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Roy Ward Baker
Vampire hunter and expert swordsman Kronos finds himself in a small village where several of the local young women have been found in an advanced state of age, their youth drained from them by a vampire's kiss. Kronos' search leads him to the Durward estate where he is met by the effete children of the apparently aged and sick Lady Durward.Written by
Doug Sederberg <email@example.com>
Underrated Hammer horror that deserves to be rediscovered.
Now I'm a big horror fan, but ironically enough I finally decided to give this one a go because of the western and swordfighting angle it has (I'm a big fan of both spaghetti westerns and chambaras). And therein lies the power of Captain Kronos: it's more than your typical Hammer vampire entry. It manages to be both serious and tongue-in-cheek, both atmospheric and visceral, and thus operates on a whole other level than earlier Hammer vampire flicks which I find very formulaic.
Captain Kronos is a swashbuckling vampire hunter, a mixture of the spaghetti western cool anti-hero and the antagonist of evil that is usually the Van Helsing character. In true Clint Eastwood fashion, he smokes a stump, swaps the poncho for an 18th century army jacket and the six shooter for various swords (including a katana). His sidekick is the witty vampire expert Professor Grost and along with Carla, a gypsy girl they pick along the way (played by Caroline Munro), they're called upon to solve a case of vampirism in rural England.
What strikes me about Captain Kronos is the exceptional cinematography. Director Brian Clemens employs some very inventive angles to photograph the action, leaving more to the mind's eye through use of shadows and eliptical editing. Highlights include the shadow of a cross coming to life and the shadow of a man being hanged seen through a window. The exterior shots are all well composed, with the thick black soil, the trees and the bleak weather all coming together as the perfect setting for the vampires to wreak havoc. There are also some very chillng moments (like the hooded vampires in the forest and a very creepy old lady), so don't be mistaken: Captain Kronos might take its cue from action movies, but it's still essentially a horror flick at heart.
Of course it's not without its flaws. Horst Janson (Captain Kronos) is by no means a physical actor so the action scenes leave a lot to be desired. His swordfighting as seen in the cemetery scene is lamentably bad. It's no wonder that the best scene of him using a sword is in the tavern where he teaches three bullies a lesson. His slashing there is composed in the editing room. OK this is Hammer, not Toho or Daei, and Janson couldn't possibly dream of equalling a Mifune or Nakadai, but still a couple of swordfighting lessons wouldn't have been such a bad idea. What's worse is that Janson is not a good actor period. His range involves little more than trying to look cool. Even at that, his boyish face and blonde hair don't help at all. He's more stiff and wooden than "badass" cool. A more charismatic lead would have done wonders for Captain Kronos.
Anyways, this is a movie that deserves to be rediscovered by all sorts of 70's b-movie fans. I'm not a vampire fan by any means, so it's very refreshing to see a movie playing with the conventions and clichés of the sub-genre (which I find tiresome for the most part) in entertaining ways.
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