By the early '70s, the beloved English horror and science-fiction studio Hammer was losing it. After about 15 years spent turning out distinctive, entertaining films made on modest budgets, the studio tried to stay relevant by resorting to desperate variations on classic horror themes—for an example, see Dr. Jekyll And Sister Hyde. One of the more bizarre developments was Hammer's decision to team up with Hong Kong's Shaw Brothers, the production company behind numerous kung-fu hits. Though both studios possessed a unique aesthetic and emphasized thrift and volume, it proved an uncomfortable marriage both onscreen and off, producing only two films. Both were recently released to video for the first time. Shatter (a.k.a. Call Him Mr. Shatter), a stupefyingly dull action film, combines some of the worst elements of both studios. The middle-aged, laconic, mumbling Stuart Whitman stars as Shatter, the sort of action hero only aging film executives could love. When he's double-crossed after assassinating an African dictator, Whitman finds himself deep in the seedy Hong Kong underworld with only a handful of martial-arts experts to protect him; allowing the film to occasionally stop for superfluous fight scenes meant to tap into the then-peaking kung-fu craze. Peter Cushing lends some gravity in his few scenes, but Shatter is otherwise notable only for being partially directed by Two Lane Blacktop director Monte Hellman, who was yanked from the project and replaced by producer Michael Carreras. Cushing was on hand having wrapped filming of 1973's Legend Of The 7 Golden Vampires, a flawed but far more enjoyable hybrid of the Shaw Brothers and Hammer styles. Cushing once again plays Professor Van Helsing, who this time pursues Dracula—played less than memorably by John Forbes-Robinson, Christopher Lee having finally tired of the role—to China. There, he encounters an ancient legend about seven vampires terrorizing the Chinese countryside and decides to pursue them, but not before hooking up with the voluptuous Julie Ege and the ubiquitous handful of martial-arts experts. 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. This tape also marks the first time Legend Of The 7 Golden Vampires has been seen in its entirety in the U.S., having previously been released in a butchered form (playing up the nudity and gore) under the title The Seven Brothers Meet Dracula. Both versions are included here. That's probably more than most people will want to watch, but it's bargain-priced, and if you're looking for the exact cross between a staid British horror film and a cheap kung-fu movie, this is probably all you'll ever need, or find.
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