Horst Janson as: Kronos
John Carson as: Dr. Marcus
Shane Briant as: Paul Durward
Caroline Munro as: Carla
John Cater as: Grost
Lois Daine as: Sara Durward
A young girl is found dead and looking like an old hag. Dr. Marcus (John Carson) calls upon the help of his old comrade in arms, Captain Kronos (Horst Janson), who comes with his hunchbacked assistant Professor Grost (John Cater). Along the way they free the beautiful Carla (Caroline Munro), who is being punished for dancing on a Sunday. She rides along with them and soon learns that they are vampire hunters. They reveal that there are many kinds of vampires, not just the bloodsucking kind most know of. In this case, the vampire is one that feeds off of the youth of its victims. Just as there are many kinds of these undead monsters, there are many ways to kill them. They need to find who he is and the right way to kill him this as the body count continues to rise. Marcus meanwhile, suspects a brother and sister (Shane Briant and Lois Daine), who ride in a carriage not unlike the one the killer uses, as their mother blames him for the death of her husband.
Captain Kornos Vampire Hunter wasn’t a hit at its time, but that’s probably because the movie was clearly ahead of it. Released in 1974 it predates, by many years movies and TV shows like Bladeand Buffy the Vampire Slayer. It holds up surprisingly well.
Clemens’ directing is top notch, here. A great example of this is the way the first kill is shot and framed. In fact, there is a great sense of menace anytime the vampire appears and attacks a girl. The idea of keeping the creature’s identity secret adds tension and there some good red herrings, throughout the movie, as our heroes try to solve the mystery. There are also some beautiful shots of the countryside, courtesy of cinematographer Ian Wilson. Together they incorporate some truly unforgettable images and camera shots like the shadow of a crucifix folding, a bell dripping with blood, flowers that wither as the vampire walks past them, and many more. The horror is well combined with action as there are some exciting, swashbuckling sword fights. It all leads to a riveting and kick ass climax, which ranks as one of the best the entire studio ever made.
While, not the goriest of Hammer’s movies, there is some blood that drips and splatters here and there. Most of the makeup FX work quite, expect for the patently fake looking bat. Meanwhile, the tight and suspenseful editing by James Needs helps to further enhance the movie’s aesthetic, and the score by Laurie Johnson is grandiose and exciting.
All of this is coupled with Clemens’ own imaginative script. I love the idea that there are many kinds of vampires and what this one, in particular, feeds on. Had this movie been successful, and had Hammer existed for a longer period of time, one can only imagine what kinds we would have met in the sequels that never occurred. This was supposed to be the launching pad for a series of films the studio would have put out. Sadly, that never occurred. Regardless, this smart writing is also benefited by a wonderful sense of humor that is, at times, quite funny.
The cast is simply marvelous! Janson makes for a likable and stoic hero, with a wonderfully dry sense of humor. He gets some great support from Cater as the kind hearted hunchback. Munro is sweet and sexy in her role. Every time she is onscreen, one cannot help but be intoxicated by her. She is a vision of supreme beauty. Munro has never, nor will she likely ever do, a nude, and so this movie is no different. Her naughty bits are always covered up by the use of shadow, though we do get some nice side boob. Everyone else involved in the film, also give nice support to the cast.
Today this movie still ranks as one of the most original and cool vampire movies, ever made. I would suppose that had this movie been made today, it would have had a faster pace, but it also would surely have been dumbed down. As it is, this is a fine example of the marriage between an adventure and horror film. Not only is this the last truly great Hammer movie (the studio only made three more movies after this), but it’s one of the very best, period. In all, Captain Kronos Vampire Hunter gets a very high recommendation. Go do yourself a favor and hunt it down, which shouldn’t be too hard online. There is a DVD Paramount put out some years ago that has a nice transfer and really enjoyable commentary with Clemens and Munro.