Good Vampire Films: Captain Kronos- Vampire Hunter

It’s very hard, in fact probably impossible, to write a series of reviews on Vampire films without mentioning Hammer. The British studio made hundreds of horror films over a period of decades, and many of the archetype vampire movies have either Peter Cushing or Christopher Lee in them- and invariably something-of-Dracula in the title. Later Hammer tended towards the poor, if I’m absolutely honest, but occasionally they did try something different, and usually it was treated with utter disdain by the public. However, that doesn’t necessarily mean that the attempts to break the mold were bad, quite the reverse as they tended to be better than the stock Hammer fare. Captain Kronos is a fine example of this.

Meet Captain Kronos- probably the most inept vampire hunter ever to pick up a pointy stick. He travels round the countryside killing the “demons” accompanied by his hunchback sidekick, a sack of dead toads, and a severe attitude problem. He’s swashed many a buckle and cut many a jib, but what he’s clearly never done is kill a vampire- he hasn’t a fucking clue how you go about doing this. He’s called in by ex-army buddy Dr. Marcus to deal with a local vampire that’s killing the populace. The vampires this time out actually drain youth out of their victims rather than blood, but nevertheless, Kronos is the man with the sword and the thirst for vengeance. What this actually consists of is him killing far more of the local population than the Vampires ever did, shagging Caroline Munro, and getting in a brilliant old-fashioned sword fight with the vampire. Oh, and burying some dead toads in the wood, because apparently the presence of a vampire brings dead amphibians back to life. What all this amounts to, is a lot of stiff upper lips on display, a huge amount of fun, and a thoroughly underrated little film.

Kronos , as mentioned, doesn’t have a fucking clue how to deal with vampires. He talks a great game, but really when it comes down to it, he just hasn’t the foggiest idea how you actually go about killing one. Neither does his hunchback. They do know a lot about tying bells to ribbons, but they can’t spot a vampire until the fucker is pretty much sucking on them.  I admire their gung-ho gumption, but really, they are completely inept. Kronos’ big plan in the finale is to use his wench as bait and then draw the vampire into a sword fight- which he’ll win because he has a sword made from a melted down cross (“god’s blade”). Not that this particularly matters, because the whole film is really an excuse for terribly English sword fighting  and everyone involved is up to the task.

On that note, Horst Janson is splendid as Kronos, who is played as a sort of nascent porn star. He’s as wooden as a table, but wonders around a lot with a puzzled look on his face, before throwing the odd cheeky wink at the female population of the film. Caroline Munro as the love interest is superb as well- she’s got a great line in kittenish fake hurt, and is very, very easy on the eye. The rest of the main cast is fine, actually quite good, but some of the minor characters aren’t that great. Overall, I can’t criticise the acting on any significant level.

However, having said that, this film scores big for atmosphere. It’s a pure thoroughbred gothic production with creepy woods, ancient crones rotting in a bed, old inns, atmospheric weather and so forth. It isn’t frightening (that would be a daft thing to say about a Hammer film), but it is strangely effective. The score adds to this, and overall the direction by ex-Avengers alumnae Brian Clemens is frankly superb- it’s always tense and never dull. The vast majority of Hammer films (especially the later ones) veer into the cheesy, but that isn’t the case here- it plays the whole thing completely straight and as a result is far more enjoyable.

However, where it loses points, and it loses them badly for this, is being far too predictable. If you can’t spot the vampire in about 3 seconds then, really, you’re a dumbass. They make a token attempt at throwing the viewer off the scent, but it isn’t just transparent, but sheepishly transparent. Ordinarily, I wouldn’t care about such a thing in a vampire film, but in this case they were obviously going for some big mystery and it’s about as mysterious as a treasure map with a big X marked on it. That doesn’t mean that the journey isn’t fun, because it is loads of fun, but really, it wouldn’t have hurt to drop the pretense.

Which brings me on to the inevitable unintentional comedy. Hammer films always have a huge amount of potential for being laughed at and Kronos is no exception. The scene with the Doctors execution is absolutely hilarious as Kronos and his hunchback attempt more and more desperate measures to end Marcus’ life. In the end, rather brilliantly, they kill him by accident, but still- full marks for effort.

Overall, I have to say that this is a thoroughly splendid little film. It’s a fine example of Hammer at their best, and although they clearly lack both the budget and the ability to make the film that they obviously wanted to make. By 1974 Hammer were in deep shit for mining the vein far too heavily, but the odd gem was still made, and it’s a real pleasure to see a Hammer film from this period that isn’t soft core porn and is well thought out and enjoyable stuff. In a way, it’s probably a good thing that this bombed on release, because if it had been successful they’d have ruined it with a million inferior and downright tacky sequels.

Captain Kronos- Vampire Hunter is good clean fun, a little film with a lot of heart and one that I’m pleased to make the acquaintance of. I give it 2.5 thoroughly justifiable Changs.

Well, that’s the first Hammer down, I’ll return with some shady soft porn and Countess Dracula at some point in this series,  but not for a while.

Until next time,

Jarv

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About Jarv

Workshy cynic, given to posting reams of nonsense on the internet and watching films that have inexplicably got a piss poor reputation.

31 responses to “Good Vampire Films: Captain Kronos- Vampire Hunter”

  1. Jarv says :

    Hmm, not sure about that review. Never mind.

    • DocPazuzu says :

      Hmmm…

      I feel that I must disagree with one point in your review, Jarv — the execution of the doctor. I’m pretty sure the humor was intentional in that scene. It’s just so over the top that it has to have been done on purpose.

