"This is God's blade, forged for your black heart."
-Captain Kronos, vampire hunter
Hammer Studios revolutionized the horror genre in the 1950s and 60s the same way Disney revolutionized animation in the 1930s and 40s. However, by the 1970s, the studio was in financial straits due, in part, to rival studios putting out more revolutionary movies. The studio would be completely disbanded by the end of the decade. Many Hammer films during that time were simply routine followups or knockoffs of their classic Dracula and Frankenstein films. One exception to that was Captain Kronos: Vampire Hunter, which is a simple but exciting tale about, obviously, a vampire hunter who inhabits the same sort of 'long time ago...' setting as Christopher Lee's Count (although the film never specifies when it takes place). The title character, played by Horst Janson, is a former military man who now roams the countryside hunting the undead. He is called upon by his former comrade-in-arms Dr. Marcus (John Carson) to investigate the death of a young woman, who has been drained both of her blood and her youthful looks. With his faithful assistant Prof. Grost (John Cater), Kronos heads off to a nearby village were other women have met similar fates after they were approached by an unknown, cloaked figure. En route, the pair gain an ally in a beautiful gypsy girl named Carla (Caroline Munro), who becomes romantically involved with Kronos. He eventually tells her that the vampiric deaths of his mother and sister were the catalysts for his penchant for hunting vampires. Eventually, the trio track down the vampire responsible for the current deaths; one Lord Durward (William Hobbs) at his lush castle. In the film's exciting climax, Kronos and Durward duel to the death. Kronos, while not exactly enchanting, is still an easy-to-side-with protagonist, and Janson's performance is a large part of this film's appeal. The moment in which he and Grost attempt to kill Marcus (at his own behest) before the vampire bite he received turns him into a vampire is both humorous and whince-inducing. In addition, the Kronos/Carla romance is quite sweet, basically because it isn't played out in the same predictable and arbitrary way that other romances in films (thrillers or otherwise) are. Hammer had hoped that this would be the first in a new film series for them. Sadly, the company's financial problems led to limited distribution for this film, which, in turn, decreased the chances of seeing Kronos in future installments. But, while To the Devil...A Daughter (1976) may have been the last Hammer film, I'm calling Captain Kronos: Vampire Hunter the last GREAT Hammer film.