Tuesday, October 29, 2013

REVIEW: Captain Kronos - Vampire Hunter

Captain Kronos – Vampire Hunter
Director: Brian Clemens
Year 1974

Captain Kronos – Vampire Hunter is a fantastically fun Hammer film which combines horror and adventure elements into one highly entertaining package. Existing in a cinematic realm of its own, the movie generates a curious atmosphere as it whimsically whisks us away into a world filled with vampires and vampire hunters. Often campy and strangely hypnotic, Captain Kronos – Vampire Hunter is a unique concoction for the British powerhouse of Hammer Film Productions. It's unique, adventurous, and against the grain, and it is in this unorthodox approach where the film culls its most endearing qualities from.

The film follows the exploits of Captain Kronos, a swashbuckling vampire hunter who comes to the aid of his old friend Dr. Marcus, after receiving word that he is in need of his expertise. It seems that a local village has recently been plagued by a series of unusual murders, and Kronos and his trusted hunchbacked assistant Grost believe it is the work of vampires. Concocting a string of tests and narrowing down the playing field, Kronos and Grost close in on the killer, but all is not what it seems in this sleepy unsuspecting town. With the help of a beautiful outcast named Carla, Kronos and Grost just might have what it takes to take down this ever illusive monster and save the villagers from certain doom.

Horst Janson takes on the titular role of Kronos, the king of all vampire slayers. Armed with a samurai blade and his wits, Janson gives the character an airy feel about him, balancing a sure fire confidence and an added grace that truly begins to embody the lofty icon. As quick witted as they come, the character is wonderfully charismatic, yet employed in the most subtle of ways. Janson allows the character to naturally resonate to the audience, never over indulging in the over the top nature of what a character like this would normally be demanded of. He is restrained and composed, and that is an interesting trait which is expertly portrayed throughout the run time of the film. Janson also allows the character of Kronos to interject a few comedic overtones to the narrative, with an added playful wink and a theatrical demeanor, he brings the role to life making for a highly memorable character that goes against the norm. Without Horst Janson's presence in the film, the movie wouldn't be as half as fun, or as interesting.

Supporting Janson in this grand effort to entertain is an admirable cast of actors. John Carson plays the role of Dr. Marcus, the troubled doctor who stumbles upon the most unexpected fact that his village is being consumed by an unseen monster. Carson laps up the fanciful nature of it all and his character is privy to a wide range of situations and odd scenarios. He rolls with the punches like a champ and gives the character of Dr. Marcus a genuine effort, one that surprisingly encroaches on unexpected territory. John Cater takes on the supporting role of Grost, Kronos' right hand man. As eccentric as they come, Cater creates a respectively different character with Grost. Though he is a slight variation of the iconic Igor role from Frankenstein lore, he embraces the unusual by blending that familiar archetype with that of a knowledgeable scholar. Brandishing a hump and a superior intellect, Cater's Grost is a breath of fresh air, and a likeable element in the overall story. Speaking of likeable, you can't go wrong with Caroline Munro as Carla, the outcast beauty with a heart of gold. Anything that has Munro in it is worth a watch, and she plays a mostly understated character in this production. Yet that still doesn't stop her presence in this film from shinning and the moments with her onscreen are simply golden.

The atmosphere in Captain Kronos – Vampire Hunter is something of a tricky beast, for it pivots back and forth between camp, whimsical humor, to foreboding horror, and does this on a consistent basis. It's unusual to say the least, but the result is something that is wholly unique and a whole hell of a lot of fun. With rye humor and a tongue firmly placed to cheek, this unusual Hammer flick is one that definitely traverses down its own path. The only other film that comes close to this sort of duel tone is the fantastic Roman Polanski film The Fearless Vampire Killers, but even with that film they tended to sway towards the comedic aspect of things. In Captain Kronos, the filmmakers decide on keeping the line between both humor and horror blurred, and in this particular outlook they are able to generate an outstandingly original cinematic realm that is both fun and frightening, which still gels with Hammer's authentic style.

Another aspect of the movie that really goes against convention, is that it has a great deal of fun playing around with the typical lore of the vampire genre. Wooden stakes and garlic aren't the only ways to kill a creature of the night and in a most surprising turn of events, the vampires in this film can walk around in the daylight as well as the night. The characters even go on to say that every vampire is different in their own way, suggesting that there is a whole hierarchy of vampire categories out there to explore. It's an interesting suggestion and one that allows your mind to go wild as the two vampire hunters begin to systematically close in on what method will bring down this particular blood sucker. Added onto that is the fact that the vampire of the film actually sucks the youth from its victims, turning them into haggard invalids before they eventually succumb to death. It's twisted and unique, and perfectly defines the unorthodox approach of this classic Hammer film.

Captain Kronos – Vampire Hunter is a gloriously fresh take on the vampire genre and one of Hammer Film's most unusual of efforts. Casually combining its horror and fanciful elements, the production transforms itself into a truly one of a kind beast, one that scoffs at convention and marches to its own beat. Beautifully crafted in that iconic Hammer sensibility, the production greatly benefits from the picturesque countryside locations and interesting locales. The body count of the film is also substantial as the vampire of the film has a great go at draining the villagers of their youth and with brutal results.

The acting across the board is solid and the real standouts of the cast are Kronos himself Horst Janson, with John Carson, John Cater, and Caroline Munro making great efforts to make there presence felt within this unorthodox world. Janson especially embodies the heart and soul of the film, and his delicate performance as the titular vampire hunter is a special treat. Topped with the unrestrained outlook of the film's vampire lore and you have yourself one unconventional vampire tale. One that breaks the rules every chance it gets in its pursuit to entertain the audience no matter what the consequences. If you're looking for a vampire movie that goes against the grain, or a horror movie in general that feels like something completely different, then give this one a go. It's unlike anything you've seen before and that's a good thing. Captain Kronos – Vampire Hunter is an.....

Shit it's a zombie! RUN!

Hey! I axed you a question boy!

Hot women cause Grost to shit his pants.

Vampire Hunting Staring Contest..... GO!

Get down with your bad self Grost.

Kronos just chilling with his lady. What a pimp.

This image drives me batty.

Hey you kids! Come back here with my cross!

Ladies and gentlemen.... The beautiful Caroline Munro!

Bring it bro!

Someone give this guy a hand..... or body.

En garde.... I'll let you try my Kronos style!

These two are shocked, but the guy in the background is playing it cool.

My what strange eyes you have Kronos.

Alright you two.... Get off of the furniture!

This movie is so good, your eyes will bleed!

Everyone do the Freak! It's the brand new dance craze that's sweeping the nation!

Don't cry Caroline.... We will meet again in another kick ass movie.

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