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Matthew Newland | Tropical Montreal, Quebec | 09/27/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Anchor Bay has decided to rerelease the films in their Hammer Studios catalogue not individually, but paired up in a series of double features, each set available for the original price of only one film. And to them I extend a hearty thank you ... not only for budget reasons, but for the combinations they seem to have decided upon. Stuck together here are a pair of Peter Cushing films, giving us two samples of him at work with two of the characters he is most remembered for bringing to life.
The first film of the two we're given in this wonderful set comes to us from 1967. Despite the cheesy and rather misleading title, "Frankenstein Created Woman" is a wonderful tale, sporting a simple but excellent story and some marvelous performances from everyone in the cast. Peter Cushing excels, as always, as Doctor Frankenstein (who's not so villainous this time around), displaying unfailing dedication to his experiments and marvelously dry wit (check out his remarks while being questioned in the courtroom. Classic!). Showing us a softer side of Doctor F, Cushing reanimates the body of a homely, outcast girl, a suicide victim, with the soul of her lover, Hans, a young man executed for a crime he did not commit. Hans went to the guillotine rather than ruin his lady's virtue and name her as his alibi (as they were spending the night together the night the murder took place), and after finding himself alive again, holds no other thoughts but taking revenge on the real killer(s).
It`s not a complicated tale at all, but the wonderful performances, nice sets, and striking images (such as the opening shot, as the camera looks up at the guillotine blade) make it a very memorable and enjoyable film indeed.
But as much as I did enjoy "Frankenstein Created Woman", I must admit that I went for this double-feature set for the second film included here, 1974's "Legend of the Seven Golden Vampires". In an attempt to inject new life into the struggling series, the folks of Hammer Studios took their Van Helsing franchise to Hong Kong, where they made an unusual film featuring Professor Van Helsing, Vampire Hunter (Peter Cushing, wonderful as ever) fighting more of his undead adversaries in turn of the century China. And believe me, this is one fun movie.
The land is under a terrible curse, as the peasants cringe in fear beneath a brotherhood of seven vampires, led by none other than Count Dracula himself, come all the way from Transylvania (and beneath the mask of a Chinese vampire ... and no, Christopher Lee does NOT play Dracula when we see him in his true form at the beginning of the film. I understand that Lee had tired of the role and wished to move on at this point in the series). Van Helsing agrees to use his vampire slaying expertise and come to the aid of a young man named Hsi Ching, and together with Hsi Ching's six brothers put an end to the Seven Vampire's reign of terror.
What follows is an unusual half-martial arts/half-British gothic horror story, with armies of Chinese Zombies, Kung Fu fighting, vampire attacks, Kung Fu fighting, scenes of blood letting, and more Kung Fu fighting, until at the very last Van Helsing and Dracula face each other off for one last time (as this would prove to be the final entry to the series). Both goofy and serious at the same time (like the moment when Hsi Ching wipes his fingers off on a falling enemy's shirt), you`ll be hard pressed to find a more interesting or unusual tale ... but at the same time you can't deny that it's a well written, well made, and well acted film. The fight scenes are masterfully choreographed, and we even get to see the aging Mr. Cushing himself do a number of impressive stunts.
This double-feature set from Anchor Bay Entertainment doesn't skimp out on the extras. Though there are no commentary tracks, we still get, with FCW, a nice selection of trailers plus an interesting overview of the entire Frankenstein series, narrated by British actor Oliver Reed. As for Lot7GV, we're given both the original and American cuts of the film (where basically, for the American version, they left in all the action scenes and cut everything else out), a trailer for the American cut (sporting some [un?]intentionally hilarious narration, and an audio dramatization of the film's story, read to us by Peter Cushing himself (great to have on while you're doing housework, though I'm not totally sure what purpose it was originally meant to serve).
So go ahead and give this set a try. You'll get two great movies for one great price, and you'll have a pair of excellent films that you'll want to revisit often and should be sure to share with friends. In addition to this, if you're a Peter Cushing fan and are wondering where to start, this set would make an ideal beginning to your movie collection.
Carry on Carry on,
A good triple-bill
Trevor Willsmer | London, England | 11/11/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Frankenstein Created Woman is one of the better of Hammer's Frankenstein sequels, an efficient programmer that sees Peter Cushing's Baron trapping the soul of his guillotined assistant and putting it in the body of his disfigured girlfriend, only for the wronged boy to use her to kill those who really done the crime he was executed for. There's more build-up than payoff, but its very sedateness (indeed, almost cosiness) is part of the pleasure, and it's hard not to warm to the Baron's arrogance and aloofness, whether it be reading in the witness box or casually answering a policeman's "Do you take us for fools?" with a simple "Yes." Still, it is remarkable just how well preserved that severed head is after six months...
The Legend of the 7 Golden Vampires is a much less successful hybrid combining Hammer horror and mid-70s chop socky movie as Dracula (not Christopher Lee but an inadequate John Forbes Robertson), for reasons never really explained, possesses the body of a Chinese bad guy to control six golden vampires while Cushing's Van Helsing, on a far from successful Chinese lecture tour, finds himself teaming up with seven brothers and their one sister to rid a remote Chinese village of yada yada yada.. "Black belt against black magic" screams the trailer, and while it's not as poor as I recalled, the only things going for it are a few okay action scenes and a magnificent display of bosom heaving from Julie Ege in one particularly memorable shot.
But it's a masterpiece compared to the butchered US version, retitled The Seven Brothers Meet Dracula, which makes it sound like a bad Howard Keel musical. Although the original was far from dialog-heavy, a good two-thirds of the dialog has been dropped completely (in some cases you can still see the actors' lips moving but no sound emerging). Even more bizarre is the opening two reels, which reuse much of the same footage three times in a row in three separate scenes, hoping that by flipping it around no-one will notice. The end result is a surreal experience that just washes over you.
Although I'd probably not have been tempted to buy either of the two main features, as a double-bill they make for a nicely complimentary package. Anchor Bay's extras package on the films are good: Frankenstein comes with trailer and TV spots (for its double-bill release with The Mummy's Shroud - "Beware the beat of the cloth-wrapped feet!") and an episode of the World of Hamer clip show, while The Legend of the 7 Golden Vampires includes both cuts of the film, the US trailer (which the narrator constantly refers to as 'The Seven Brothers and Their One Sister Meet Dracula'!) and the old LP narrated by Peter Cushing as an audio extra."
Crouching Vampires, Hidden Monsters
mrliteral | 02/10/2006
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Perhaps the biggest star that came out of the Hammer Studios horror movies was Christopher Lee, but if I had to guess, it would be Peter Cushing who appeared in more movies (and was a pretty big name in his own right). In the two disc set Frankenstein Created Woman and Legend of the Seven Golden Vampires, we get to see Cushing reprising his two biggest roles, that of Frankenstein and Van Helsing.
As one of the title characters in Frankenstein Created Woman, he is up to his usual tricks attempting to create life. This time, his method involves catching the soul of a recently deceased person; this soul can then be used to reanimate the body after it has been repaired. When his assistant is executed for a murder he didn't commit, Frankenstein gets his soul, but not the body he needs. This is supplied by his assistant's lover, who drowned herself upon his death. The assistant's soul reanimates her, but also possesses her, making her seek vengeance on those who framed him. After becoming the agent of her resurrection, Frankenstein almost becomes more of an observer as the havoc ensues.
More interesting is Legend of the Seven Golden Vampires, the last in the Hammer series of Dracula movies. In this one, Dracula goes east to empower and control the Seven Golden Vampires, a septet of half-decayed beings who have terrorizing a remote Chinese village. They're vicious, they can raise zombies to fight for them and they know martial arts! Opposing them is Cushing's Van Helsing and a set of seven brothers and one sister who are skilled warriors themselves. What results is an interesting blend of eerie horror movie and old style "kung fu" movie, with plenty of fight scenes. Once again, Cushing's character is often more on the sidelines than in the midst of the action; while hardly feeble, he doesn't have the physical presence to be a believable action hero.
While neither movie is a classic, both are entertaining, with Legend the better of the two. Individually, the Frankenstein movie rates a high three stars, Legend a low four. Add in a couple bonus features and this is a fun four-star set, a pleasant diversion for fans of older horror movies.
Great Package! Anchor Bay does it right. Sountrack review
Phasedin | New Jersey | 02/20/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"There are several reviews for these 2 quite enjoyable Hammer films. So I won't add to that. If you're a Hammer fan you already know the stories. If not, the other reviews give a good idea of the plot. Suffice to say i've been watching these 2 films-first edited (naturally) on TV, then unedited on viedotape and now on DVD since the first airings of "Created Woman" on TV here in the states in the early 70's, and "Legend" since about the late 70's. These are the best versions so far of these 2 Hammer films. My curiosity was peaked with the 46 minute-long narrative version of the story that's included on the DVD of "Legend". My guess was that-especially considering the vinyl-lp length version of the story, that this was probably released in a limited version sometime during the original run of the film. A quick look on EBAY sure enough revealed that an LP was released in 1974-it seems only in England. If you want a copy the only one I saw listed for about $200. So it's really nice to have that reproduced here digitally. Being around myself at the time-and a Hammer fan also at that point (yeah, i'm old)I would have certainly known (and owned it) had the LP been available here in the U.S. I'll be copying this soundtrack onto tape to listen to in my car-for sure. It's very well done, and a bit sad since Mr Cushing (who narrates most of it) is no longer with us. And i'm one of his biggest fans. Anyway, the only way Anchor Bay could have done better is to give some credits for this old LP. There's some other narration on here before Cushings introduction which sounds like it could be John Forbes Robinson himself, possibly (who plays Dracula in the movie) and there's some fine soundtrack work-which may actually be the music from the film-not sure of that, i'll have to do a comparison real soon. I'm a sucker for audio CD's of horror tales-probably from my youth when there was no videotape or DVDs so one could not purchase, rent, or view your favorite movies antime, anywhere, like today. I still collect these things and love to listen to horror tales-especially around Halloween and driving in the car (especially on long evening drives). So the price for the DVD alone is worth it just to have this wonderful artifact from the past reproduced. i don't know how many folks this will matter to, but for those like me who enjoy this stuff, there's just a TON of entertainment on these 2 very reasonably priced discs. long live Anchor Bay!!"
Stanley Runk | Camp North Pines | 08/14/2006
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Frankenstein Created Woman(Hammer were great with film titles, weren't they?) has Frankenstein graduating to soul transplants. Sounds like a great idea and a real breakthrough in medical science, but since this is a Frankensetin film, you know it's all gonna go to hell pretty quickly. The "monster" this time around is the reanimated body of a crippled woman who's possessed by the soul of her lover who was falsely executed. Naturally, being executed for a crime he didn't commit kinda pissed him off, so he uses his girlfriend's body to pull a Charles Bronson on the real culprits(a trio of snootyass British rich boys). Another great Hammer Frankenstein entry, but aren't they all? Legend Of The 7 Golden Vampires was Hammer's last grasp at keeping their Dracula series alive(or dead if you will). The gimmick is setting the film in China and making it into a martial arts film. Sound goofy? Well, it is. Hammer kung fu is kinda hard to fathom till you've seen it. In this one, Van Helsing has travelled to China in search of a lost city that is under the rule of the seven vampires of the title. Everyone in China thinks Van Helsing is a superstitious schmuck except seven brothers who have sworn to bring the vampires down and restore peace to the village. They enlist Van Helsing's help, and along with his son and a rich blonde chick, they all go out in search of the seven golden vampires. Turns out Dracula himself has taken over as leader of the cult. Far fetched? Of course, but it's fun. Cushing does a wonderful job of seamlessley and credibly transplanting his Van Helsing character into a different world. He even gets in on a little of the physical action as well!! Unfortunately Christopher Lee couldn't be lured back and the guy playing Dracula just doesn't feel right. That's no big deal I guess coz Dracula's part is pretty minimal. This isn't the best of Hammer films, but you really got to give it marks for originality. Anchor Bay's got another winner."