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dwatts
07-26-2003, 09:17 PM
Captain Kronos the Vampire Hunter! Oh, what a nice idea this was. Kronos was named after the Greek word for “time”. The original idea was for the film to spawn either a series of movies, or a TV show, based on the central character. He was going to travel through time, hunting vampires as he went. Alas, this movie came at the ass-end of the Hammer studios glory days, and the idea was never fully realized.

The writer and Director of this one was Brian Clemens. Mr. Clemens was known as a writer for big UK based TV shows at the time, Danger Man and The Avengers. The hope was that he could bring a different feel to the newer Hammer releases. This he did, but not to the satisfaction of Hammer owner of the time, who shelved the film for two years after production ended. Apparently, this split was acrimonious.

Clemons had, the same year, co-written another Hammer favorite of mine, Dr. Jekyll and Sister Hyde. That one was Directed by genre favorite Roy Ward Baker. With Kronos, Clemons maintained control through to the end. If you have not seen Sister Hyde, all I can say is, I pity you.

It goes without saying that Kronos did nothing at the box office, and it has since been one of the lesser known titles. Strangely, it is currently seeing a DVD release in both R2 and R1. So what of the film?

Story:

Captain Kronos is a soldier who returned from battle to find both his mother and sister turned into vampires. Apparently they “bared their breasts to me” and he had to off them. Yuck!

Kronos is aided by a hunchback (quite hilarious when you think about it, just why were there so many hunchbacks in medieval times?) This character – with the strange name Prof. Hieronymos Grost, is the brain behind the outfit, with Kronos being the brawn.

The movie starts with several vampire attacks in an unnamed “small village”. Kronos travels to the village at the behest of an old friend, to investigate what’s going on. Honestly, we all know what’s going on, vampires are on the loose! Kronos must track down the vampires, and save the day – aided by his new found traveling companion, Carla, played by the ever lovely Caroline Munro, whom he finds in the stocks, covered in old tomato, having committed the unpardonable crime of “dancing on a Sunday”.

That about sums up the simple storyline, typical as it is of vampire films of the time. But wait! There’s a lot more to this film!

Image Quality

This is the DD Video release (R2). As to the quality of the picture, all I can say is WOW. Save for two instances of dark vertical lines, which last a few seconds each, the colors are brilliant and deep. Reds and blues are really vibrant. Honestly, how could it get any better?

Sound

Dolby Stereo. Adequate, but it’s not going to strain your surround sound. Everything is perfectly clear though.

Supplemental Material

Lame. I might be alone in my dislike for episodes of “Hammer World of Horror”, I just find them to be uninformative and silly. This episode is on “Vamps”, and sucks, as all episodes do.

We also get the trailer and an excellent 24-page booklet.

Final Thoughts

Oh, this is the fun bit. There are two things to note about this film. The first is that Clemons didn’t have much time for the established rules of the genre. He wanted to REDEFINE vampire films, so his vampires are a little different.

The vampires in Captain Kronos are simply trying to stay young (pretty much like we saw in Countess Dracula). They don’t bite the neck, instead they bite your lip. Yes, you heard that right, they bite the LIP. You see, they’re not after the blood of their victims, just the LIFE. Victims (young virgins all) are transformed into old hags, with the life drained out of them. It actually makes for some great effects. Vampire purists will balk though.

This aging concept also makes for some wonderful moments. Especially noteworthy is a scene where a young girl is being stalked through the woods by the caped vampire (actually, the vampire wears a monks habit). First we see the girl pause, and bend to admire a bunch of brightly colored flowers, before moving on. Then we get the vampire, with cape dragging upon the ground, following in her footsteps. As the cape drags against the flowers, they shrivel up and die – the life drained out of them! It is a small, but beautiful touch.

However, the aging thing has one exception (you have just got to stick with it here, because Clemons is writing his own mythology). Toads. Yeah, that’s right, toads. Apparently, if you bury dead toads in the ground, and a vampire walks passed it, cloak dragging on the ground, a toad will suck the life OUT of the vampire, and it will resurrect itself (luckily, it does NOT come back as a vampire toad!) Grost uses this technique to figure out where the vampires are running off too. He also quotes a folk rhymne “If a vampire should bestrode, close to the grave of a dead toad. Then the vampire, life shall give. And suddenly, the toad shall live.” Yeah, it’s bad poetry, but it made me smile.

