Captain Kronos – Vampire Hunter

captainkronosposterHammer Productions ultimately could not withstand the heightened gore that audiences came to favor in the early 70s, as the gritty realism of The Last House on the Left and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre made Gothic horror appear almost quaint.

Captain Kronos – Vampire Hunter is latter day Hammer, yet featuring all the things that made these films so great: the mien, postures, staircases, stagecoaches, candelabras, brandy decanters and purple dialogue.

A premature aging epidemic ravages an 18th century village, as victims’ faces are drained of youth and Botox as cosmetic therapy hadn’t been developed for another 200 years. One Dr Marcus is concerned, and calls in the dashing Captain Kronos to investigate (German actor Horst Janson). Kronos, along with hunchbacked loyal manservant Hieronymus Grost are on the case — after all, they’re vampire hunters.

Along the way, they pick up a local, Carla, who’s been bound, ankles in neck, in a pillory. She is played by the stunning Caroline Munro (Maniac/Starcrash) and soon becomes Kronos’ lover.

We find out that there’s as much diversity in the vampire kingdom as there is among mammalian predators, and that the creatures of the undead cannot be killed by conventional means in all cases, and that their external morphology and behavior differs by region. This was Hammer’s obvious attempt to add iron to what at that point had become an anemic genre.

captain_kronos_vampire

O Captain! My Captain!

The duo’s swashbuckling quest leads to the Durward household, whose matriarch is bedridden and ravaged by the passage of time — a lot of time — she looks dreadful.

Our heroes fight off a bunch of goons sent by the creatures of the night to intercept them, in a spectacular tavern saber brawl. The publican and the missus look on from beneath the bar as we get our first taste of some of Captain Kronos’ swordplay prowess.

Poor Dr Marcus turns though, and Kronos and Grost must find a way to put him out of his misery and find out who the culprit is/are.

Rip-roaring fun from start to finish, a lush no-budget and underrated entry in the Hammer canon.

***1/2 (out of 5)

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Dead Ringers

dead_ringersLong before the Winklevoss twins unfriended Mark Zuckerberg, David Cronenberg introduced us to these scheming monozygotes —  the gynegologist duo Bev/Elliot in Dead Ringers.

We’re all fascinated by twins, whether it’s the charming movie of the same name with Messrs De Vito and Schwarzenegger or the ditsy Vegas girls from The Bachelor.

According to a study in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, in 2006, the rate of twin pregnancies in the United States was 32 per 1000 births. It’s rare and it’s genetic, but it’s their use in nature/nurture studies that probably piqued Cronenberg’s interest, what with his background in the biological sciences.

Like Cronenberg’s early horrors, Dead Ringers is a mutant movie, in this case, “mutant women” treated by a team of twin brother gynecologists, the Doctors Mantle, who operate out of a high-tech Toronto clinic where their surgical team dress like Spanish Inquisitors in showy red robes.

And only someone like David Cronenberg could explore the dark side of the twin phenomenon and make it great fiction fodder, teasing apart the subtle behavioral differences between the doctor twosome, Bev and Elliot, who share 100% of their DNA. (It’s a tour-de-force performance by the icy Jeremy Irons, whose name humbled would-be anagram-ist Lisa Simpson, not to mention a great technical cinematic achievement by Cronenberg “separating” the two Irons, as it were.)

One the docs has designed a solid gold “retractor”: a creepy instrument that he wants to take from the coroner’s table to the gynecologist’s chair.

And they date the same women surreptitiously (obviously the most fun you can have as a twin) while abusing drugs and alcohol.

dead-ringers-movieOne of these women, Claire Niveau, is a small time TV actress (played terrifically by Geneviève Bujold), a “mutant” possessed of a “trifurcated cervix,” most likely making her infertile.

Elliot, much like he does with his other patients, attempts to seduce her, then passes her off to his meeker brother.

As Elliot’s drug abuse begins to take more of a toll, he commissions a local artist to cast experimental gynecological implements out of metal, and that’s where Cronenberg really turns his horror obsessions inward.

Roger Ebert back-hand complimented Dead Ringers as “a collaboration between med school and a supermarket tabloid.”

And it’s as clinical as Cronenberg’s ever been, but given the circumstances, with good reason.

***1/2 (out of 5)

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