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Directed by Roy Ward Baker

Starring Peter Cushing and David Chiang

Ridiculous and absolutely entertaining collaboration between Hammer Studios and kung fu film producer Raymond Shaw features Dracula disguised as a Chinese monk!

The film has it allvampires, sex, kung fu, stabbings and Cushing as Van Helsing. Unfortunately, Christopher Lee wouldn't play Dracula, so the role was given to Forbes-Robinson, who looks ridiculous in thick make-up.

They didn't originally plan to feature Dracula in the film, but at the last minute producers decided the Dracula name was good box office, so they added a scene at the beginning where the Transylvania vampire takes over the body of a Chinese occultist.

Pretty ludicrous, yes, but how can a film go wrong with both vampires and kung fu? Although hardcore schlock movie fans love this flick, it was a major bomb at the box office. Anchor Bay, however, has re-released the film in a widescreen edition. Their tape includes both the British cut of the film and the severely chopped American cut, which nonetheless seems to highlight more of the nudity. Mainly the "R-rated" stuff in the film involves half-naked village maidens who are tied to altars surrounding what looks like a vat of acid, before the seven vampires sink their teeth into them.

Despite its silliness, "Seven Brothers" is a solid horror movie, thanks in large part to the direction of horror veteran Baker and an actually enthusiastic performance by Cushing. Some believe the film may have even influenced "Blade," which at first sounds like a bit of a stretch, but maybe it isn't. This is arguably the first horror-action film.

After its ludicrous opening with a badly made-up Dracula possessing the body of the evil Chinese monk, the film cuts to a Chinese university (supposedly 100 years later), where visiting scholar Van Helsing is giving a lecture on vampirism. Although most of the Chinese professors walk out on the talk, finding it ridiculous, one remains. How Van Helsing could be talking about his confrontation with Dracula, when Dracula was shown possessing the body of a Chinese monk a hundred years earlier, is never explained. 

Although everyone leaves the lecture, there is one lone believer who stays (Chiang, star of dozens of martial arts movies). This solitary hold out later visits Van Helsing in his living quarters and explains to him that he and his six brothers (and one sister) are skilled martial arts fighters who want to take on the legendary seven vampires of a forsaken Chinese village. He offers Cushing the chance to come along.

Julie Ege plays a European aristocrat who comes along for the ride. Robin Stewart ("Horror House") plays Van Helsing's son, also along for the ride. The film boasts plenty of gratuitous kung-fu fight scenes and a piss-poor climax when Van Helsing learns it's Dracula behind all the vampire goings-on.

Some of the coolest scenes involve an army of zombie warriors that emerge from their graves to help the legendary golden vampires fight their battles. Another interesting concept: In China, vampires are destroyed by the image of Buddha, rather than the crucifix.

Highly recommended.

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