By the time the 1970s had rolled around, British production studio Hammer Films had been updating the gothic conventions of classic MGM monster movies by combining your basic musky gauze and ornate bric-a-brac with explicit gore and sometimes psychedelic splashes of color and movement. They also seemed to represent that last bastion of clear demarcation in horror films as to what represented good and what represented evil. In the late ‘60s and early ‘70s, moral ambiguity was the trampoline most horror films bounced their terror off of, and Hammer’s unique brand of Neanderthal ethics were looking more and more like relics. (Also, an upstart studio named Amicus was turning out an endless series of inventive, fast-paced, campy horror anthologies like Tales from the Crypt and Asylum that resuscitated the wickedly funny “poetic justice” tales of the EC comics of the ‘50s.) Today, irony has started to look more and more like the death knell for serious horror films, and so the relative straightforwardness of a Captain Kronos: Vampire Hunter is a welcome throwback. At any rate, and putting reactionary readings of horror fads aside, writer-director Brian Clemens’s Kronos (though Clemens wrote hundreds of scripts, this was his sole helming gig) is still a fascinating blend of swashbuckling Renaissance Fair heroics and an un-traditional peek at the Vampire myth (these monsters steal their victims’ youth instead of their blood). And even if the blend isn’t exactly graceful, and if Clemens seems dead set on desexualizing his vampires (their quest for youth is not so much driven by their unchecked libido as it is by a pervasive narcissism), Kronos still retains that moody sense of locale that Hammer always nailed—the English countryside caught in a state of perpetual autumnal decay. Clemens’s understanding of the vampires’ desire to stay fresh and youthful can easily be translated into a lamentation for the (momentary) obsolescence of Kronos‘s own genres.
Paramount Home Video strikes another attractive-looking transfer. Even if the darks are occasionally a bit overpowering, hey, this is a vampire film after all. The sense of encroaching brackish darkness, juxtaposed with jaundiced daylight, is well preserved. The monaural audio track is quite good, with occasional dialogue drop-outs, but nothing surprising considering the film's age. The music still has a lot of punch.
There is but one extra feature, but it's not the theatrical trailer (pity, since there truly was nothing like a trailer for an early '70s British horror film). Instead, there's a commentary track with writer/director Clemens, actress Caroline Munro (who plays the sexy gypsy in the film), and "genre historian" Jonathan Sothcott. Like the track on The Italian Job, this commentary is a provocative blend of reminiscence, historical details, and a synthesis of this particular film's place in the greater map of vampire films. A very nice track.
Quintessentially British in that it takes all the eroticism out of the vampire myth, Kronos is still suffuse with a swampy, Moorish moodiness.