The next horror movie on my quest is Captain Kronos: Vampire Hunter, a low budget Hammer film from 1974. Like a lot of old movies like this, I remember it well, but I am not sure if I ever actually saw it. I watched a lot of these Hammer films as a kid at midnight on WOR, channel 9 in New York. So I’d often fall asleep or only see bits and pieces of the movies because I was switching back and forth from Saturday NIght Live. And flipping channels back then required more work since you had to walk up to the TV and turn a knob. So you tended to stay with a show longer than you might these days.
But even if I never actually saw Captain Kronos, I was fully aware of him. Pictures from this film were a staple in the movie monster books that I so loved.
A friend, and fellow horror fan, lent me the DVD recently and I finally got around to watching it. Wow, I just watched The NIght Stalker, which is a bit dated, but still holds up and seems practically new in comparison. Captain Kronos, is an absolute blast into the 70’s horror past. It’s got it all; buxom maidens in the old English countryside being victimized by a youth stealing vampire, cheesy, technicolor special effects and a swashbuckling swordsman for a hero. There’s even an angry mob.
The plot revolves around the home village of Dr. Marcus, that seems to have a slight vampire problem. Luckily, Marcus has a buddy named Captain Kronos (Horst Janson), who happens to be a professional vampire hunter. (I wonder if Kronos ended up in that vocation as a result of a Myers Briggs test.)
Captain Kronos is a former soldier and still wears some sort of hybrid calvary/pirate outfit. With his lovely, flowing blonde hair, could double for a member of ABBA. He pals around with his sidekick, Professor Grost (John Cater), a hunchbacked combination of Professor Van Helsing and Marty Feldman’s Igor. And with his whiskers and top hat, he has a striking resemblance to Mr. Barnaby, the villain from March of the Wooden Soldiers.
I am glad I chose this movie right after The Night Stalker, because as I mentioned in that write up, one of the things I liked about that movie was that the vampire had no power of hypnosis. In this movie, the vampire’s primary weapon is it’s ability to mesmerize people. And you know when it’s happening because you hear that classic “hypnotizing” music whenever it’s happening.
Captain Kronos himself is quite the stud and manages to pick up a hot chick from the town’s stockades in the first few minutes of the movie. Carla, the gypsy girl, is played by Caroline Munro. She is one of the classic beauties from the Hammer era and is simply drop dead gorgeous. (Pardon the expression.) You may remember her from The Spy Who Loved Me, among other films.
Captain Kronos is the absolute opposite of The NIght Stalker’s bumbling Carl Kolchak. He’s a swashbuckling, puffy shirt wearing warrior with a personal vendetta against fanged bloodsuckers. And he’s so “randy” that at one point he actually gets distracted from hunting the vampire by his hot cohort long enough to allow another villager to get attacked and killed by a vampire bat. Hey.. a man has to have priorities.
The climax of the movie involves a sword fight in a room full of statue-like, hypnotized people... in fact, Kronos even manages to turn the head vampire’s beguiling power against itself thanks to his reflective sword.
Captain Kronos: Vampire Hunter is quite dated, and downright funny in places, as many movies from this era tend to be. But it’s exactly the kind of movie I want to see as I explore the horror landscape throughout the years. But probably the most important lesson I learned from this experience is this: Puffy pirate shirts allow for a lot of flexibility in a sword fight... and the village maidens really dig 'em.