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Captain Kronos: Vampire Hunter (1974)
Captain Kronos can kill three men at once. Captain Kronos can take a vampire bite without turning into one of the undead himself. Captain Kronos is down with G-O-D. Captain Kronos can smoke pot and not get the munchies. Captain Kronos will take your sister out on a Friday night, treat her to a movie, dinner, and fantastic sex, and still have her home before curfew. Captain Kronos makes delicious honey-glazed ham and always shares with the orphans of Dusseldorf. Captain Kronos invented Google. Captain Kronos is better than you.
I learned some of the above from watching Brian Clemens' Captain Kronos: Vampire Hunter. The rest, I extrapolated from the single most important lesson of the film: Captain Kronos can do anything. He's one bad motha- (shut yo mouth!). He's the most perfect-est hero in all of Hero-donia.
By 1974, Hammer Studios, the bastion of British horror in the 50s and 60s, had been watching their box office receipts slowly decline. The Christopher Lee Dracula series was fangless and Peter Cushing's Frankenstein movies were losing their juice. The once proud film company needed a shot in the arm. Willing to try anything, they turned to Clemens, who had written and produced "The Avengers" for many years. Clemens developed a strange but wholly entertaining film that lovingly topped a standard vampire romp with grated swashbuckler. The seams do show on occasion, but Kronos succeeds for the most part.
Captain Kronos (Horst Janson), that strikingly handsome adventurer, and his intrepid sidekick Professor Gratz (John Cater) are called in by Dr. Marcus (John Carson) to investigate a peculiar situation: young girls are being drained of their youth. Kronos and his band set about bringing the justice of God to the fiends responsible.
Janson swaggers across the screen with knowing bravado. Kronos isn't an intellectual like the stuffy old Van Helsing types of older vampire movies, but a rugged leading man brimming with a noble sensuality. Janson understands this and gives us a hero capable of any feat of derring-do. His only flaw is that occasionally his (dubbed) line delivery sometimes lacks the necessary chutzpah.
Of course, no man is an island, not even a super-duper man like Kronos, which is why the supporting roles are so important. These, too, are tackled with the necessary skill. In particular, John Cater (working the hunchback vibe with a prosthetic hump) brings a certain eccentric lightness to the testosterone-heavy world of vampire hunting. Caroline Munro is earthily sexy as a gypsy who joins Kronos and falls for his numerous charms.
As a director, Clemens uses his television wiles to the film's benefit, making Captain Kronos appear far more expensive than it really is. He mainly accomplishes this by shooting a number of scenes in one extended take -- a move lifted from the playbook of Orson Welles. Another is the addition of ceilings to some of the smaller sets. By doing this, Clemens implants the suggestion that all of the sets are equally complete -- even though the larger, more lavish ones aren't.
In the screenwriting department, Clemens brings the cheeky fun that is inherent in any self-aware genre amalgamation to a cheerful peak. While said goofiness does dull some of the sheen on the potential suspense factor, everybody's having too good of a time for it to really matter. Even so, the plot does meander a bit and Clemens television background comes out in a less-positive way: the movie feels episodic in places, less like a continuous storyline and more like a weekly serial replete with cheeseball cliffhangers.
Captain Kronos: Vampire Hunter uses the standard Hammer formula as the jumping off point for an entirely different kind of horror hero. It was one of the first films to really take a stand and say, "Maybe fighting the blood-thirsty undead monsters shouldn't be the realm of dusty old men and wide-eyed milquetoasts" -- making our dashing protagonist a predecessor to both Blade and Buffy. Sadly, Kronos bombed with 1970s audiences. Thankfully, the magic of DVD allows modern viewers to experience the awe-inspiring wonders of Captain Kronos: Super-Awesome Dude Fella.