Captain Kronos: Vampire Hunter


Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

Captain Kronos: Vampire Hunter
"Overall this is an entertaining and intriguing film which deserves more attention than it has historically enjoyed."

Vampires: they've been around for a long time, terrorising villagers, making a mess of pretty young flesh, but what did people do about them when Dr Van Helsing and Buffy weren't around to help? If they were lucky, they could find a real expert, a brilliant swordsman and egotist par excellence: Captain Kronos, vampire hunter.

Originally intended to become the star of a television series, Captain Kronos is one of Hammer's more distinctive creations, with that quirky streak and uncanny self awareness common to Brian Clemens heroes. This is the only film Clemens ever directed but he does a decent job; his character as a writer comes through clearly in the action scenes. Like all this work it's principally character based, the plot merely providing the backdrop for displays of brutality, bravado and wit.

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Kronos and his assistant, Professor Grost, are called in to help when Dr Marcus, an old army friend of his becomes worried that his village may be troubled by vampires. Young women are turning up dead - and suddenly very old - and the experts conclude that a youth-sucking fiend is on the loose. But who could it be? The bulk of the film consists of our heroes' attempts to solve this mystery, whilst dealing with suspicious aristocrats, surly villagers and direct supernatural threats. Though there's plenty of dark drama, Clemens counterpoints it with scenes of absurdist humour, creating something that initially feels uneven but gradually becomes absorbing, more disturbing for its refusal to play either comedy or tragedy straight. It's no surprise that it has attracted something of a cult following.

Along for the ride, and livening things up considerably, is Caroline Munro as wayward wench Carla, a woman not afraid to plunge directly into the action. Clemens always worried that he didn't give his female characters enough to do, but Munro has more to work with here than in any of her other horror films, and she acquits herself commendably, providing a much needed foil for Kronos whilst the vampire itself remains elusive. In the lead. Horst Janson provides the necessary combination of charisma and oddness. The weak link is Shane Briant, who sleepwalks through his performance as Dr Marcus, highlighting Clemens' inexperience in extracting performances from sluggish stars. This isn't a major problem, however, as there's never a shortage of other things going on.

Though it's heavy handed in places and doesn't always engage as well as it might, overall this is an entertaining and intriguing film which deserves more attention than it has historically enjoyed. It's one of the last truly individual Hammer films, made before the studio came to rely on sequels and crude imitations of its earlier work, and it displays the sense of style that marked them out at their best. Well worth hunting down.

Reviewed on: 24 Jul 2015
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A swashbuckling foe of the undead is summoned to a village where a woman's corpse has been found.
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Director: Brian Clemens

Writer: Brian Clemens

Starring: Horst Janson, Caroline Munro, John Cater, Ian Hendry, Wanda Ventham

Year: 1972

Runtime: 91 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: UK


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