From the DVD case: In a small village in the remote English countryside, several young maidens have been found dead – their beautiful young faces horribly aged almost beyond recognition. Suspecting a supernatural evil at work, the local doctor calls on Army friend and famed vampire hunter Captain Kronos, an expert swordsman formerly of the King’s Imperial Guard. Aided by his expert assistant Professor Grost, the two quickly confirm the gruesome murders are the work of a unique type of vampire, one who drains its victims not of their blood, but of their youth! (1974, color)
Mark says: Captain Kronos was meant to have been (and should have been) the beginning of a Hammer Films’ series, similar to their Dracula productions. Unfortunately, feeble box office sales kept the series from being realized.
Being a bit of a dullard, the originality of Captain Kronos was lost on me in my boyhood (I was 12 when it was released). The concept of a vampire which drains its victims of youth rather than blood was confusing to me, and Captain Kronos, being a swashbuckler rather than a Peter Cushing-type vampire slayer, seemed odd and unpalatable.
Now, as old age creeps up on me like a bat on the back of a chair, I find the concept of a “youth vampire” more menacing. I’ve also come to appreciate the comic book approach to the film. Captain Kronos is a true adventurer, complete with sidekick in the form of Prof. Hieronymos Grost.
Kronos is played superbly by German actor, Horst Janson. The role calls for a tongue-in-cheek quality, which Janson pulls off without the character dissolving into complete schtick. Kronos is handsome, proud, loyal, cunning, a master swordsman and no slouch with the ladies. He also has no compassion for the undead (he had to slay his own mother and sister when they fell victims to vampirism). Kronos is a vampire bite survivor himself, and we witness a bit of his own blood-lust during a passionate scene with the heroine.
Prof. Grost is played by John Cater (The Abominable Dr. Phibes). Grost, a hunchback, is a weak physical specimen, but unparalleled when it comes to vampire lore. We learn from Grost that “there are as many species of vampire as there are beasts of prey.” Perhaps more interestingly, we find that the standard “stake through the heart” is not reliable cure in many cases.
I admire how this film attempts to reinvent the vampire legend. You can easily imagine how the series could have played out, with Kronos and Grost tracking the different species of vampires and then trying to surmise their method of destruction.
Caroline Munro (Dracula A.D. 1972) is more than convincing as Captain Kronos’ love interest, Carla. Carla possesses many of the same traits as Kronos. She is beautiful, proud, loyal, and proves to exhibit a genuine bravery. When Kronos first comes upon her, Carla, being a rebel at heart, is in a stockade for “dancing on a Sunday.”
John Carson (The Plague of the Zombies) plays Dr. Marcus, Kronos’ old Army friend. In a darkly humorous scene, Dr. Marcus helps Kronos and Grost discover how to destroy this particular breed of vampire. I won’t ruin the moment for you by describing it, but I will say it is one of the more memorable sequences in the movie.
Also look for Shane Briant (Frankenstein and the Monster from Hell), Lois Daine, Wanda Ventham (The Vampire-Beast Craves Blood), and William Hobbs as the Durward family.
Captain Kronos, though enjoying a cult following, is an underrated Hammer Production that definitely deserves your attention. I recommend watching it more than once, as it has a way of growing on you.
Written and directed by Brian Clemens (Dr. Jekyll and Sister Hyde).
Scene to watch for: Captain Kronos makes short-work of three barroom thugs led by the villainous Kerro (Ian Hendry).
Line to listen for: “I know you’ve got guts, Kronos. I’ve seen them!”
Trivia: Ingrid Pitt (The Vampire Lovers) turned down the part of Lady Durward, portrayed by Wanda Ventham.
Mark’s Rating: ! ! ! ! out of 5.