It had been a year since we started Zombie Club, so we kicked of the evening in style with a bottle of posh bubbly and a documentary about the very worst gore movies that I'd just recorded off Sky - true Zombie Club spirit eh? Needless to say the wine and the gore went down a treat and we revelled in watching the original extreme footage from films like Zombie Flesh Eaters and Cannibal Ferox that ironically is still cut from their UK releases today. I guess the BBFC works in mysterious ways.
Anyway, the main event for the night was one of my favourites and a total wild card. Legend of the Seven Golden Vampires is a crossover kung-fu horror classic (check out the recent review here), while Mr Vampire was merely an impulse purchase I succumbed to after cruising IMDB for too long. But by the time we started the movies we'd each knocked back a few glasses of the good stuff and so all felt a bit light headed...
Tonight's features are presented by Jim in association with the Watch Films Before You Bring Them To Zombie Club Organisation.
Legend of the Seven Golden Vampires (1974)
Plot Peter Cushing teams up with some kung-fu brothers and takes on a bunch of oriental vampires with big gold medallions.
Jim I can just imagine the pitch...
"Right. Since Christopher Lee won't play the Count no more, we're going to set up some ludicrous plot device to turn Dracula into some Chinese monk-priest type thing who commands a crew of kung-fu vampires. Also we're going to make up some story about Van Helsing going on a lecture tour in China to learn about Chinese vampires or something, and talk Peter Cushing into doing it with the promise of a free holiday after. Then early on in the flick we're going to team him up with a bunch of kung-fu brothers with cool weapons and contrive loads of ways to steer them all into a few big set peace kung-fu battles with the oriental Dracula bloke and his vampire minions. If you like, we'll throw in some zombie hordes as cannon fodder too, and obviously there'll be a village to protect which will probably stage the climatic battle sequence. Sound good?"
And that's exactly what you get, but there's just so much to love about this movie. It's basically a 70s kung-fu movie but acted with a stiff upper lip best of British attitude making it a bizarre combination of styles, but a combination that seems to work albeit a little uneasily. The thing is, the Chinese kung-fu actors don't talk much and look a little out of place when there's lengthy exposition going on, while on the other hand the British contingent politely seem to step out of the way when there's fighting to be done. It's like "You guys chat and then you guys fight the bad guys. Alright, action!" The only exception to the rule is Van Helsing's son, who properly embarrasses himself by trying some poorly rehearsed fisticuffs whenever he can.
But the kung-fu is good, the chatty bits are quite short and everyone seems to have a lot of fun. We also have a very good examples of zombie hordes rising from their graves, at night in slow-motion with lots of dry ice everywhere and with no dialogue going on, prompting Rawshark to remark "I like films with long silences in so you can talk over them". Class.
"Continue with the operation, you may fire when ready."
Zomblee The pure 70's-ness of Legend of the 7 Golden Vampires would win me over to start with. A very interesting point about this movie is that it is very late Hammer Production (1974), which is probably why they were getting as adventurous as fusing the kung-fu and vampire genres. You have to respect that really. Roy Ward Baker directed this gem and he pulled out all the stops in terms of visual lavishness. While some of his other work that I'd seen, like Asylum (1972), and The Vault of Horror (1973), were decent, entertaining compendium Amicus productions, they were nowhere near as daring as this bizarre feature.
From the opening, it looks great. Amazing, intense lighting with impressive traditional English and Chinese costumes everywhere. Peter Cushing plays Van Helsing (for what his probably the umpteenth time in his career) and considers himself "more of an authority" on the vampire legends than an "expert", and makes a point of camping it up more than ever!
I do have to say I was impressed by the living dead action in this movie - zombies arising out of their graves in true Zombie Flesh Eaters - style. It's a satisfying sight and one we don't see too often. As Jim points out too, the fact that they were doing this in 1974 demands a certain amount of respect (but no-one ever did it like Lucio Fulci!). Also on display is a fine array of topless Chinese girls (tied up), vampire gas (don't ask), a blonde Swedish bimbo (with bad clothes), a camp-as-you-like Dracula with really weird lipstick (oh, matron!), great / bad kung-fu action and plenty of red 'goo'. Goo seems to be a common feature in recent ZC films and at the end of the day, if I were making a horror film, I'd be inclined to include a scene involving goo of some sort. Then throw people into it and watch them bubble and dissolve.
Legend of the Seven Golden Vampires should be taken at face value - a crazy 70's romp which fuses genres to hilarious effect. As Jim pointed out, "It's the living definition of a cult classic". Couldn't say it better myself.
ďStrike at their hearts!Ē
Rawshark I must admit, Iíve never really been a huge fan of Hammer or Kung-Fu (or Dracula for that matter Ė the Count has always been a poncey villain as far as Iíve been concerned), but with Jim being so enthusiastic about this film, there surely had to be something in it.
And in actual fact it turns out to be a fairly enjoyable romp, although it really bears more relation to the Seven Samurai / Magnificent Seven genre of film than any of those mentioned above, right down to the idea of villagers as victims appealing to outside forces to save them from an evil tyrant (in this case a legion of deadly vampires).
Opening with an effective scene of Dracula possessing a Chinese priest the film quickly relocates to Asia where Van Helsing (an effective Peter Cushing) is trying to discover the secret of the Seven Golden Vampires legend. The fight scenes are well handled (apart from the European cast), and there are many well-shot set pieces, although the dialogue is largely ineffective, especially when delivered by the Asian contingent.
