Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Captain Kronos—Vampire Hunter (1974)

On paper, this sounds like tons of fun, at least for genre-movie fans. Seriously, an action-packed horror movie about a dashing soldier who travels around pre-19th-century Europe killing vampires with a samurai sword, accompanied by a hunchbacked scientist and a voluptuous female companion? And it’s from UK-based Hammer Films, the kingpins of Gothic shockers? What’s not to like? Well, for one thing, Captain Kronos—Vampire Hunter is woefully devoid of the one thing it should have in abundance, which is entertainment value. Yes, the picture is handsomely produced (within the parameters of a humble budget), and the filmmakers don’t skimp on stylish violence. But where’s the joie de vivre? The picture isn’t as grim as some Hammer pictures, which is a relief, but it’s still unnecessarily sober. Did the world really need something called Captain Kronos—Vampire Hunter played straight? Anyway, at least viewers who dig Hammer’s formula of dastardly deeds conducted in crypt-like castles and murky forests will find much to savor here. The picture begins when a village physician, Dr. Marcus (John Carson), encounters a series of strange deaths—young women drained of blood fall dead, their bodies inexplicably aged. Marcus summons his old Army pal, Captain Kronos (Horst Janson), who happens to be a professional vampire hunter. Convenient! Kronos travels with a deformed scientist, Professor Grost (John Cater), and a sexy peasant girl named Carla (Caroline Munro). As the movie unfolds, Kronos and his allies set traps for the bloodsucker—or bloodsuckers—preying upon Marcus’ village, but not all goes according to plan. Written, directed, and co-produced by Brian Clemens, Captain Kronos—Vampire Hunter moves at a sluggish pace. Once in a while, Clemens lands a nice line of dialogue, as when Kronos describes Grost’s expertise: “What he doesn’t know about vampirism couldn’t fill a fly’s codpiece.” And periodically, Clemens nails a groovy visual: At one point, Kronos holds the blade of his sword before his eyes in order to reflect back the gaze of a ghoul who is trying to hypnotize him. Unfortunately, the actors all deliver highly generic work. Janson is an attractive physical specimen—as is Munro, who later became a Bond girl—but neither radiates much in the way of charisma. And the less said about the various anticlimactic scenes in which Kronos effortlessly vanquishes hordes of attackers with ridiculously skillful swordplay, the better.

Captain Kronos—Vampire Hunter: FUNKY

1 comment:

Xteve said...

This is one of my favorite Hammer flicks of all time. Has a totally unique spin on vampirism and enough of the blood-and-boobs Hammer tropes to keep fans satisfied. Plus, Caroline Munro!

I agree not all of it works, but it's still a fun ride.