When I heard that Roy Ward Baker, who’d worked with Marilyn Monroe and Bette Davis, director of the acclaimed 1950’s Titanic movie A Night To Remember, had died, I didn’t think it would affect me. Certainly I wouldn’t bother to have memorial screenings a la Claude Chabrol, since I’d just ignored the death of the more important-seeming Arthur Penn – after all, this is SHOCKtober. But I looked him up on IMDB anyway, and to my surprise, the newspaper obituaries neglected to mention (out of courtesy, I suppose) that Roy helmed low-rent horror flicks for Hammer Studios in the 70’s. So I grabbed one of those right away.
I watched Hammer’s very first vampire movie last year, then skipped straight to this one, made in the final dark days of Hammer horror, when the studio was losing its market share and resorting to silly gimmicks, like pairing up with Shaw Brothers in Hong Kong for a kung-fu vampire sequel. Christopher Lee wanted nothing to do with it and bowed out of the series, leaving the diminished, token role of Dracula to John Forbes-Robinson (who’d had a small part in Battle of the River Plate, which also featured Lee).
the fake chinese dracula with the fake european dracula:
Peter Cushing returned from the original to play Van Helsing for the fifth time. VH has traveled to China in search of more vampire stories, and gets them from David Chiang (Seven Man Army, Seven Blows of the Dragon, Seven Lucky Stars) whose village has been overrun by the seven titular monsters – actually six, since his ancestor killed one. Hong Kong cinema already had their own vampire stories, so VH amusingly points out some differences between European and Asian vampires (the former are afraid of crosses, the latter fear buddha statues) and we learn others visually (the Chinese vampires are crazed, bloodthirsty zombies, not sexy creatures like Dracula). Cushing is joined by his gun-toting son Robin Stewart (previously in Horror House with Frankie Avalon) and a rich hanger-on feminist (Norwegian Julie Ege of The Magnificent Seven Deadly Sins, The Amorous Milkman). Together they run off to help Chiang and his six brothers free the village, stopping first to kick the ass of a local gangster, who receives an arrow through the neck for interfering.
loving couple Julie Ege and David Chiang:
loving couple Szu Shih and Robin Stewart:
Even with the son wasting our time falling for Chiang’s knife-brandishing little sister (Szu Shih of Supermen Against the Orient, The Crooked Profligates) while Chiang falls for the Norwegian, and despite multiple appearances of rubber bats on strings, the movie totally has my sympathy because of all the undead kung-fu. Three golden vampires appear in our heroes’ cavern resting place and are dispatched (fire works well, Cushing discovers, and weaponless Chiang finds he can punch their dusty hearts out) then the fight at the village against the last three claims most of the brothers. Chiang impales himself and the bitten Norwegian on a stake. Dracula (have I mentioned he’s in the body of a long-haired Chinese gent?) reveals himself to Cushing, who kills Drac in about ten seconds. I know it’s not Chris Lee, but the history these two characters have had together would seem to deserve a more dramatic ending.
Bury me with a sword inside a giant egg, just in case this happens: