Sunday, 16 November 2014

Euro - Horror Vaction: Captain Kronos - Vampire Hunter (1974)

Captain Kronos - Vampire Hunter (1974)
Director: Brian Clemens
Starring: Horst Janson, John Carson, and Shane Briant
Running Time: 91 min

  I don't really know too much about this movie, outside of that this is a vampire flick and it comes from Hammer films, one of the most prestigious companies to produce terrifying tales across the pond.  However this is from 70's Hammer, which is a bit different from 60's style, where they seem to be a little more risque and a little less button down.  Anyway from the posters, it looks like they try and take vampires in a different direction.  Putting stuffy old Van Helsing out to pasture and bringing in a swashbuckling vampire hunter, so it should be interesting.

  Some of the buxom young ladies have been attacked in the forest during the day and have caused them to age rapidly and die.  Dr. Marcus sends for the help of Captain Kronos by mail and hopefully he arrives as soon as he can.  Probably in two to six weeks, if my memory serves me right. ;)
  Kronos is on his way with his helpful hunchback Grost and as the cross the country on horseback, they come across a gorgeous young lady named Carla locked in the stockade for "dancing on the sabbath".  Kronos frees her and she joins their merry band not knowing the dangers that lies ahead for them.   
  They finally arrive in town and Dr. Marcus greets them and invites them in to discuss the business at hand and what could be doing such nasty things to these lovely young ladies.  Dr. Marcus is unclear if it is a vampire because the attacks are during the daylight and it isn't blood that is drained but the youth, or life force of the victim.  Grost explains that there are  "as many species of vampire as there are beasts of prey."  Which is a satisfactory explanation to everybody involved.  So, Grost and Carla are sent out to put dead toads in the ground and mark them, which as everybody knows the most scientific way of finding out if you have a vampire in your woods because like the old song says, if a vampire treads across a dead toad, then it will live again.  Big hit in the 19th century, c'mon people.
  The next day, another young lady is attacked and Kronos checks his dead toads and discovers that one is alive, confirming a classic case of vampirism.  Kronos also tries to track the vampire down, but runs into some ruffians in the bar and before he gives them a good thrashing with his sword, he gives them a good tongue lashing for mocking Grost and letting them know that making fun of some who is different isn't very nice.  Then Kronos kills them.
  As the film continues, things aren't looking good for Kronos, more girls are having the life sucked out of them and even Dr. Marcus as come down with a mild case of vampirism.  Can Kronos find this soul sucking creature and save whoever is left in this small village or will this town wither and die after the vampire and Kronos get through with them?

 This was pretty good and I like how they changed up the vampire mythos.  It's funny because just having that one line of dialogue in the film, "as many species of vampire as there are beasts of prey", opens up the vampire realm and allows writer/director Brian Clemens (The Golden Voyage of Sinbad, Highlander II: The Quickening) to tread on any ground that he wishes.  Vampires can walk in the daylight and don't necessarily need to feed on blood but on soul energy, so watch out George Clinton.  It sounds like I'm teasing but I'm really not. Clemens does a great job adjusting the the myth and breathes some new life into an overworked genre.
  Also, Clemens not only adds something new to the story but he also touches on a very old story and it answers some good questions and ties the film together. **Spoiler**  One of the reveals at the end, is that one of the villains is a descendent from the Karnstein family.  The Karnstein family were characters from a book called "Carmilla" and a number European vampire films in the 70's were adapted from this book, including a trilogy films that Hammer had just wrapped up a year before.     **ENDSPOLIER**  I think this a terrific nod to the studio and is a nice surprise at the end.
  In addition, there are some very humorous bits in this film.  Clemens writes some intentional and maybe some unintentional things that just come off funny to me.  **SPOILER** For instance, when Dr. Marcus discovers he is a vampire, they all decide that Marcus must die.  Trying to kill Marcus is very amusing because they try a number of different methods, but nothing seems to work.  Eventually, they kill him but searching for the way gave me a good chuckle.  Also, there is a scene where Kronos sits with a bag on his head in the courtyard while Grost makes his vampire sword for him.  They don't really explain why, it's probably some vampire hunting ritual thing, but I thought this was very funny.  Maybe I'm simple, but a bag on the head for no reason always makes me laugh.  **ENDSPOLIER**  Not saying these are good or bad elements, but they do make the film that much more fun.

 Although there is a large body count in this film but that doesn't make it a plus for me.  Director Clemens just keeps knocking off girl after girl and there doesn't seem to be any build up to any of it.  A random character that you don't know goes out and then dies in the forest, another one talks to her dad for a moment and then goes out and dies, ad nauseam.  I have no feelings for any of these characters or a reason why I should care, so I don't.   Why not have fewer deaths and develop these secondary players so their deaths have some meaning in the film, instead of just a conveyor belt of death.
   Also, there isn't a lot of blood or gore that one would expect for a vampire film.  I know that this is a different kind of vampire flick but there are still some things you would like to see.  The ending is fairly decent, but I still would have liked to seen a few more splattering, I mean spattering of red here and there.
 Finally, I find Horst Janson (Deadly Jaws, Shout at the Devil), who plays Captain Kronos a little stiff in this.  I think he is terrific in the action scenes, which are fantastic if your into sword fighting.  That dude can swashbuckle like nobody's business but when he is interacting with his love interest, Carline Munro (Maniac, Slaughter High), or anyone else, he just doesn't seem to fit in just right.  It may be that his character is suppose to be aloof but it just comes off to me as weird.

   With that said, I still found this to be a very enjoyable film with that Gothic feel that you expect from Hammer horror films.  It has a terrific story, that puts a good twist and expands on vampire lore, it has some excellent sword play, which is rare to see nowadays and an ending that is quite memorable.  So, if your looking for a different kind of vampire film that doesn't sparkle, then give this a try cuz it doesn't suck.  

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