Hammer 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.
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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