The brilliantly titled Captain Kronos: Vampire Hunter was meant to kick start a franchise and revitalise Hammer studios when it came out in the heady days of the mid-seventies. Instead it was another nail in the coffin (sorry) of the flailing British horror factory, even with that exciting name. And I can tell you why: after my all talk in the Twins of Evil review, Kronos is guilty of the worse sin of all – it’s a little bit boring.
Captain Kronos, a German soldier intent on tracking down the un-dead, finds himself traipsing through the English countryside in search of a villainous cloaked creature of the night who’s having a nibble on all the local wenches. He does this alongside his side kick, a hunchback professor (well why not?). It’s all a good idea, mixing up the adventure movie with the horror genre; however success is all in the execution, or not as the case may be…
I say the English countryside, but all the exteriors are shot seemingly in one rather small clearing in a wood. All of the action happens here, all of it. They set up a trap in a ten metre area, hang around and still miss the vampire, who seems to only hang about around the same tree. At one point a local decides to keep an eye on his woman as she walks home, she only lives on the other side of a row of trees, maybe twenty yards, but she still manages to get killed. Why didn’t her boyfriend just walk with her? They all knew about the attacks, was it that much of an effort to walk her home, a journey that’s the length of a double-decker bus.
And I say creature of the night, but all of this happens in very bright daylight. Whatever happened to the wonderful day-for-night footage Hammer was known for? In fact, the whole film is way over lit. The village pub, which looks suspiciously like the school set from Twins of Evil, looks like it has strip lighting it. The castle where the vampires live has a candle or two in the background, but they’re not kidding anyone.
Captain Kronos himself is not hugely likeable. While he’s good-looking in a Formula One’s James Hunt type fashion and has a cool sword, he’s mostly a bit dull and occasionally quite mean. He shacks up with a girl he frees from the stocks (the stunningly beautiful Caroline Munro) but after an unseen bout in the hay, she’s got all cuts and bruises on her face. Apparently he’s “troubled” and expresses this by inflicting violence during intercourse. I’m troubled, I do nothing of the sort. Grow up Kronos, stop being such a frightful cunt. He is very loyal to his sidekick though, the hunchback professor, who should be entertaining but mostly just rattles on a bit while sitting in trees.
It’s not all bad though, there are some nice touches. All the women who get bitten turn into craggy hags, replaced by much older actresses in wigs and that’s a fun idea. Apparently they die, but you never see that happen, they just sit there smacking their gums where teeth used to be. I wonder if their families or boyfriends just finish them off in disgust, unable to come to terms with young Meg turning into old Meg and rather than needing a good old knee-trembler behind the barn she’d happily settle for a cup of cocoa. Also, the vampire makes all the plants wither and die as he walks past them, one of the few visual flourishes in the movie. Indeed, throughout the film there is an underlying theme about hanging onto youth by any means necessary, stealing your beauty from others, and making them crumble to dust so you can keep young and nubile. It’s a classic Vampiric subject, though only half-heartedly done.
And that’s the whole thing with Captain Kronos, it’s all a bit half-hearted. The vampire hunting takes too much president over actual vampire killing, there are a lot of pointless sub plots that go nowhere and the characters aren’t developed enough to really get behind the mission. In fact, when the mystery of who the vampires are is revealed, it’s more glorified family soap opera than something a horror fan can sink his teeth into. God I hate myself for saying that. See, I’m troubled…