from teaboy to assistant to Alfred Hitchcock to overseeing his own hit projects from the 1940s to the 1970s. Making his debut with The October Man, he continued with Morning Departure, Don't Bother To Knock, Inferno, The One That Got Away and what is considered by many to be the best Titanic film, A Night To Remember.