Welcome, children of the night! This Blog is for fans of vintage horror films as well as those who are just beginning to discover the joy of these classic movies. I'd love to hear from you!

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

The Legend of the 7 Golden Vampires (1974)

The tagline for this Hammer Horror Production reads "Hammer Horror!  Dragon Thrills! The First Kung Fu Horror Spectacular!"  To which I can only respond "Hell Yes!"  A weary traveler [Shen Chan] seeks out the help of Count Dracula [John Forbes-Robertson] to resurrect the 7 Golden Vampires.  Dracula steals the traveler's body and heads straight to a remote Chinese village to do the deed.  Throw in a few undead zombie samurai's along the way and you have the makings of horror heaven.

7 Golden Vampires is beautiful to look at.  Hammer Studio left behind the usual lush English mansions and decrepit castles.  In their place are stunning Buddhist temples and a decrepit Chinese village!  Hammer always knows how to make visually pleasing films and this one is no exception.  Furthermore, the musical score is big and brash for the most part, sending a signal to the audience that this is an epic adventure.

The cast includes Peter Cushing [Star Wars, Horror of Dracula] as Professor Laurence Van Helsing who happens to be lecturing at a nearby university and is persuaded to join the villagers in their fight against the agents of darkness.  Cushing is perfect for the role and does his usual excellent work in fleshing out his character.  David Chiang [Once Upon a Time in China II, Blood Brothers] is Hsi Ching who is Cushing's guide, confidant and warrior on the side.  He does a great job as well.

The martial arts scenes include everything you would expect: swords, daggers, death punches, acrobatics and really terrible fake blood.  I love it!  Placing horror on top of this is just icing on the cake.  The two merge very well in this film and it's fun to watch the director weave them together.  Furthermore, the horror elements are highly stylized.  The look of both the vampires and the zombie warriors is unique and very well done.

Speaking of directors, Roy Ward Baker [Asylum, The Avengers; TV Series] really does a fine job moving things along and keeping things interesting.  I can't remember seeing anything like this film before 1974.  If anyone out there knows of another Kung Fu Horror Spectacular before this one, let me know.  I definitely want to watch it!

I guess you can tell I really enjoyed The Legend of the 7 Golden Vampires.  Don't miss it!

RATING: Excellent.

For more info check out the film's entry in IMDB.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Lifeforce (1985)

Lifeforce is a forgotten gem of the 1980's that is WAY underrated by critics.  At the very least it's the best vampire zombies from space film you'll ever see!  The story begins with a space shuttle that's exploring Halley's comet and discovers a strange spaceship hidden in its path.  As they explore the ship they discover three humans in suspended animation which they bring back to earth with them.  Needless to say, it's a BIG mistake.

Dan O'Bannon [Alien, Aliens, Total Recall] wrote an intelligent script that is delivered by a cast of fine actors.  Mathilda May is mesmerizing as "space girl."  Bless her heart, she spends most of the movie naked as a jaybird.  Yet, in spite of this, her nudity never feels gratuitous.  She is beautiful, powerful and deadly!  I also liked Steve Railsback [Ed Gein, Disturbing Behavior] who plays the captain of the ship.  Some reviews I've read are really unkind to him but I think he fills the role nicely and is a good mate for space girl.  Patrick Stewart [X-Men, Star Trek: The Next Generation]  also has a cameo role that is up to his excellent reputation as an actor.  It made me wish he had a bigger role.

Another thing Lifeforce has going for it is the masterful direction of the one and only Tobe Hooper [Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Poltergeist].  He shows remarkable restraint with this film but imbues it with a sense of terror nonetheless.  All the scenes where space girl is sucking the life out of someone work very well because of his direction and ability to compose a scene for maximum emotional impact.

I also thought the special effects were very good.  The zombies were completely awesome and unique looking.  These aren't Romero zombies but something that can only be described as freeze-dried living dead.  Love it!  The final icing on the cake was an excellent score by legendary composer Henry Mancini.  Rarely do horror films get this beautiful of a score.  It's a total home run for me.

So, critics be damned.  Lifeforce should be on everyone's must-see list.  It's unfortunate that this film doesn't get the attention it deserved.  I'm trying my best to rectify that situation.  

RATING: Excellent.

For more info check out the film's entry in IMDB.