By 1974 Hammer Films was in its death throes, its films had become formulaic--boring and predictable. Their vampire films in particular were suffering from severe anemia despite copious amounts of blood being spilled, and not even the savage, arrogant charisma of Christoper Lee seemed capable of rescuing the Dracula films from certain death at the box office. It was at this point that Hammer finally decided to change its approach. Toward this end they hired Brian Clemens, best known for his work on television's AVENGERS, to "revamp" the genre. The film he created was CAPTAIN KRONOS VAMPIRE HUNTER, possibly the freshest, most creative vampire film to ever grace the genre. It completely re-thought the entire concept of the vampire, taking him out of the drawing room that Bela Lugosi to which Bela Lugosi had been confined and away from the image of the revenge seeking, magnetic animal Christopher Lee frequently portrayed. KRONOS' vampires would be different (for this film was to have been the FIRST of a series of films), they would be of many types, almost as if they were each of a different species. They would each "live" in a different manner, survive by taking different things from their victims, be detected in different ways, and be destroyed by totally different means as well. How cool is that?! In addition to having a good old fashioned monster movie of sorts we would also be given a NEW type that includes a mystery to be unraveled.
CAPTAIN KRONOS begins with the arrival of our titular hero portrayed by Horst Jansen who (who sports a Japanese katana) , and his hunchbacked assistant/mentor Professor Hieronymos Grost (John Cater). They are seeking the village of Durward, having been summoned by Kronos' old friend Dr. Marcus after some very strange deaths occurred in the village. Along the way they encounter the luscious Carla (Caroline Munro), a naughty gypsy girl whom Kronos frees from the stocks. Her crime? Dancing on Sunday. Of course she joins them, which is handy since they will need her for vampire bait later in the story. Marcus quickly fills our intrepid duo of vampire hunters in on the killer's modus operandi; it seems that young girls have suddenly been drained of their youth and left to die of old age, with only the slightest trace of blood upon their lips! This is a killer who seems to have no respect either for crosses or, as we soon learn, churches themselves since one of the girls meets her doom within the supposed safety of a church's walls. There are still more deaths as Kronos and Grost lay traps devised on Grost's knowledge of ancient folklore in an effort to determine the vampire's identity. Since this vampire steals youth itself from its victims rather than blood, they must seek out someone who has a "cheek with a bloom on it".
CAPTAIN KRONOS is one of the few 34 year old films that plays as well today as it did when it was initially released. One reason was the addition of the swordplay scenes which were choreographed by William Hobbs who also choreographed the 1974 Richard Lester version of THE THREE MUSKETEERS. The fight between Hobbs and Jansen pitted katana against a fencing foil and had a wonderfully, messy, realistic look to the action. The use of the katana was no doubt intended to capitalize on the new-found popularity of Asian martial arts films in the west. Hammers' own co-production with Shaw Brothers THE LEGEND OF THE SEVEN GOLDEN VAMPIRES was released in 1974 as well. Another reason it still plays well is the film's absolute break from the traditional Hammer/Hollywood vamps whose vampire "lore" had been established primarily by Bram Stoker in his novel and which had been taken as gospel ever since. Instead Clemens has given us something unique and completely original. This is a vampire film based on folklore rather than a Victorian novel, some of the lore is real some of it "reel". The influences of its ground breaking storyline can still be seen today in BLADE and BUFFY and their ilk where for better or worse, vampires and their eternal foes have evolved into the 21st century and perhaps fallen into their own brand new cliches. While we may occasionally long for a good old fashioned Victorian romp a la Cushing and Lee, I still live for the day that I might walk into a movie and see something as stunningly original as CAPTAIN KRONOS was in 1974.
This film unfortunately failed upon its initial release for reasons I still can't fathom. Its recent release on DVD seems to have enabled it to finally have found its audience however, and it's about time. But it's far too late to do us any good. There will never be a series of CAPTAIN KRONOS films as Brian Clemens had intended, and all I can say is, what a loss. If you haven't seen it, pick up a copy and give it a chance. The photography and sets are excellent and the film simply oozes vintage Hammer in that respect. The actors are all at their peak--Jansen, who looks like a taller, blonder Roman Polanski, was dubbed even though his English was supposedly more than acceptable--I defy you to notice the dub job. There is virtually no violence (the vampire "killing blow" is delivered via a kiss) and the film contains even less gore than it does violence. But there are a great many wonderful touches that more than compensate for this. Best of all the script and direction by Brian Clemens couldn't be better--and with THE AVENGERS on one's resume, what would you expect?
Captain Kronos - Vampire Hunter is indeed an oddity among vampire films and in the canon of Hammer horror films. The film doesn't star either Christopher Lee or Peter Cushing, it doesn't contain the usual bloodsucking antics of vampires, and it bends if not breaks most of the rules of the horror genre... and yet somehow it works in an eccentrically brilliant fashion. The film tells the tale of a soldier, adventurer, and vampire hunter named Kronos and his strange … more
Captain Kronos, TO THE RESCUE! A killer vampire hunter, hot & sexy English STUD and an expert swordsman to boot, who, with the physical & sexual assistance of the gorgeous gypsy shorty Carla and his hunchbacked homeboy, Professor Grost, scour the whole of England in search of a vampire that is draining the life out of all the pretty country girls, leaving them dead & horribly aged in the process. I bought this movie on sale and was quite pleased with my purchase. TOO BAD that there wasn't a Captain … more