Sunday, March 18, 2018

#2,490. Captain Kronos - Vampire Hunter (1974) - Hammer Horror Movies

Directed By: Brian Clemens

Starring: Horst Janson, John Carson, Shane Briant

Tag line: "The Only Man Alive Feared by the Walking Dead!"

Trivia: Ingrid Pitt has said in interviews she refused the Wanda Ventham cameo role

Released by Hammer Studios in 1974, Captain Kronos - Vampire Hunter stars Horst Jansen as the title character, a 19th century soldier who, with the help of his hunchbacked accomplice Professor Grost (John Cater), roams the English countryside destroying any vampire foolish enough to get in his way. 

Joined by a young woman named Carla (Caroline Munro), who they freed from the stocks (she was imprisoned for - of all things - dancing on a Sunday), Kronos and Grost travel to a small village, where, according to Kronos’s friend and former comrade Dr. Marcus (John Carson), a number of pretty young women have mysteriously died.

Based on the circumstances surrounding their deaths (each victim was bitten on the lips, and their corpses appeared to be much older than the girls actually were), Grost is convinced that a vampire is on the prowl, and he and Kronos set to work trying to track it down. But will they learn the true identity of this evil predator before it strikes again? 

And even if they do, will they know how to kill it? 

Having already released a string of successful vampire films (starting with Horror of Dracula in 1958), Hammer mixed things up a bit with Captain Kronos - Vampire Hunter. As with the Dracula series, this 1974 movie features a handful of gothic set pieces, the most interesting being the ancestral home of the Durward clan, where the reclusive Paul Durward (Shane Briant) resides with his sister Sara (Lois Daine) and their sickly mother (Wanda Ventham). But unlike the studio’s previous entries, Captain Kronos was shot primarily in the great outdoors, in the picturesque Black Park area of Wexham, Buckinghamshire (which also stood in for Transylvania in some of Hammer’s earlier Dracula movies). 

Even more intriguing are the vampires themselves, which are far from traditional; unlike Christopher Lee’s Dracula, the vampiric foe in Captain Kronos attacks in broad daylight, and cannot be killed in the usual manner (as Grost tells Dr. Marcus at one point “There are as many species of vampire as there are beasts of prey. Their methods and their motive for attack can vary in a hundred different ways”). What’s more, the bloodsucker haunting this particular village isn’t a bloodsucker at all! Instead of plasma, this vampire drains the life force from its victims, which – according to Grost’s theory - it needs to maintain its own youthful appearance. 

In addition, Captain Kronos – Vampire Hunter has its share of action scenes (there are a handful of well-choreographed swordfights) and boasts several strong performances, including Horst Janson as the enigmatic lead (we learn very little about Kronos’s background) and John Cater as the slightly deformed expert who advises Kronos every step of the way. 

The initial plan was for Hammer to turn Captain Kronos into a series. Unfortunately, it was the victim of bad timing; by the mid-‘70s, the studio’s gothic horror films had run their course, with each new release (this one included) taking in less and less at the Box Office. As a result, this was the only Captain Kronos ever produced, and that’s a damn shame. Equal parts exciting and intense, and with a truly unique approach to the vampire subgenre, Captain Kronos – Vampire Hunter deserved better, and I find myself wishing the studio had greenlit the project 10 years earlier. 

Had they done so, it’s possible that Hammer’s horror output could have stretched well into the 1980s, with Captain Kronos leading the charge!

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