Horror Fu: 1970s

by Michael Lauck on October 1, 2012 · 0 comments in Buddhist Blog

October brings most of us a bit of chill in the air and, better yet, a bit of chill to the film and video offerings. As horror dominates film and TV for the next few weeks we will also be lucky enough to have two martial arts films (Tai Chi 0 and Man With The Iron Fists) hit the theaters. At home, though, we can mix our martial arts with horror with all manner of films from China, Japan and even the United States. Well, we won’t always be able to mix martial arts and horror but we can at least mix our horror with martial arts stars! Every week in October we will bring you a selection of horror movies for the martial arts fan. We’ll hit a different decade every week, starting this week with the 1970s, and highlight movies that are at least theoretically possible to obtain. That means that they might be out of print or imports but they’re around if you want to spend the cash.

The 1970s were a strange decade in a whole bunch of ways. One could argue that the global film industry was fueled by the drive-ins that littered America. Cable TV and home video were both very young industries so most movie-goers still got their entertainment out of the house or from the few local broadcast channels. Drive-ins brought us giant monsters stomping Tokyo, women in exotic jungle prisons, high kicking Shaolin monks and all sorts of grindhouse treats. Horror went through a revolution in the ’70s. The ’60s were dominated with low budget, cheap black and white thrillers that were basically safe for family viewing but Hammer movies, the splatter flicks of Herschell Gordon Lewis and mainstream success of The Exorcist ushered in a new era of (some say gratuitous) blood, gore and nudity. Basically, the 1970s are when movies got awesome.

Although films of the foot and fist dominated the Hong Kong film scene during this time, the Shaw Brothers saw fit to work in a few horror films. Black Magic (and its sequel) is the most commonly recognized Shaw experiment with the genre and (in my mind) a darn fine film as well. Lo Lieh, Ti Lung and Lily Li all tangle with evil forces and craziness ensues. Although you may have read that this was their first horror movie in decades it is not at all true. In fact, a couple years earlier they put out The Bride From Hell. Marriage… that is scary, especially when your wife’s family are demons. Golden Harvest also got in the horror business with The Bedevilled, a film about a the ghosts of the innocent plaguing a judge.

England brings us a fine option that mixes horror and martial arts. Horst Janson sports a samurai sword and kicks undead ass in Hammer’s Captain Kronos: Vampire Hunter. Unlike Hammer’s Dracula films the vampires in Kronos are not bloodsuckers but youth stealing monsters that prey on young girls. The film also mixes in a dose of pseudo-Eastern influence (as Kronos rocks the katana and meditates) and scream queen Caroline Munro for good measure. Supposedly, this was to be the first in a series of Kronos adventures but budget problems at Hammer kept sequels from being produced. It is a shame because Captain Kronos brought new ideas to the vampire genre and the promise of samurai style action. The only directorial effort by Brian Clemons, he not only wrote the film but also many episodes of The Avengers, New Avengers and other series.

My number one recommendation from the 1970s is another Hammer offering, co-produced with Shaw Brothers. It is, of course, The Legend of the 7 Golden Vampires (aka The Seven Brothers Meet Dracula, also aka The Seven Brothers and Their One Sister Meet Dracula). When the evil of Dracula spreads to the Chinese countryside, Van Helsing (Peter Cushing) is recruited by David Chiang and Shih Szu to help destroy the vampire menace. With a crazy wheel of virgin maidens to fuel the blood troughs, ugly medallions that hold in the life force of the undead and a mix of hopping vampires and European bloodsuckers this movie literally has everything that a kung fu movie fan could want at Halloween. It is a hard movie to find (at least, it is hard to find an affordable copy) but entirely worth it.

Check back next week for a look at 80s Horror Fu!

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