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Site created 12/15/97.

review added: 8/5/04

Captain Kronos: Vampire Hunter
1974 (2004) - Hammer Productions (Paramount)

review by Joseph Massaro of The Digital Bits

Enhanced for 16x9 TVs

Captain Kronos: Vampire Hunter

Film Rating: B+

Disc Ratings (Video/Audio/Extras): B/B/C-

Specs and Features

91 mins, R, letterboxed widescreen (1:78:1), 16x9 enhanced, single-sided, single-layered, keep case packaging, audio commentary (by writer/director/producer Brian Clemens, actress Caroline Munro, and genre historian Jonathan Sothcott), film-themed menu screens, scene access (13 chapters), languages: English (DD 2.0 mono) subtitles: English, Closed Captioned

The film opens with two beautiful girls from the nearby village enjoying a day in the forest (OK, you already know one of them is a goner). One of the girls goes off to pick some flowers, and when she returns, she finds her friend ravaged with old age. A scourge has descended upon the inhabitants of the sleepy village, and only one man is capable of combating and defeating its evil - Captain Kronos: Vampire Hunter. At the request of the local physician, Dr. Marcus (John Carson), an old friend from his soldiering days, Kronos (Horst Janson) and his faithful hunchback sidekick Professor Grost (John Cater) speed with all haste to the sleepy village. Along the way, Kronos rescues a gypsy girl named Carla (Caroline Munro) from the nearby town stocks, who ends up being the hero's romantic interest in the movie. Arriving in the village, they meet up with Dr. Marcus, and set about trying to find out who or what is draining the life energy from the village girls.

This British cult classic was filmed in 1972, but not released until 1974 when it shared a twin bill with Frankenstein and The Monster From Hell. Written, directed and produced by Brian Clemens, best known as the co-creator of the original Avengers television series. Clemens' first work for Hammer Productions was scriptwriter for the 1971 revisionist version of the Jekyll & Hyde story, appropriately titled, Dr. Jekyll & Sister Hyde. Shortly after his work as scriptwriter, Clemens approached Hammer with an idea about a swashbuckling vampire hunter. Hammer, whose ticket sales for traditional horror genre movies had been waning, was open to new interpretations on the vampire theme. Among the many they were to try - Dracula AD 1972 (1972), with Dracula (Christopher Lee) being brought forward into the 1970's and the cult classic, Legend of the 7 Golden Vampires (1973), teaming kung fu fighting with vampires.

The film mixes the spaghetti western with traditional Gothic horror to create one of the more atypical vampire tales. Infused with Clemens' own brand of dark humor, the movie departs from the traditional genre fare, and introduces a new species of vampire; one that: walks about during the day, drains the life energy from its victims, and is impervious to a stake through the heart. The movie taps into the rich historical folklore of Eastern Europe, whose stories told of many kinds of vampires and the wide variety of ways for dispatching them to their destruction. Although the setting is 17th or 18th century England or Europe (the movie never mentions exactly when or where), it's clearly a western. The main hero, Kronos, is the "hired" gun, riding in to save the town. His signature crest (a "K" emblazoned inside a circle) and samurai sword set him apart from the average hero wielding a sharpened crowbar. In true old west fashion, he demonstrates who is quickest draw (i.e. the fastest blade), when he manages to get into a fight with three hired thugs in the local tavern (which also sports a spittoon), after they make fun of Grost's hunchback (a take on a scene from the Clint Eastwood western A Few Dollar's More). Grost follows Kronos around in a western style wagon, which the two vampire hunters use to make camp outside the imperiled village. The movie's end is also in true western fashion, with a climactic showdown between the two "gunslingers."

Kronos was originally supposed to be the jumping off point for a string of sequels, which Clemens intended to be a time travel adventure of Kronos in various periods in history. Hence the name he chose - Kronos - Greek for time. Ironically, the later adventures of Kronos would not center on vampires, but rather a variety of supernatural and inexplicable events. We can only imagine how those sequels would have played out. The movie received little advertising leading it to fade into obscurity. Clemens tried to pitch the idea as a television series, but failed to find a studio interested in supporting it. The only other place Captain Kronos has appeared was in the first three issues of The House of Hammer magazine. He could be seen in a comic book strip pitting him against the vampire overlord, Count Balderstein.

The film is wonderfully restored and presented in anamorphic widescreen. Bright and crisp texture replaces the worn, dull and out-of-print VHS copies that have previously been the only direct market source for the movie. The colors are rendered in a very natural level. The contrast and shadow details are exceptionally good. The films atypical adventurous score, presented here in Dolby Digital 2.0 mono, is also transferred well for a thirty-year-old track, and is free of any hissing or other audio distortions. Unfortunately, the DVD is short on extras, with only an audio commentary track included. The good news, however, is that the commentary is interesting and will definitely please Hammer fans.

Captain Kronos: Vampire Hunter is a thoroughly enjoyable movie, with Paramount doing a good job on the DVD presentation. Atypical of the vampire films, it's definitely not to be missed by the genre movie fan or die hard Hammer fanatics.

Joseph Massaro
[email protected]

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