Captain Kronos: Vampire Hunter (1974)

Director: Brian Clemens

Brian Clemens was one of the main people responsible for The Avengers among other 1960s TV series, so he should’ve been a good catch for Hammer… except somehow he wasn’t, ultimately being attached to only two of their films (the other being Dr Jekyll & Sister Hyde which he produced); Sinclair McKay’s book hints at behind-the-scenes conflicts with Michael Carreras, who was running the show by this time, and when Hammer eventually decided to sit on the finished product for two years—as they did with Frankenstein and the Monster from Hell before finally releasing those two films together too late to do any good—I presume Clemens realised there wasn’t much point fighting. And that’s a damn shame, cos it was a good fight to try to reinvigorate the studio with some different twists on old stories (this was, as noted previously, intended to kick off a new series); in this case, Clemens appears to have looked at a bunch of older vampire films and decided what they really needed was more sword fights… Period setting here is a bit vague, but I’m guessing mid-1600s, assuming the “war” referred to was the English civil war; whenever it is, though, there’s a village being beset by some decidedly unconventional vampires, with an unusual m.o. (draining their victims of youth rather than blood) and seemingly few problems with such things as daylight and crucifixes (one attack actually happens in a church). It’s up to stolidly semi-Teutonic hero Captain Kronos and his hunchback offsider Professor Grost to save the day. This is an awful lot of fun in a fairly B-grade way, enlivened with some arresting images (e.g. the church bell dripping with blood), some nice acting (particularly John Carson as the doctor who summons Kronos in the first place and becomes a vampire himself), and a rather splendid noble residence where the final confrontation takes place (one of Hammer’s best sets). Decidedly the better half of the bill with F&tMfH, so it’s disappointing that it went down with that ship and the projected series never happened, as it may have done if only Hammer had given a shit…

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