In Transylvania in 1804, a lone shaman figure makes his way through the countryside and into the towering Castle Dracula. He heads over to the tomb of the legendary vampire before summoning him. Soon, Count Dracula appears from his crypt and demands who has disturbed him. The figure announces, in his own language, that his name is Kah, a Taoist monk and High Priest of the Seven Golden Vampires in rural China. He goes on to tell the Count that the Golden Vampires' power is fading and he needs him to restore their former glory. Dracula considers the offer and accepts on one condition: that he takes on Kah's body and image to escape his castle, which has become his prison.
Despite pleas for mercy, the vampire takes hold of Kah in a cloud of unearthly mist and they are both subdued. When the mist clears, Kah speaks with the voice of Count Dracula, who then triumphantly leaves the tomb, bound for China...
In 1904, Professor Lawrence Van Helsing (Peter Cushing) gives a lecture at a Chungking university on Chinese vampire legend. He speaks of an unknown rural village that has been terrorised by a cult of seven known as 'Golden Vampires' for many years. He goes on to explain that a simple farmer, armed with a pitch-fork and who had lost his wife to the vampires, trekked his way to the temple of the vampires, where he saw many other unfortunate women strapped to tables, waiting for their blood to be drained. The farmer burst in and battled the vampires. He is unsuccessful as his wife is killed in the fight, but in the chaos, he grabbed a bat-like medallion from around one of the vampire's necks, which he sees as the vampires' life source. Defeated, the farmer flees the temple, but the High Priest orders the vampires after him. After they leave on horseback, the High Priest summons the vampire's former victims: the 'Undead' from their graves to aid the seven vampires. Still carrying the medallion, the farmer places it around a small model of a Jade Buddha. He knocks desperately on the locked village gates, but it is in vain. The vampires and their undead catch up with him and kill him. One of the vampires spies the medallion around the Buddha and goes over to collect it. The moment the vampire touched the Buddha, the creature is destroyed in flames.
Van Helsing goes on to say that he is positive the village still exists and is still terrorised by the six remaining vampires. He is only unsure of where the village lies. Most students disapprove of the story and leave. Back in Van Helsing's rented house, a student named Hsi Ching (David Chiang) informs him that the legend is true and that he knows the location of the village. He goes on to say that the farmer from the story was his grandfather. He proves it by producing the dead vampire's bat-like medallion. He then asks Van Helsing if he would be willing to travel to the village and destroy the vampire menace. Van Helsing agrees and embarks with his son, Leyland Van Helsing (Robin Stewart), Hsi Ching and his seven kung-fu trained siblings on a dangerous journey, funded by a wealthy widow named Vanessa Buren (Julie Ege), who Leyland and two of Ching's siblings saved from an attack by the Tongs.
On the journey, they are ambushed by three of the six remaining vampires in a cave along with the undead. The group are quickly engaged in battle and soon kill the three vampires. The remaining beasts, sensing they are outnumbered, are quick to retreat, taking their army of undead with them. The following morning, the party reach the village, partly ruined but still populated, and prepare to make their final stand. They use wooden stakes as barriers and dig a large trench around them filled with flammable liquid. In the temple that evening, Kah calls on the remaining vampires to kill Van Helsing and his party once and for all. The vampires ride on horseback, followed by their army of undead, to the village.
The vampires reach the village, and soon, Van Helsing's group once again do battle with the last golden vampires and their undead, resulting in nearly all their party and the villagers being massacred. During the fight, Vanessa is bitten by a vampire and she quickly becomes one. She then seduces Ching and bites his neck. Knowing what he will become and what he has to do, Ching throws himself and Vanessa onto a wooden stake, killing them both. Elsewhere, the remaining vampire captures Mai Kwei (Shih Szu), Ching's sister, and takes her back to the temple to be drained. Seeing this, Leyland steals a horse from one of the dead vampires and pursues. The undead defeated, Van Helsing and his remaining party follow to help Leyland at the temple.
