Monday, February 16, 2009


Captain Kronos, Vampire Hunter (1974) Directed by Brian Clemens. Starring Horst Janson, John Cater, Caroline Monroe, John Carson

By the early 1970's Hammer was something of a shadow of its former self, the glory days of The Curse of Frankenstein, Dracula and The Mummy were far behind them. The company's efforts to bring their monsters up to date resulted in such films as Dracula AD1972 and 1974's Legend of the Seven Golden Vampires, films that are not without a certain charm of their own but that pale in comparison with the earlier work of Terence Fisher or Freddie Francis.

It was a time when Hammer was desperate to create new markets for their films and increased the sex and titillation factor with such films as The Vampire Lovers, Twins of Evil and Lust for a Vampire (sometimes referred to as The Karnstein Trilogy). Into this rather uncertain world came a man who's cult status has continued to grow over the years despite his first and only cinematic outing being dubbed a commercial failure - Captain Kronos, vampire hunter.

Part horror film, part swashbuckler and with a generous dollop of spaghetti western immorality thrown in for good measure, Captain Kronos Vampire Hunter is one of the most interesting and inventive films that Hammer produced in their twenty odd years of making horror.

The traditional - cinematic - notion of the vampire is thrown out in favour of an approach that takes the vampire back to its eastern European roots, so much so that one could almost imagine the noted occult scholar Montague Summers nodding sagely at each revelation. Here it is not blood but rather youth that the vampire steals. As Kronos' sidekick Professor Grost explains: "There are as many species of vampires as there are birds of prey."

With a wicked sense of fun and an eerie emptiness (explainable partly by its miniscule budget) Captain Kronos Vampire Hunter is utterly unlike any Hammer film that came before. Superficially, all the usual ingredients are present and correct - the MittleEuropa setting, the cast of fine British character actors, the graphic violence and the fairytale quality that insists that good must ultimately triumph over evil - but mixed together in an icily intelligent script by writer/director Brian Clemens that renders the whole thing much greater than the sum of its parts.

The vampire attacks where young women are aged into old crones in an instant, the lengthy and unpleasant scene where Kronos and Grost attempt to kill their former friend Dr Marcus after he has been 'turned', the mysterious blind girl who appears then disappears for no adequately explained reason, the Djangoesque swordfight in the tavern where Kronos teaches Ian Hendry's swaggering bully Kerro the meaning of the word katana and the final climactic battle between Kronos and the vampiric Lord Durward - Captain Kronos Vampire Hunter is an embarrassment of riches for any Hammer fan.

Horst Janson as Kronos is all Germanic charm and impossible good looks, John Cater as Professor Grost is worldly wise and sinister in a genteel way ('What he doesn't know about vampirism wouldn't fill a flea's codpiece') and Caroline Monroe smoulders as the gypsy girl Carla.

Captain Kronos is a treat from start to finish and somewhere in an alternative universe it was the film that saved Hammer. Well, a boy can dream, can't he?


  1. A good-looking blog, and Captain Kronos is a film I seem to watch at least once a year. Brian Clemens offbeat style seemed to inform so many Avengers stories; and in Kronos there's the weirdly comic book battle in the hillside cemetery, with no-one seeming to get injured, but weapons sailing into the air as Kronos fights the villagers.

    Low-budget, maybe. But it's a very handsome piece of filmmaking.

  2. I just wanted to stop by and say congratulations on selling "The Bone House" to Beneath Ceaseless Skies. It's a great market and I look forward to reading your story there!