Made in the days when Hammer propped up their Gothic terrors with lesbian vampires, heaving bosoms and awkward attempts to keep pace with the racy demands of 70s exploitation cinema, Captain Kronos Vampire Hunter is an unlikely marriage of styles. Part vampire movie, part swashbuckler, Brian Clemens’ film comes complete with all the pastiching panache that the writer-director became known for while working on television series like ‘The Avengers’.
Breathing a new lease of life into the vampire myth, this Hammer movie is a truly original piece of work, which alters the vampire legend (the fiendish creatures take their victims youthfulness, not their blood) to keep audiences suitably off-balance.
Even the film’s hero is a departure from the usual vampire movie protagonist. Here, Captain Kronos (Janson) is an ex-Prussian soldier who travels the land battling evil with the help of his samurai sword and hunchbacked sidekick Professor Hieronymus Grost (Cater). A far cry from the refined academic of the usual Van Helsing types, he’s a hip young swordsman, as happy wooing the maidens as searching out bloodsuckers.
Full of camp dialogue ("What he doesn’t know about vampirism wouldn’t fit in a flea’s codpiece"), outrageous sword fighting and plenty of low-cut dresses, Captain Kronos attempts to move beyond the confines of the usual Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing vehicles.
Pushing its handsome hero to centre stage, this tries – like so many of its peers, from The Vampire Lovers to Dracula A.D. 1972 – to reinvent the studio’s horror output for the swinging 70s. Hampered by a negligible budget, its rather wooden leading man and some truly unconvincing fight choreography, it ultimately proves to be a failure, but it’s an honourable – and enjoyable – one all the same.
Horst Janson as Captain Kronos
Shane Briant as Paul Durward
Caroline Munro as Carla
John Carson as Dr. Marcus
Lois Daine as Sara Durward
John Cater as Professor Hieronymous Grost
Ian Hendry as Kerro
Wanda Ventham as Lady Durward
William Hobbs as Hagen
Brian Tully as George Sorell
Lisa Collings as Vanda Sorell
Olga Anthony as Lilian
Susanna East as Isabella Sorell
Director Of Photography: Ian Wilson
First Assistant Camera: David Wynn-Jones
Wardrobe Supervisor: Dulcie Midwinter
Writer And Director: Brian Clemens
Editor: James Needs
Producers: Brian Clemens, Albert Fennell
Production Supervisor: Roy Skeggs
Original Music Composer: Laurie Johnson
UK | Hammer | 91 minutes | 1974