• Captain Kronos: Vampirjäger (Captain Kronos: Vampire Hunter)

    Released by: Anolis Entertainment
    Released on: June 2nd, 2017.
    Director: Brian Clemens
    Cast: Horst Janson, John Carson, Shane Briant, Caroline Munro
    Year: 1974

    The Movie:

    The only feature film directed by prolific screenwriter Brian Clemens, 1974’s Captain Kronos: Vampire Hunter was a film that Hammer Films had hoped would inject some new blood into the vampire genre that had done so well for them in the past. Rather than bring Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing back, they instead took a decidedly different approach with a newly created character that they’d hoped would star in a series of films and maybe even a television series. For whatever reason, that never happened and the film hardly set the box office ablaze, but we are left with this feature, a fairly rousing mix of horror, action and drama in the fine Hammer tradition.

    The titular Captain Kronos (Horst Janson) is a former soldier who now travels about the English countryside with his assistant, a hunchback named Professor Grost (John Cater). Their mission? To cleanse England of the fanged menace that currently plagues the area – vampires! As they travel they soon befriend a beautiful gypsy woman named Carla (Caroline Munro) and then eventually make their way to the home of Dr. Marcus (John Carson), a man who Kronos served in the military with. Marcus alerts them of a recent rash of vampire attacks wherein beautiful young women are drained not of their blood, but of their youth, leaving once nubile figures aged husks.

    Never one to walk away from the opportunity to combat vampires, Kronos and company decide to try to figure out just what exactly is happening here and why. Grost is the brains of the operation, using his encyclopedic knowledge of the subject to puts the pieces of the puzzle together, while Kronos is deadly with his blade. When they team figure that all of this has something to do with a wealthy family named Durward, they set their investigation in that direction and find that Lady Durward (Wanda Ventham) and her two children, Paul (Shane Briant) and Sara (Lois Daine), are clearly hiding something… but it’s not what it seems!

    Captain Kronos: Vampire Hunter tosses aside the gothic trappings of Hammer’s earlier vampire pictures in favor of swashbuckling adventure and swordplay. It’s an odd change but it works thanks to Brian Clemens’s entertaining script and tight direction (it’s surprising that he never went on to direct another feature), as well as some typically lush locations and a strong cast. This isn’t as gory or as sexy as some of the studio’s better known efforts, but it is particularly entertaining and a whole lot of fun.

    German born Horst Janson handles the lead role well, appearing quite convincing in the fencing scenes and handling himself well while galloping about on horseback. He looks the part, does well in the action sequences and has solid screen presence. John Cater is likeable enough as the quirky hunchbacked professor who is along for the ride while Caroline Munro looks fantastic here, handling her role with ease and looking great doing it. The movie might not be particularly deep but it is nothing if not fantastic entertainment.


    Anolis presents Captain Kronos: Vampire Hunter framed at 1.66.1 widescreen in AVC encoded 1080p high definition and it looks really good. Colors are nicely reproduced and appear quite accurately without any oversaturation. Additionally, skin tones look lifelike and natural save for those scenes where some of the dead or undead characters are clearly wearing makeup (intentional, of course, see the first screen cap). Black levels are nice and strong while shadow detail in the film’s frequent darker scenes stays steady. There isn’t much in the way of actual print damage to note, the picture is remarkably clean looking, but there is a natural amount of visible film grain evident throughout the film (as there should be). Texture is good, there’s nice depth to the image and all in all things shape up very nicely indeed in terms of the film’s visual representation on this release.

    Audio options are provided in English and German in DTS-HD 2.0 Mono with optional subtitle provided in German only. Both tracks sound clean, clear and properly balanced. Dialogue is crisp and natural sounding, never too tinny or thin, while the score has some moments where the score sounds impressively powerful. No problems here, the balance is good and the track is free of any hiss or distortion.

    Extras are a mix of old and new, starting with the audio commentary featuring Shane Briant, John Carson, Caroline Murno, Brian Clemens and Marcus Hearn that can be found on the Australian Blu-ray release out via Shock. It’s a really strong track with Hearn, a Hammer historian, moderating the track and keeping the participants involved and engaged. Hearn and Clemens have the most to say here as they discuss some of the cinematography, the pacing of the film and some of the themes that are played up in the picture, but the others all chime in throughout making this a well-rounded track. Also ported over from past editions is the commentary features Brian Clemens, Ian Wilson and Marcus Hearn. Again, this is an interesting and thorough track, as the participants give a fairly scene specific breakdown that covers everything from when reshoots were required, the use of the Captain Kronos ‘K’ logo, working with the different cast and crew members, how they wanted to do a different kind of vampire movie than the Dracula films the studio was known for and more.

    New to this release is a commentary by Horst Janson, Uwe Sommerlad, conducted in German with optional English subtitles. This is a more scholarly track with the two participants noting the quality of the camerawork, the film’s relationship to western pictures, the quality of the effects and the performances, who was beaten up by Franco Nero (!), the mystery of what exactly it is that Kronos smokes and why he smokes it, some of the relationships that exist in the film between different characters, the fencing scenes featured in the picture and loads more. The track is well researched, very detailed and quite interesting. There’s a second new commentary on this disc as well, featuring Dr. Rolf Giesen and Volker Kronz but it is in German and there are no subtitles for it.

    As far as featurettes go, Anolis have supplied a seventy-three minute long interview with Horst Janson that was recorded in 2003 but is again, in German with no subtitles provided. Thankfully the Captain Kronos Reunion, which runs just short of twenty-seven minutes, is in English (with German subtitles). Featuring Clemens, Janson, William Hobbs, John Cater, Lois Daine and Ms. Munro, this was shot in March of 2008 in France it starts off with the participants talking about their collective nervousness in seeing the film on the big screen again, before then going on to talk about the making of the film, the budget that Hammer allotted for the feature, how long it took to shoot the picture, how and why a German like Horst Janson was cast as the lead in a British picture, how Munro was comfortable in front of a camera thanks to her modeling background and more.

    Rounding out the extras are the film’s original British theatrical trailer, a U.S. trailer, a digital version of the Captain Kronos comic that appeared in The House Of Hammer comic series back in 1976, a British advertising flyer, the U.S. pressbook, a collection of film programs, a still gallery, menus and chapter selection.

    The Final Word:

    Captain Kronos: Vampire Hunter remains a lot of fun, a great mix of horror and adventure made with a great cast by a talented director. The Blu-ray release from Anolis Entertainment presents the film in excellent shape and with a nice array of (mostly) English friendly supplements.

    Click on the images below for full sized Blu-ray screen caps!

    Comments 1 Comment
    1. SuperDevilDoctor's Avatar
      SuperDevilDoctor -
      The German translation "Vampirjäger" even sounds cooler than the actual English! (But shouldn't it then be "Hauptmann" Kronos as well?)

      Nice review, sir.