  2. kloipy says :

    damn Jarv, you are a machine! I write one every century compared to your output

  3. Continentalop says :

    Jarv, good review but I am going to disagree with you about Kronos and the Professor’s incompetence. They state that there is many different types of vampires, and each one has different abilities and weaknesses and are killed differently (just like in the vampiric folklore of each culture). So obviously they are not going to know exactly what hurts or kills each vampire they meet, they got to figure it out.

    There are 440 different species of sharks in the world. Imagine if each one ate something completely different (flesh, blood, your brains, youth?), operated differently (some only came out a night, some could fly, etc.) and can only be hurt and killed in different ways (explosion, fire, a harpoon through the fin, etc.). So if that was the case, we couldn’t get upset at Quint if we saw him try a bunch of different ways just to kill a small little thrasher and had trouble because each shark is different. That is the type of dilemma that Kronos and his partner face.

    • Jarv says :

      Suppose so that is fair enough- I was thinking directly about the scene killing Marcus.

      Nevertheless, it is a huge contradiction in the film as the magic dead toads work on all vampires. Technically, as well, it shouldn’t work because the head vampire isn’t a vampire but a witch.

      Best not to think too hard about Hammer really.

      • Continentalop says :

        SPOILERS – you mean the mom? She is a vampire – and a witch.

        Hey you can be gay and a Republican, you can also be a vampire/witch.

      • Jarv says :

        She isn’t undead though. Her husband is, but she isn’t.

      • Continentalop says :

        What do you mean she isn’t undead? She is still young right? Wouldn’t that mean she hasn’t aged?

      • Jarv says :

        Well, Kronos and hunchback make the distinction early on when talking about the toads, and she herself says it. Whereas her hubby died and came back from the grave.

        I’m nitpicking now, though, as technically Countess Dracula isn’t undead either.

        Doesn’t matter. I want to see Horst Swordfighting.

  4. Continentalop says :

    Little bit of Hammer Vampire trivia, the vampires in this film are part of the Karnstein family, which makes Captain Kronos in the same vampire universe as The Karnstein Trilogy: The Vampire Lovers, Lust for a Vampire, and Twins of Evil.

    First two are good, the third one is a cock tease of a movie.

    • Jarv says :

      Pah. Twins of Evil- fuck you hammer.

      That let my little 13 year old self down something fierce. I was sold on that before I saw it. I’ll never forgive it.

    • Continentalop says :

      Reading your above post, I see the undead/dead problem.

      The mom is a Karnstien, which means she is naturally a vampire. She inherits that “curse.” However, since she hasn’t died she hasn’t risen from the grave yet as an undead. So I guess that would make her a living vampire.

      Like Morbius.

  5. ThereWolf says :

    Captain Kronos is most definitely a blast. You’re spot on about the ‘doctor’s execution’ – truly brilliant.

    I must buy this. Is that a VHS cover or a DVD?

  6. Jarv says :

    Yup, and there’s a hammer box set that I’m thinking about. I got this off lovefilm- along with Martin(that I’ve never seen) and The Hunger

  7. ThereWolf says :

    It’s got to be mid-1980’s when I saw this. Late night telly, when there was always a crazy film to watch…

    I found Martin to be interesting, without being mad keen on it. I like The Hunger a lot.

  8. lordbronco says :

    Christopher Lee at the age of 88 has released a musical/metal album by the name of Charlemagne.

    I’m not making this up.

    I would give it a 2.0 out of 4.0 Changs honestly.

    I adore it-but it has certain technical flaws.

    I.E. too many history lessons narrated by his daughter-not to mention the fact that one of the crescendos sounds exactly like the theme to Disney’s “Lion King”.

    That said, it is orchestral-and I love the track “The Bloody Verdict of Verdun”.

    Let’s give it up for Christopher Lee’s movement into rock and roll stardom.

    So Cool.

    -Best

  9. Droid says :

    I’ve never seen a Hammer film.

    • DocPazuzu says :

      Holy shit, really? Damn…

      Well, Kronos is a good place to start. My absolute fave is Scars of Dracula, though. It has everything that makes Hammer great: tons of atmosphere, cheesy-looking blood, toff cunts ripe for killing, Chris Lee and The Cush.

      Raquel Welch in One Million B.C. and Ingrid Pitt in pretty much everything were instrumental in helping me become the man I am today.

  10. Stuntcock Mike says :

    Guy looks like Bruce Dickinson from Maiden.

    Thanks for the comment on my site by the way Kloipy.

  11. Tom_Bando says :

    It was a good read/write up. Never heard of this. I do likes me some Munro though.

  12. Jon says :

    I thought this was an awesome vampire movie, did you know there are many different kinds of vampires in world folklore from cannibalistic vampires in African vampire lore and there are vampires called Psychic vampires a.k.a. Psi-vampires who drain your energy/youth/soul/lifeforce instead of your blood that are usually known in Asian and Japanese vampire mythology to some places around the world.

    NOT all vampires burn in the sunlight only European vampires burn in the sunlight, most vampires do walk in the daylight like Egyptian vampires for example. And NOT all vampires are human as some appear like wild beasts, animal-like creatures or even like goblins such as Australian vampires to Filipino vampires.

    This movie is a great example of not being hollywood mentality vampires of cheesy Eurotrash vampires, you owe yourself to watch these other great “different than the traditional” vampire movies:

    Lifeforce.
    The Hunger.
    Immortality aka Wisdom of Crocodiles.
    The Keep (1983).
    Planet of the Vampires.
    Lair of the White Worm.
    Cronos.
    Mr. Vampire.

    These portray other vampires from legends even ones from outer space.

    Do you think the vampires in this movie that are different as they drain youth are better than ones that sparkle?

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