Films which cross-pollinate genres are all the rage these days, but in years past they were far less common. Hammer Films, the British makers of classic horror films such as the long-running Dracula and Frankenstein series, actually attempted some multi-genre productions several times throughout their history. For example, the three films in the Professor Quatermass series, The Quatermass Xperiment (1955), Quatermass 2 (1957) and Five Million Years To Earth (1967), all contained elements of both science-fiction and horror. In the 1970s, when some of their films were attaining less box-office success than in their late 1950s and 1960s glory years, Hammer made a couple of overt attempts at genre mashups. The Legend of the Seven Golden Vampires (1974) was a co-production with Hong Kong’s Shaw Brothers studio. The film, set in China in the 1800s, starred genre stalwart Peter Cushing as Professor Van Helsing, and combined elements of Hammer’s Dracula series with martial arts action.
One of the more offbeat projects to be released by Hammer during this period is Captain Kronos, Vampire Hunter (1974), which features the adventures of the title character, a swashbuckling hero who hunts down and kills vampires, aided by his hunch-backed assistant, Professor Grost, an expert on the undead. The story begins when Dr. Marcus, an old army buddy of Kronos, contacts him and asks Kronos to look into a series of bizarre deaths which are occurring in his village. When Kronos and Grost arrive and look into the killings, they discover that the undead menace is draining youth, not blood, from its victims, leaving withered husks behind. Aided by a gypsy girl named Carla, whose life our hero has saved, Kronos and Grost try to locate the vampire and extinguish this evil creature.
Krono’s investigation leads him to the Durwards, a wealthy and aristocratic family. After a group of thugs attack Kronos and Grost, they realize that someone doesn’t want them to discover the true identity of the vampire. As he continues his search, Kronos finds time to drink tankards of ale, engage in a brawl or two, and of course, romance the lovely Carla. Who is the youth-draining vampire, and why does Marcus return from a visit to the Durward home with blood on his lips? Will Kronos and Grost figure out a way to defeat this very different type of vampire threat before it’s too late? There will be some eerie and frightening moments, sword-swinging action and a couple of unique twists on vampire lore before the terrifying truth is revealed.
Captain Kronos, Vampire Hunter is a decidedly different type of Hammer production, combining swashbuckling adventure with horror and the supernatural. The film was written and directed by Brian Clemens, best known for his work on the classic British series The Avengers and The Professionals, as well as Thriller, a well-regarded mystery/suspense themed anthology series. Albert Fennell, who also worked on The Avengers and The Professionals, co-produced the movie. Clemens and Fennell had earlier co-produced another Hammer film, Dr. Jekyll and Sister Hyde (1971), which was written by Clemens. First-time director Clemens keeps the action moving at a brisk pace, and the movie is as much an old-fashioned action-adventure tale as it is a horror film. Ian Wilson provides some striking cinematography, and the evocative score is by Laurie Johnson, another veteran of The Avengers.
Horst Janson is an athletic and dynamic hero, and John Cater is good as his partner, Professor Grost. The rest of the cast features several faces that will be quite familiar to genre fans, including Shane Briant, Wanda Ventham and Ian Hendry. Carla is portrayed by Caroline Munro, who’s well known for her appearances in films such as The Golden Voyage of Sinbad, At The Earth’s Core, The Spy Who Loved Me and Starcrash. Hammer had hoped this well-mounted production would launch a series of Kronos adventures, but the film was not a huge success at the box office, so no sequels were produced. Captain Kronos did return in comics form during the 1970s in two British publications dedicated to Hammer, The House of Hammer and Hammer’s Halls of Horror. There was also a novelization of the film written by Guy Adams published by Titan Books in 2011, and a four issue Captain Kronos comic book series from Titan Comics in 2018. The film is available on DVD and Blu-ray. Here's a link to the film’s trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8PbRzrGTt2E.
This article on Captain Kronos, Vampire Hunter is part of the Third Annual Hammer/Amicus Blogathon, celebrating the best of this pair of much revered and beloved British horror film companies. I’d like to thank my fellow bloggers Gil from Realweegie Midget Reviews and Barry from Cinematic Catharsis for hosting, and for including me in the lineup. Check out the work of the other talented writers participating in this blogathon by following this link: https://weegiemidget.wordpress.com/blogathons/blogathons-2021/whos-doing-what-in-the-third-great-hammer-amicus-blogathon/.