Captain Kronos: Vampire Hunter
Length: 91 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1, Anamorphic
Audio: DD Mono
SRP: Under $20 USD
I should make something clear right up front, here - because many who read this are probably connoisseurs of the horror film.
I am not.
That’s not to say that I don’t occasionally enjoy a good horror film... but my appreciation for the genre is somewhat like my appreciation for wine. If it’s got a cork in it, it’s all the same to me.
I have more appreciation for “old-fashioned” horror films than I do for today's slice and dice renditions of the genre. I’ll take Nosferatu, or House of Usher ... or the original monster movies of the thirties, over pretty much anything made in the last couple of decades. Most modern horror films are simply gore-fests, with little attention paid to the art of storytelling. You’ve seen one Freddie, you’ve seen them all.
That said, Hammer Films’ Captain Kronos: Vampire Hunter (1974) harkens back to the old days of horror films, with some twists. The story of the vampire is altered from the original lore here, but the storytelling is old-fashioned in approach. There is hardly any gore in the film, and though its a horror film, the design borrows from John Ford, Alfred Hitchcock and others. Director Brian Clemens actually prefers not to think of this as a horror film, and equates it with the style of early Sherlock Holmes. He prefers to hold back the blood (and the sex) and let the mind of the viewer fill in the gaps. I find this refreshing, after so many horror films that leave nothing to the imagination. I have found that my imagination is far more capable of scaring me than any piece of celluloid (or any number of bits on a disc), so I heartily agree with his approach.
The basic story is this, from the DVD package:
In a small village in the remote English countryside, several young maidens have been found dead - their beautiful faces horribly aged almost beyond recognition. Suspecting a supernatural evil at work, the local doctor calls on Army friend and famed vampire hunter Captain Kronos, an expert swordsman formerly of the King’s Imperial Guard. Aided by his expert assistant Professor Grost, the two quickly confirm the gruesome murders are the work of a unique type of vampire, one who drains its victims not of their blood, but of their youth! After forging a lethal new sword from an old graveyard cross, the vampire hunters set out to put an end to Evil’s reign of terror in this Hammer Films horror classic.
Despite the fact that I was expecting a more traditional vampire film when I sat down to watch this, I found it a rather engaging story. It plays more like a cross between a spaghetti western and a Sherlock Holmes film than any vampire film I’ve seen before. It’s all sort of “schlocky,” but it’s all in fun. The actors seem to have a good time with it, playing fairly stereotypical roles. The one thing I thought could have been better is the choreography of the swordplay.
I understand this film, and many other Hammer films, have a cult following - and I can see why. The film has a lot of charm...
... just don’t go into it expecting “traditional” vampires.
This is a 1.85:1 anamorphic transfer. It looks mighty fine for a film from the early 70’s. Generally bright and reasonably sharp, the picture does exhibit some fine grain characteristic of the period and budget of this film. Occasional dust mars an otherwise clean print. Colors are a bit under-saturated, but adequate. Shadow detail was usually good, but suffered a bit in some scenes. Overall, a nice transfer of an old catalog title.
The audio is Dolby Digital, Mono. The sound is clean, with fair frequency response and clear dialog. Don’t expect soaring highs or booming lows... but I think you’ll find the soundtrack representative of the original recording.
Included on the disc is a commentary by genre historian Jonathan Sothcott, writer / director / producer Brian Clemens, and actress Caroline Munro. The half hour of commentary I listened to was dominated by Clemens, with a fair amount of input from Munro. Sothcott would occasionally prompt for more information on certain events. Clemens spoke frequently of how he “borrowed” shots from classic John Ford films, among other classic sources. A fairly interesting, if not rousing, commentary.
This film isn’t what I expected... it’s not your average vampire movie, but it is a good story. It’s a well-produced budget horror film from the Hammer vaults. Fans of Hammer films will be glad to see this on DVD, and Paramount has provided a good transfer of this classic cult favorite.