Yes, of course itís silly (what on earth are those Vampire Bat-Belts about then? Surely the TV Batman craze was over by 1974?), but generally Legend is an well filmed early 1970s UK production that tried something new. In fact it pretty much led to the Hong Kong horror/action/ comedy genre boom in the early 80s, with such films as Encounters of the Spooky Kind and (see below) Mr Vampire.
Pretty cool zombies, a good use of gratuitous female nudity and plenty of Kung-Fu action make for an ideal Zombie Club flick, but itís not necessarily a film Iíll be returning to in much of a hurry, mainly because I still canít see the huge appeal of Hammer.
"Who dares to disturb the sanctity of Dracula?"
Director Roy Ward Baker
Cast Peter Cushing
Fong Lah Ann
Runtime 87 mins
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Mr Vampire (1985)
Plot Chinese morticians battle a crowd of hopping vampires.
Jim Maybe I should have watched this one before I bought it to Zombie Club, or maybe we should have watched this one first, I don't know. Maybe even we should have paced ourselves a little better on the booze perhaps, either way getting I knew getting to the end of this was quite a struggle. From what I could gather the film was a period piece set in 19th Century China involving a mortuary that specialises in disposing of the hopping undead through the medium of kung-fu, sticky rice and by sticking bits of paper to their forehead. At least I think that's what it was about - I'm not entirely sure. For a lot of the film the subtitles were a blur, that or keeping up with them was too much hard work to really care about. But the kung-fu was decent and there was always something going on, although I reckon they relied a little too much on 'Hong Kong comedy' - if you know what I mean - to carry the movie. It didn't translate too well and even switching to a dubbed soundtrack halfway though didn't help.
Lessons to be learned:
- Don't bring a film to Zombie Club without watching it.
- Avoid 'Hong Kong' comedy.
- Don't get wankered before watching an asian subtitled film (unless it's Wild Zero).
"Mix the sticky rice with the normal rice, they'll never notice!"
Zomblee When I realised that Jim had chosen Mr Vampire without actually seeing it, I started to worry. I started to worry because we had already sat through fifteen very strange minutes of this incredibly unconventional film. Focusing was a problem. Let's face it, making sense of a Scooby Doo plot would've been a problem, but here we were, all admittedly having trouble 'keeping it together' to watch what is one of the oddest little flicks any of us had ever seen.
The first 'fight' is a crazy comedic ballet-type affair during which comments were being uttered toward Jim, the nights' Chairman/ChairZombie (i.e. he gets to choose what we watch), in a "what kind of choice for Zombie Club do you call this then?" kind of way. Halfway through I just seem to remember stating that "there'd better be some kind of pay-off!" as this was just too weird with not a glimpse of female nudity or gratuitous violence / gore in sight!
In all honesty I have to say that I cannot remember much of Mr Vampire. There may even have been some female nudity or gratuitous violence / gore and I missed it. I do know that we all started to enjoy its' kookiness towards the end, and that there was some kind of pay-off, though I can't remember exactly what it was. Probably a lot of sticky rice action. It was a massive struggle to keep up with the subtitles and I do remember, in a state of inebriatus intoxicus, requesting that we watch the dubbed version so that we a). could giggle at some awful dubbing, and b). might be able to keep better pace and make sense out of what the hell was going on plot-wise.
My TV never recovered from Mr Vampire and has not worked properly ever since. And I've gone off rice too.
"Death by sticky rice is not affecting you!"
(Eh?! No, seriously folks, sorry for that awful "review" - i'll try to pace myself better next
Rawshark The booze was starting to affect me too at this point, because all I can remember from this film are the hopping 'vampires' bouncing along like a line of kangaroos, the use of paper on the forehead to disable aforementioned kangaroo-hopping 'baddies' and lots and lots of sticky rice (which apparently affects the vampire in much the same way as Garlic affects a normal vampire, or too much drink affects the Zombie Club crew).
From what I recall this was more of a comedy than anything else, relying largely on slapstick (which actually was fairly amusing) for itís laughs. I remember us switching from subtitles to the dubbed version, but a quick rewind of the film proved that the context of the two were so different, it would probably be best to watch in the original language. Of course this meant that none of us really had a clue what was going on in the film (too wasted to focus on the subtitles), so we just sat back, yakked, and watched the visuals unfold in front of is in a swirly blur.
Reading up on this film one week later, I see a few online reviewers citing the ĎJail sceneí as one of the funniest ever scenes committed to film. I actually donít remember that one at all. This was my first time at ZC not making any notes. If we ever come across any weird HK comedy / horror / action films, I will make sure I have a pen and paper to hand, so that I can remember what the hell was going on.
Iím tempted to watch this film again, but sober this time, although Iím not really sure it would make sense even then. A very strange film, but in a good way (I think).
"Master, I don't want coffee. can I have a coke instead?"
Director Ricky Lau
Cast Ching-Ying Lam
Runtime 96 mins
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And another booze-ridden Zombie Club ends with nobody really following what happened (jail scene? What jail scene?) and not much recollection of getting home. Zombie Club, Zombie Club, Zombie Club - you've just got to love it, although the less said about Mr Vampire the better.
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