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Captain Kronos: Vampire Hunter (1974)


Captain Kronos Vampire Hunter poster
91 minutes
MPAA Rating
Cast and Crew
Production Company

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.


Just to clarify, Cater's

Just to clarify, Cater's character is named Grost. Sorry to nitpick a lovely review. Carry on soldier!

I agree with Nate, this is

I agree with Nate, this is one fun movie to watch.  Oh, the plot is somewhat predictable and the acting a bit overdone here and there, but it is great to see a movie about vampires combined with a bit of swashbuckling!  This movie was released on a double bill with Frankenstein and the Monster From Hell here in the U.S., which made it even more enjoyable to watch at the theater, two Hammer films for the price of one! 

By the way, both Captain Kronos, Vampire Hunter and Frankenstein and the Monster From Hell also starred Shane Briant, who was being groomed by Hammer to perhaps take over the mantle of the Hammer Horror genre.  I also enjoyed seeing Hammer regulars John Carson and Caroline Munro whose performances as supporting players gave the film a bit of a zing, especially Munro!  Va va voom!!!!!  Sadly, Captain Kronos did contain one of the last few appearances of Ian Hendry, as the pub villain Kerro, before he passed in 1984.

I liked the introduction of new and varied ways to combat vampirism in the film.  Who ever heard of using dead frogs to see where a vampire has been or that a vampire can be hynotized by it's own stare?  That Professor Grost really knew his stuff.  Hunchback or not, he had it going on! 

By the time this film was released, Hammer was in it's waning years and had just about lost it's appeal for most horror film fanatics.  In fact, at least in my opinion, Captain Kronos, Vampire Hunter and Frankenstein and the Monster From Hell were the last two truly gothic horror films from Hammer.  Even with the current revival of Hammer, it still has not returned to it's gothic roots except for the upcoming The Woman In Black, which will not be released until 2012.  So until then, check out Captain Kronos and see what a little swordplay can do to a vampire.