Having watched all of Hammer’s Dracula movies, there was steady decline as the series progressed. That’s not to say that there wasn’t enjoyable films in the series and enjoyable ideas but the movies in general were lacking as the series progressed. Just give me a moment to catch everyone up to where the series was at the end.
After The Brides of Dracula Hammer had brought back Christopher Lee as Dracula in Dracula: Prince of Darkness. Lee didn’t have any lines in the film but he was brought back by having blood dripped on his ashes from a living victim and he was dispatched by having the ice under him shot out (running water kills vampires in Hammer movies.)
The next in the series, Dracula Has Risen from his Grave, found the Count freed from the ice and then impaled on a giant cross. Taste the Blood of Dracula found the dead vampire’s ashes scooped up and sold to rich old men who perform a Satanic ritual that involves drinking his ashes in blood. The ritual ends with Dracula’s servant drinking the blood and dying, eventual his corpse becomes Dracula and the count seeks revenge on the rich old men because they refused to drink (I’m not sure what would have happened if they did – possible four Draculas running around). He’s eventual dispatched with strong Christian symbolism. Scars of Dracula starts with a vampire bat flying onto his ashes right after the last movie and puking blood on them, resurrecting Dracula. He’s killed with fire this time.
All these movies weren’t too bad until Dracula A.D. 1972. Peter Cushing returned as Van Helsing and the movie started with Dracula and Van Helsing fighting to the death on carriage which crashes and kills them both. A servant of Dracula buries some of his ashes near Van Helsing’s grave. 100 years later Van Helsing’s descendant and his granddaughter (Stephanie Beacham) are living in London. Van Helsing’s daughter hangs out with hippies, one who is Dracula’s servant’s descendant and they have a Satanic ritual that resurrects the Count into the 1970’s. Eventually Van Helsing stakes Dracula, again.
The final movie to star Christopher Lee as Dracula was 1973’s The Satanic Rites of Dracula which takes place two years after Dracula A.D. 1972. MI5 has been spying on a Satanic cult that has several powerful members of Parliament. Eventually Van Helsing is brought in along with his daughter (now played by Joanna Lumley) and they discover that Dracula is back and running a corporation along with the Satanic cult. He’s also got a professor to create a super virus with the intent to destroy mankind. Eventually Van Helsing stakes him again. That leaves The Legend of the 7 Golden Vampires.
The Legend of the 7 Golden Vampires stars with a badly make-uped John Forbes-Robertson as Dracula. The Count is visited by Kah (Shen Chan), an evil monk that wants Dracula to run the seven golden vampires. Dracula agrees and takes over Kah’s body (for the rest of the movie he’s Kah.) 100 years pass and Van Helsing is in China with his son (Robin Stewart) looking for information on the Seven Golden Vampires. No one believes in the legend except Hsi Ching (David Chiang). Ching along with his six kung fu master brothers and sister are all from a village plagued by the vampires which are a sort of corpse vampires that wear golden masks and have golden bat medallions.
Van Helsing agrees to travel with Ching to his village and fight the golden vampires. They are ambushed on the way but managed to kill a couple of the golden vampires. Once at the village they prepare for a major assault. Every time the vampires go to attack, they summon an army of the undead that travel with them. The fight leads to a temple where Kah/Dracula is and Van Helsing fights him once he returns to his original form.
This is a strange film. It tries to mix two cultures together but ends up being more of a kung fu movie than a Hammer horror. Cushing lends the film some class and the rest do well with all of the fighting, and there’s a lot. John Forbes-Robertson isn’t given much to do (strangely he’s the only person dubbed too) and it was probably wise for Lee to decline to do the movie.
One of the more amusing aspects comes from the fact that in China vampires are hopping reanimated corpses. In the scenes with the undead army several of the extras can be seen hopping in the background while others do a weird hop/skip. it makes for a strange army of the undead. Kind of walking, hopping and skipping on their way to prey on the living although the scenes of them coming out of their graves are pretty cool. This would be Cushing’s last Hammer horror movie and as always he elevated the material to create a movie that ends up being better than it had a right to be. Both Hammer and the Shaw Brother studios were at the top of their game in the 1960’s. Neither studio would survive past the 1980’s.