Having reached the temple, the vampire straps Mai Kwei to one of the altars. It is about to drain her when Leyland leaps onto the creature's back and throws it to the ground, before freeing the sister. The vampire comes around and attacks Leyland, throwing him onto one of the altars in the struggle. Leyland is about to be drained when Van Helsing and his group burst in. Van Helsing thrusts a spear into the vampire's back, impaling it. Dying, the last of the golden vampires stumbles and collapses into a vat of boiling blood, where it quickly evaporates, leaving behind the bat-like medallion, its mask, a pile of dried blood, and red dust.
The survivors depart from the temple, save for Van Helsing, who feels a familiar atmosphere. Sure enough, a familiar voice barks from behind him. Van Helsing turns around to face Kah the High Priest. Recognizing the voice, Van Helsing realises that Dracula is using the form of the Monk to control the golden vampires and their undead. Van Helsing demands Dracula to show himself, calling him a coward. Dracula reverts to his true form and attacks Van Helsing. In the ensuing struggle, Van Helsing succeeds in stabbing Dracula with a spear through the heart. Defeated, the Count collapses onto one of the altars and gradually decays to bones. The spear that killed him collapses, smashing the vampire's skull. Soon, there is nothing left of the Count, save for his dusty remains and the blood-stained spear. Van Helsing sighs with relief as the nightmare of Count Dracula is finally over.Peter Cushing as Professor Lawrence Van Helsing
John Forbes-Robertson as Count Dracula
David de Keyser provides the uncredited voice of Dracula
Robin Stewart as Leyland Van Helsing
Julie Ege as Vanessa Buren
Robert Hanna as British Consul
David Chiang as Hsi Ching
Shih Szu as Mai Kwei
Chan Shen as High Priest Kah/Count Dracula Host
Liu Chia-Yung as Hsi Kwei (archer)
Huang Pei-Chih as Hsi Po-Kwei (spearman)
Wang Chiang as Hsi San (twin swordsman)
Feng Ko-An as an assassin
Hsu Hsia as an assassin
Both Roy Ward Baker, a British director who had helmed several previous Hammer films, and Chang Cheh, a veteran Hong Kong action director, worked on the movie, though only Baker is credited. He took over the making of the film after Gordon Hessler left it weeks before. Filming was hard, as both Chinese and British crews had to work together in spite of language and cultural problems.
The Legend of the 7 Golden Vampires was a co-production with Hong Kong's Shaw Studio, made in the hope of garnering some of the kung fu movie market share.
The movie was released with various titles in different locations, including The Seven Brothers Meet Dracula and Dracula and the Seven Golden Vampires. During some scenes involving roving gangs of undead, several vampires can be seen hopping up and down, as vampires tend to do in Chinese vampire films.
The North American release version trims twenty minutes of the film's footage and soundtrack and loops several remaining scenes to fill the running time.
Critical reaction to the film has been mixed. Keith Phipps of The A.V. Club called the film "flawed" but "enjoyable", adding, "It's pretty much as ridiculous as it sounds, but there's something inherently entertaining about make-up-splattered vampires, distinguished British actors, and martial artists squaring off in periodic eruptions of kung-fu fighting."
Phil Chandler of DVD Cult wrote, "Is it the best Hammer horror film ever made? Hell no. Is it the best Hammer film of the seventies? Hell yeah."
Graeme Clark of The Spinning Image said, "Cushing, in his last Hammer Dracula film, is as commanding as ever, but he and his Western companions are pretty disposable to the plot until the end, where the professor is left alone with the Count, who is hardly needed. Nevertheless, this last Hammer vampire outing has a real energy, in spite of being a mishmash, and is different enough to get by on sheer novelty alone."
Writing in The Zombie Movie Encyclopedia, academic Peter Dendle called the raising of the undead army "one of the most visually spectacular in zombie cinema". Glenn Kay, who wrote Zombie Movies: The Ultimate Guide, called the film "boisterous, action-packed, and very likeable".
The DVD from Anchor Bay features both the Seven Brothers Meet Dracula version as well as the original uncut Legend of the 7 Golden Vampires version. The DVD also features a recording of Peter Cushing telling the story of the film with music and sound effects, which was released as an LP record at the time of the film's release.