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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » Captain Kronos - Vampire Hunter
Captain Kronos - Vampire Hunter
Paramount // R // October 21, 2003
List Price: $19.99 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by David Walker | posted October 27, 2003 | E-mail the Author
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Before VCRs and DVD players, premium cable channels and satellite dishes, there was a thing called television. These were the good old days when you could see really great movies at four in the afternoon on Saturday, or three in the morning on Sunday – the days of "Kung Fu Theater" and "Creature Features".

It was during the Saturday afternoon Creature Features many horror buffs first discovered the joys of Hammer Studios, the British production company that reinvented horror during the fifties and sixties, infusing it with sex and gore (most of which were cut for Saturday afternoon consumption). During the decades-long run of Hammer, the studio produced some of the most memorable horror films of all time, including Horror of Dracula and Curse of Frankenstein, which launched the studio's two most successful franchises. One of the lesser known Hammer films, but still one of the best, is the relatively obscure Captain Kronos: Vampire Hunter. Horst Janson stars as the swashbuckling Kronos, a former captain in the Imperial Guard, who travels the countryside with his companion, the hunchback genius Professor Grost (John Carter), hunting vampires. When the beautiful, young women of a remote village are being killed off, Dr. Marcus (John Carson) summons his old friend Kronos, who quickly determines that the killer is a vampire. But this isn't your typical bloodsucker. No, this vampire drains youth and vitality instead of blood. Aided by Grost, and the buxotic beauty Carla (Caroline Munroe) Kronos sets out to find and destroy the insidious vampire.

Made in 1972, but not released until 1974 as a double feature with Frankenstein and the Monster from Hell, Captain Kronos arrived after the heyday of Hammer had long since passed. The film was poorly distributed, and as such, is not as well known as many of the studio's other films. But at the same time, the film found an audience – largely from television broadcasts – and has become one of the more popular among die-hard Hammer fans. Combining elements of Gothic horror, swashbuckling adventure, and western sensibilities, Captain Kronos was a vast departure from the standard Hammer fare. Directed, produced, and written by Brian Clemens, the film has a stylish flair that draws much inspiration from the work of John Ford, and at times, Captain Kronos seems more like a western than a horror film. Rather than relying on the traditional vampire mythology, Clemens turns the vampire genre upside down, reinventing the bloodsuckers as a complex race of creatures. "There are as many types of vampires as there are beasts of prey," explains Grost at one point.

Best known as a producer and writer on the British television show The Avengers, Clemens uses great framing techniques to create tension, and unlike many other Hammer films, relies on a less-is-more attitude to tell his story. The result is film with none of the gore or nudity that is frequently associated with Hammer Studios.

Captain Kronos: Vampire Hunter also differs from many of the other films produced by Hammer in the way it makes Kronos himself the hero. Janson's Kronos is a man of action, and one of the most exciting heroes to come out of a Hammer film, which are more known for centering around the monsters. As a pot-smoking, samurai sword-wielding soldier, Kronos is a far cry from the stuffy, academic vampire killers like those Peter Cushing portrayed in countless Hammer flicks. Predating other onscreen vampire slayers like Buffy and Marvel Comic's Blade, Kronos is cut from a similar cloth as the spaghetti western characters portrayed by actors like Clint Eastwood and Franco Nero.

Originally intended to be the jumping-off point for an eventual television series, featuring Kronos as a time traveling vampire slayer, the film never spawned any form of sequel. For years it seemed as if the film was destined for obscurity, as the only known prints were in rough shape. Thankfully, Captain Kronos: Vampire Hunter is finally available on DVD, with a beautiful widescreen transfer that captures Clemens' stylish vision. The audio commentary features Clemens, actress Munroe, and Hammer historian Jonathon Sothcott. For Hammer completists, this film is a "must have" for your collection, but even those uninitiated in the world of Hammer will not be disappointed with this forgotten classic.


David Walker is the creator of BadAzz MoFo, a nationally published film critic, and the Writer/Director of Black Santa's Revenge with Ken Foree now on DVD [Buy it now]
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