FIVE FILMS FROM...1974
Captain Kronos - Vampire Hunter
(Directed by Brian Klemens)
By the mid-70s Hammer studios were no longer the powerhouse of British horror that they once were, and poor box-office for their gothic tales meant some brave experimentation went on with their offerings. “Kronos” was actually filmed in 1972, but not released until 1974. It was designed to bring a new kind of vibrancy and imagination to the now-staid Vampire movie, and the plan was for Kronos to become a franchise in the way that Frankenstein and Dracula had become, but by time it hit the cinema that was no longer a financially viable option. Often cited by film critics as one the last great horror productions by the studio, it has become a fan favourite with remastered screenings at several festivals, and is noteworthy for a number of reasons. It was the only feature film to have been directed and written by the ubiquitous Brian Clemens, who gained much fame for his work on cult TV shows such as “The Avengers” and “The Professionals”. Set in an unspecified era (possibly Napoleonic), the basic plot sees the swashbuckling Kronos (played by German actor Horst Janson) ride dramatically across the countryside to hunt vampires. He’s aided by his hunchbacked assistant Professor Hieronymus Grost (John Cater), and hindered by a surprising new variation of the cursed bloodsuckers.
Despite the lack of success at the time, there’s a lot to admire about “Kronos”. For a start it dares to play fast and loose with vampiric lore. The main antagonist here is a cloaked Grim Reaper character, which sucks the life from young girls instead of blood. Cue unsettling shots of suddenly-aged damsels, and a core whodunnit? narrative. It’s stylishly shot with plenty of colour and interesting visuals; such as the shadow of a crucifix changing into the Vampire. It even pre-empts Indiana Jones action, with a wonderful set-piece that’s built up for a bar fight, and ends abruptly with Kronos quickly slitting the throats of three ruffians before they have a chance to move! In some respects it’s a great deal more mature and restrained than most of the blood n’ bewbs epics that predated this. As far as supporting characters go, the uber-smart Horst is treated with respect and dignity instead of the typical disfigured henchman, and Caroline Munro’s gypsy love-interest is at least given some depth rather than just being some random excuse for a romp in the hay (although that still happens). Janson looks the part of the hero (even if his voice is dubbed by Julian Holloway from the “Carry On” films), and the whole vibe of the supernatural vs. slashing-swords has a fresh and invigorating feel that is unusual for the genre at this time. It’s a shame that Kronos never ventured out for more cinematic adventures.
(Directed by Larry Cohen)