Synopsis: Debonair supernatural expert Captain Kronos and his hunchbacked assistant meet their match when they encounter a village where vampires have been stealing the vitality of young women, leaving them elderly and decrepit.
Stars: Horst Janson, John Carson, Caroline Munro, Ian Hendry, Shane Briant, Wanda Ventham, John Cater, Lois Daine, William Hobbs, Robert James, Elizabeth Dear
Director: Brian Clemens
Running Length: 92 minutes
TMMM Score: (8/10)
Review: Mention Hammer Studios to horror fans and visions of Peter Cushing chasing down Christopher Lee’s Count Dracula will often spring to mind. The British production company was known for their sophisticated horror films shot both in studio and on beautiful locations across Europe and is often most associated with the Dracula films they produced throughout the ’60s and ’70s. Of course, Hammer was far more prolific than that and was responsible for a number of other creepy delights featuring a murders row of famous killers and monsters, as well as other vampire tales. I’d been so Dracula focused for most of my life that I only recently began expanding my horizons and exploring their other bloodsucking catalog. Last year I reported on the delightful Vampire Circus and for this round of 31 Days to Scare I found another interesting and well-worth a watch vampire yarn, Captain Kronos: Vampire Hunter.
Made in 1972 but delayed in its release until 1974, this was an original screenplay from director by Brian Clemens who had written for a number of UK TV series as well as several British thrillers noted for their atmosphere. There’s atmosphere to spare in this one, too, with a pre-credit sequence showing two girls in a forest picking out flowers. As one goes off in search of one last bouquet, the other stays behind and meets a hooded figure that drains her not of just of blood but of youth. Recognizing the signs of a possible vampire presence, the village doctor (John Carson) calls an old friend to come and help his community before it is too late. Enter Captain Kronos (Horst Janson), his assistant Grost (John Cater), and the voluptuous Carla (Caroline Munro), a peasant the men freed from the stocks on their journey who now follows them in hopes of getting closer to Kronos.
Perplexed by this new breed of vampire, Kronos and Grost attempt to track the creature with the help of Dr. Marcus and Carla. As more fair maidens keep showing up haggard and withered, suspicion falls on a brother and sister caring for their invalid mother in a nearby castle. Clemens manages to keep the identity of the vampire a secret right up until the end and the reveal was a rather neat surprise and something I didn’t see coming, so audiences can expect a mystery to go with their horror. They can also look forward to a little bit of a diversion in the slow-ish subplot which sees Kronos traveling to a neighboring town and Dr. Marcus striking out on his own to interview the suspected siblings. It gives the film a bit of a heavy midsection but at 92 minutes it doesn’t stay stuck in a rut for long. Bouncing back with a fiery finale, pretty soon Kronos is forging a wicked sword to slay the best, culminating in an impressive sword-fight on one of Hammer’s typically well-adorned castle locales.
It’s too bad this film performed so poorly at the box office that the planned future installments never came to be. This was a character I would have liked to see more of and deserved another film to get some traction. Sadly, with audience demand dictating what went forward and what didn’t any hopes of the further adventures of Kronos and his gang would never come to be. This might be one that could be revived in some fun way, yet there’s something so nicely done about this production that perhaps a one and done effort speaks well enough for it. Nice discoveries like this tend to be good movies to keep in your back pocket because they can exist on their own merits and be that fun find for those in the know. For this vampire fan, Captain Kronos: Vampire Hunter is definitely a new addition to the rotation of blood-sucking favorite flicks.