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Captain Kronos: Vampire Hunter (1974) - Blu-ray Review

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Captain Kronos: Vampire HUnter (1974)

Vampires! Swordfights!  Making whoopee with Caroline Munro in a stable!  It’s all here in Hammer’s classic Captain Kronos: Vampire Hunter, easily my favorite Hammer film.  

This cult film - featuring a very able Horst Janson as Captain Kronos and John Cater as Professor Hieronymus Grost (Kronos’ hunchbacked assistant) - remains the unexpected gem in the 1970s cataloge of Hammer Films due to its zippy energy, the ample uses of both action and comedy bits, and the demented darkness that tugs at almost every scene.  

"Twisting shadows lead the way in this genre-hopping and very entertaining ride through one of Hammer’s best films"


Of course, the lovely ladies in their bustle dresses doesn’t hurt anything either.  Caroline Munro, playing a gypsy Kronos and Grost have freed from the stocks, is joined by Lois Daine, Lisa Collings, Elizabeth Dear, and Olga Anthony, who gets a bat stuck to her face!  The women here are, you guessed it, targets for a series of unwarranted vampire attacks in daylight, leaving these women drained of their beauty and their youth.

You read that right: daylight vampire attacks.  That’s part of why this actioner works so well: the unexpected.  You’ve got a Douglas Fairbanks-like character sword fighting and swashbuckling with all types of baddies in a bar and a graveyard and it is all in the pursuit of supernatural evil.  The gothic genre be damned!  Kronos is here to breathe life into its staleness!

Written and directed by Brian Clemens (known for his work on television’s The Avengers), Captain Kronos: Vampire Hunter is a continuation of what The Hammer House of Horror had tried to do with The Vampire Lovers (1970), Lust for a Vampire (1971) and Twins of Evil (1971), and that was to revitalize the genre and try to breathe a bit more life (and lust) into their creaky gothic films.  Audiences wanted blood and flesh. Hammer desperately needed money if they were to continue, so who was Hammer to deny them of their wants? 

Clemens, in his only time as director, answered the call by making the main vampire in this rollicking film a descendant of the vampires in their initial stake at retooling Vampirism.  He just had this one rob the women of their youth. Drain their beauty and not their blood. Interesting choice, but how this is handled - thanks to some creepy forest and cemetery cinematography courtesy of Ian Wilson (who would go on to eventually shoot The Crying Game) - makes the vampire attacks - with great POVS and subjective angles - quite memorable.

Summoned by an old army friend, Dr. Marcus (John Carson), Kronos and Grost arrive unsure of what to expect.  After performing a series of tests, they are both convinced that a vampire, a very hungry one, is to blame. Who and where is it, though?

As the trio, with Carla (Munro) in tow, start their search for any drops of blood, Dr. Marcus makes the fateful decision to visit The Durwoods.  With Lady Durwood (Wanda Ventham) bedridden, it is the weirdness of Paul (Shane Briant) and Sara (Lois Daine) Durwood that greets him. He leaves unharmed, but there is something waiting for him in the forest: a tall, cloaked figure.

What follows in the wake of Dr. Marcus’ vampiric rendezvous is a bar fight ripped straight from a western (except with swords!), a memorable bat attack in the forest as a woman gets “faced” by it, and a classic cemetery battle (complete with tilted crosses) as Kronos and Goste chase the evil to its primary source.Captain Kronos: Vampire HUnter (1974)

Twisting shadows lead the way in this genre-hopping and very entertaining ride through one of Hammer’s best films.  Had the studio not run out of money, we would have seen much more of Captain Kronos and heard much more of that dynamic score from composer Laurie Johnson, but alas it was not so.  Sigh. The legacy of Captain Kronos begins and ends with this film.

It’s death by an iron cross, of course!  Captain Kronos: Vampire Hunter is now available on blu-ray thanks to Scream Factory!  Let the swashbuckling begin again!

5/5 stars

Captain Kronos: Vampire HUnter (1974)

Blu-ray

Blu-ray Details:

Home Video Distributor: Shout Factory!
Available on Blu-ray
- April 14, 2020
Screen Formats: 1.85:1
Subtitles
: English SDH
Audio:
DTS-HD Master Audio Mono
Discs: Blu-ray Disc; single disc
Region Encoding: Locked to Region A

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.

Video:

The English countryside has never been so appealing!  Scream Factory presents Captain Kronos: Vampire Hunter with a clean 1080p transfer with a few impressive results.  First, there’s no denying that this film, wiped clean of dirt and debris, has never looked better. Colors are bold and dynamic and that fake blood is more obvious than ever.  That being said, there are a few problems with shading as most of the blacks bleed into other colors more often than they should but this isn’t a horrible aspect. Obviously, there are some issues with the original film stock and while the sets are glorious under the restoration, it is more than obvious details aren’t exactly being picked up like one might expect.  None of that can be helped, though, due to the budget of the time. The outdoor shoot is expressive, though, with blacks being solid and clean lines adding dimension to the figure of Caroline Munro.  

Audio:

A crisp DTS-HD Master Audio Mono track provides the sound of swordplay and a rollicking original score (with a theme!!!) for the action.

Supplements:

Commentary:

  • There are TWO great commentaries which add even more flavor and appeal to the proceedings for cult enthusiasts.

Special Features:

With two NEW supplemental items, the featurettes on this release are as entertaining as the film.  Fun and quality stuff thanks to the input of Kim Newman and others

  • NEW Audio Commentary With Film Historian Bruce G. Hallenbeck
  • NEW Anything Goes: Hammer Film In The 70s Featurette
  • Audio Commentary With Writer/Director/Producer Brian Clemens, Actress Caroline Munro, And Hammer Films Historian Jonathan Sothcott
  • Theatrical Trailer
  • Radio Spots

Blu-ray Rating:

  Movie 5/5 stars
  Video  4/5 stars
  Audio 3/5 stars
  Extras 3/5 stars

Overall Blu-ray Experience

4/5 stars

Captain Kronos: Vampire HUnter (1974)

MPAA Rating: R.
Runtime:
91 mins
Director
: Brian Clemmons
Writer:
Brian Clemmons
Cast:
Horst Janson, John Carson, Shane Briant
Genre
: Horror
Tagline:
The Only Man Alive Feared by the Walking Dead!
Memorable Movie Quote: "Beauty fades eventually, but a kind soul remains forever."
Theatrical Distributor:
Paramount Pictures
Official Site:
Release Date:
June 14, 1974
DVD/Blu-ray Release Date:
April 14, 2020.
Synopsis: International assassin Shatter (Stuart Whitman, Crazy Mama, Ruby) completes a contract kill on an African dictator and heads for Hong Kong to collect his payment. But when he finds himself marked for death in a deadly double-cross, the hit man is hunted through the seedy underworld. Now with the help of a kung fu master (Ti Lung, A Better Tomorrow), Shatter must take on the international drug syndicate in a final showdown of violence and vengeance!

Captain Kronos: Vampire HUnter (1974)

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