I should mention the second thing of note – this film has tongue firmly placed in cheek. If you have seen Polanski’s Dance of the Vampires (AKA The Fearless Vampire Killers, a horribly ignored film which deserves a lot better coverage) then you kind of know where Clemons was going with this one.

One scene really had me laughing out loud (not many films do that, and certainly not many horror flicks). You see, as already noted, Clemons did away with the established vampire mythology and had set about writing his own. If his dream of creating a TV series had come to fruition, this would have been necessary to keep each episode lively.

Anyway, in this film, we learn early on that only some vampires die when you put a stake through their heart. Only some are afraid of the cross, and only some are affected by the sun (the vampires in this film are not bothered by the sun at all.) In other words, part of the vampire hunter’s task is to figure out how to kill whichever vampire he comes across.

Having captured a vampire, Kronos and Grost tie him to a chair and set about experimenting with ways of killing him. First, a stake through the heart. Nope. Then they try hanging him. Now, don’t forget, this vampire is tied to a chair. What we see is a shadow on the wall, a shadow of a noose, and a man sitting in a chair being hauled up toward the ceiling, chair and all! It really is good for a belly laugh (and it does not kill him either!) Then they try fire, nope…… and on.

Oh, you’re just going to have to get used to such liberties if you’re going to enjoy Captain Kronos. I actually consider myself a bit of stickler for the vampire mythology, but somehow, Kronos got under the radar, and I found myself enjoying it immensely.

One final thing to note. If you know anything about Hammer vampire films then you know about the Karnstein triology of films (Vampire Lovers, Lust for a Vampire and Twins of Evil). Well, someone needs to correct me, because I could swear a woman in this film claims to be a Karnstein. It’s really quite weird, I would love to hear your thoughts on this.

My favorite line in the movie is when Kronos is talking about his sidekick Grost, telling a friend “What he doesn't know about vampires, you couldn't put in a flea's codpiece.” I mean, with a dedication like that – what could it be but great?

I will also mention this is the 6th Hammer release from DDVideo in the UK. The others are “Quatermass Xperiment”, Qautermass II, Abominable Snowman, X the Experiment and Frankenstein and the Monster from Hell. Each release comes with a 24 page booklet of insight into the film, they really are great additions to the overall package and make these, as far as I am concerned, the definitive Hammer releases (beating out Anchor Bay).

Captain Kronos then is not a film that takes itself very seriously. It’s a Hammer film, but not like any Hammer film you’ve ever seen before. It has its own ideas, its own way of portraying vampires and how they must die. It has plenty of swordplay (yes, swordplay) and a little blood, but not much. Actually, this was the only Hammer horror film to ever fail to garner an “X” certificate, being given an “AA” without any cuts! Is that a hindrance? Nah, all Hammer films look pretty silly on the gore scale these days. This one does not suffer any for all that.

This movie comes to R1 in a few short months, and if you have any love for Hammer at all, you owe it to yourself to snap it up. I actually regret this one never made it as a series, this guy would have kicked Buffy’s ass. Recommended, as long as you can live with the vampire mythology changes.

Image Quality - B+
Sound - C
Supplements - C
DVD
DD Video
Running Time - 1 hour 31 minutes approx
Color
Region 2
15
1:85 Widescreen
Dolby Stereo

Zodiac-Mindwarp
07-26-2003, 09:42 PM
Excellent review Dwatts!

I can not wait for the Region 1 release of this disc. I have not seen this movie for 12 to 15 years. So for me it is going to be like getting a new Caroline Munro movie to watch! :banana:

dwatts
07-26-2003, 09:42 PM
;) Thanks man.

There is actually a disrobing scene with Munro in this film - but her "bits" are obscured by shadow. She was one fine lady!

hell ya!
07-26-2003, 09:47 PM
Nice review! I can't wait to pick up my copy, for the price no one should hesitate to pick it up. Now i just gotta wait till October. :(