While lecturing in China, Van Helsing agrees to help seven kung fu trained siblings reclaim their ancestral mountain village, now the domain of seven powerful vampires and their army of unde... Read allWhile lecturing in China, Van Helsing agrees to help seven kung fu trained siblings reclaim their ancestral mountain village, now the domain of seven powerful vampires and their army of undead slaves.While lecturing in China, Van Helsing agrees to help seven kung fu trained siblings reclaim their ancestral mountain village, now the domain of seven powerful vampires and their army of undead slaves.
When this movie first came out, many Hammer fans were appalled at the idea of Hammer producer Michael Carreras teaming with Hong Kong movie mogul Run Run Shaw to create a Hammer/Kung Fu hybrid; it seemed like a desperate attempt to revive the declining Hammer brand by grafting it onto the ascendant Kung Fu craze. Looking back from the vantage point of 2011--after seeing Batman, Hellboy, Iron Man, The Mummy franchise, et. al. go to China--Carerras's cross-cultural gambit looks like genius, and 40 years ahead of its time...perhaps literally so, since the revived Hammer company is now talking about doing a remake.
If you fear this movie will be a Kung Fu actioner with lots of bone-crunching sound effects and nuggets of inscrutable wisdom, think again. It's pure Hammer from start to finish, with a reliable anchoring performance by Peter Cushing as Van Helsing. It seems the venerable doctor is doing some anthropological field work in China; when he lectures at a university, his unwelcome discussion of vampires draws catcalls but finds one receptive listener who knows the truth of the Legend of the 7 Golden Vampires. Add a traveling European heiress with a taste for adventure and a fortune to fund an expedition into the hinterland, and the plot is off and running.
This is a work of high fantasy that draws not just on Bram Stoker but on a long tradition of English literature. The narrative brio reminds me of the adventure stories of H. Rider Haggard (here set in China instead of Africa). There's also a bit of Tolkien in the storytelling, with the 7 Golden Vampires reminiscent of the Nazgul, Dracula of Sauron, and Van Helsing of Gandalf, leading a motley fellowship on a journey to destroy evil. As the travelers draw ever nearer to their goal, they engage in repeated battles that take a terrible toll, right up to the final confrontation with the Evil One himself. (Lest you think the Tolkien parallel is a stretch, consider that the character of Van Helsing was one of Tolkien's inspirations for Gandalf, the keeper of secret knowledge who advises and motivates those who would rid the world of its greatest evil.)
The action scenes look quite dated, but only because we've grown used to seeing aerial martial arts performed with guy-wires against a blue-screen; in the old-fashioned Kung Fu films, acrobats were still subject to the laws of gravity.
- Jan 30, 2011