Friday, September 24, 2010

Captain Kronos - Vampire Hunter (1974)

Ah, Hammer. It's interesting to see them making a comeback (with upcoming films "The Neighbor" and the "Let the Right One In" remake "Let Me In"), as the studio had closed in the end of the 70's I believe, leaving behind a great, influential body of work, as well as several films that tend to get ignored. Among the most influential and well known films from the studio are their vampire films, from the Dracula films to movies like "The Vampire Loves," "Countess Dracula" and the film that is about to be reviewed, Brian Clemens' 1974 entry "Captain Kronos - Vampire Hunter."

In a small village, women are being found with their youth drained from their bodies due to a cloaked vampire. So, it's up to former Prussian Army member Captain Kronos (Horst Janson) and the Hunchbacked Dr. Marcus (John Carson) to save the day. Well, it turns out that much of this is due to the diabolical Lady Durward (Wanda Ventham), and that the old wooden stake to the heart isn't going to work this time-but a sword made from a steel crucifix should do the trick. Can Kronos save the day - and get with the beautiful Carla (former Bond Girl and genre vet Caroline Munro)?

Though not a serious complaint, one of the things that's hard to shake off is the hair Kronos has. It's a weird, pseudo John Denver hairstyle, and it becomes a bit difficult to take him seriously as a hero when he's got such a goofy look to him.

That out of the way, "Captain Kronos - Vampire Hunter" isn't the best Hammer vampire film, but it is a really fun blend of horror and swashbuckling adventure, with a noticeable humor being present. One of most noteworthy issues in the movie is the way it deviates from the vampire myth a slight bit. These vampires can go about in daylight and can't be killed by wooden stakes. It's interesting to see Hammer deviate a bit. They sure as hell don't deviate from the issue of class struggle, as Lady Durward is a villainous aristocrat that has literally been praying on the lower class. Hell, the whole vampires stealing the youth from young girls plot is an obvious metaphor for the older generation feeding off the younger one.

Performances are strong, with Janson making for a good hero in spite of his atrocious hair (it's not an easy thing to get over), and Ventham making for a fine villain who thankfully doesn't break into camp histrionics. The direction from Clemens is also fine, and while never really scary, it's still atmospheric enough to garner plenty of interest, and dammit if you don't have fun with it. You can tell those involved were enjoying themselves, so it's hard not to get swept up in it all.

Interestingly, Hammer was hoping for this to be a new series that would propel them for years-sadly that was not to be the case. A shame, as I would have liked to see him in further adventures, or maybe even go at it with another horror icon. Come on, Captain Kronos vs. Paul Naschy would have been great!

Rating: 8/10
This was the only movie Clemens directed. He does have several writing credits, including this film, several television credits, "The Tell Tale Heart, "The Watcher in the Woods" and to a far lesser extent, "Highlander II."

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