Saturday, January 31, 2009

Captain Kronos -- Vampire Hunter

I don’t know that it can really be overstated how nice it was having Hammer around for our horror needs from the 50s through the 70s. Sadly, this film, released in the twilight of Hammer’s existence, wound up being relegated to relative obscurity, despite being one of their all-time best vampire movies.

That admittedly sounds like higher praise than it actually is, as I normally don’t like vampire movies, even ones that have Christopher Lee in them. Still, this one works, perhaps because you almost never see an actual vampire in the film itself, instead getting to witness our totally badass master swordsman Kronos (Horst Janson) as he rains hell on his enemies, wiping out three enemy swordsmen early in the film with only two slashes of his sword, and later killing off what seems to be every last damn man in the village when they foolishly try to rise up against him. Perhaps he’s not quite as rough as the kung fu brothers in Hammer and the Shaw Bros. joint venture Legend of the 7 Golden Vampires, but he’s certainly much more badass than Peter Cushing’s Van Helsing ever was.

There’s also some nice humor in the film. About halfway through the movie, Kronos learns that his friend, who had first summoned him to the village in fear of the vampires, has become one of them. Captured and tied to a chair, we are reminded that there are as many types of vampires as there are types of animals in the world, and each needs to be killed in a different way. What then follows, as it must, is a series of scenes of them trying every method of killing him that they can think of, from a stake to hanging to fire, before they stumble across the needed method by sheer chance. Thank goodness the needed method gives him the opportunity to have his hunchbacked assistant (John Cater) craft him a newer, bigger sword.

I sound like I’m making fun of the movie, but I don’t really mean to be. For a company that was in the process of collapsing in on itself, it’s admirable that it was still able to make films of this quality, even with nobody going to see them. If you want a fine Hammer vampire double feature, this would absolutely play great with Legend of the 7 Golden Vampires (for a triple feature, you could even throw in The Horror of Dracula), so go check it out.

Rating: ***

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