Cult movies. What Quentin Tarantino was brought up on, and what many actors got their breaks in. Some even made entire careers out of them, such as Peter Cushing who starred in Legend of the seven golden vampires among many other movies. Get acquainted with that movie here, with a little help from co-star Julie Ege.
In this movie, vampire hunter Lawrence Van Helsing (Peter Cushing) has travelled to China to study Chinese vampirology. A remote village is terrorized by gold-masked vampires that kidnaps young girls to use them in bloody rituals. Van Helsing then meets seven brothers who are willing to put an end to the terror, if they get help from him. The money for the dangerous expedition is put up by a rich Scandinavian woman who also happens to be in China, Vanessa Buren (Julie Ege).
Legend of the seven golden vampires was a co-production between legendary Hong Kong studio Shaw Brothers, and the equally legendary Hammer Studios in England, a studio which made its mark in movies between the 1930s and 70s with their special kind of gothic horror movies, often featuring old castles, remote woods and Victorian costumes. What makes Legend of the seven golden vampires special is that it combines Western vampire mythology with Chinese martial arts, which started to gain popularity in the West in the late 60s and 70s, especially with movies starring Bruce Lee. Legend of the seven golden vampires is possibly the first, and perhaps one of the best examples of low-budget horror merged with martial arts. The technical level is perhaps a little laughable if seen with today’s eyes, but the entertainment level is great for anyone into B-movies. The movie has a nice atmosphere and does not pretend to be better than it is.
Peter Cushing was the main draw of the movie. Cushing was known for many Sherlock Holmes films and Hammer horror movies, and Legend of the seven golden vampires was one of his finals movies for Hammer. Cushing played in seven movies with “Dracula” in the title, and even more vampire movies than that, and not surprisingly the bloodthirsty count does make a short appearance in this film.
The script is no doubt a version of Kurosawa’s Seven Samurai, where seven warriors are hired to protect a small village. Apart from a fun and enjoyable story and a great fantasy-adventure feel, Legend of the seven golden vampires also offers lots of martial arts, topless virgin sacrifices, violent murders and burning zombie vampires, so there’s enough to enjoy. What is also special about the movie is that it features a Norwegian actress in the female lead role, a rarity in foreign horror movies today and totally unheard of in the 70s. Julie Ege was Norway’s first international pin-up model, then went on to be a Bond babe in In Her Majesty’s Secret Service, and continued with an acting career that included everything from prehistoric fantasy (Hammer’s Creatures the World Forgot) via horror movies (including The Mutations with Donald Pleasence and the sci-fi comedy The Last Days of Man on Earth) to silly comedies and Norwegian dramas. After ending her acting career, Julie Ege studied at the university and became a nurse.
Julie Ege: I played the role of a Swedish lady who was travelling in China. She was either single, or a widow, and had some money. At a dinner party, she met [Peter Cushing’s character] Van Helsing, and offered him money in return for joining a hunt for vampires…. or something like that. It was a martial arts movie, a kung-fu movie, a horror movie, a mix of everything.
Question: What do you remember from the shooting?
Julie Ege: What I recall mostly is that we filmed night and day, as it was a low budget movie and [needed to be done quickly]. This was in 1974 and I enjoyed travelling to Hong Kong for a few weeks, but it was a lot of work and many of us got sick from the hard work.
Question: What was it like to work with a veteran and legend like Peter Cushing?
Julie Ege: He was a very nice man! He was very calm and polite and private. He had recently become a widow, and mourned his wife. He sometimes layed the table for his wife [even though she was not there], and walked around observing a lot, just being curious. He also got sick with the flu, but still got up early in the morning and worked all day. He was very professional and a very nice guy.
Question: Do you think Legend of the seven golden vampires is a great movie?
Julie Ege: Great? Hehe, no, it’s an adventure movie, and it has many fans and has become a cult movie. Those old Hammer movies have become [part of a cult movement]. But for me it was just a job – I made some money and got to visit Hong Kong, which was very interesting. I made another movie for Hammer where we shot in Africa, and that was [very exotic too]. You have to remember, this was a long time ago and our [private] travels didn’t go further than to Spain.
This interview was first broadcast on radio in 2003. Julie Ege died from cancer in 2008.