Captain Kronos – Vampire Hunter was a Hammer film from 1974 containing everything Hammer was good at; action, blood, tongue-in-cheek humour and Caroline Munro. Unfortunately for Hammer the likes of The Exorcist, The Wicker Man and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre were all released around the same time and had all pushed the genre in new and interesting ways. It left Hammer looking old fashioned and outdated, continuing a decline it never (to date at least) recovered from. What was originally planned as a series of movies or TV shows starring Kronos, ended up as a relatively obscure movie remembered with affection by many.
Captain Kronos is a fairly obscure, blonde locked, foreign accented, ex-soldier who along with trusty sidekick Professor Grost, wander the countryside seeking out and dealing with vampires. It’s during one of these adventures that they meet the feisty Carla who joins them as they seek the cause of premature ageing in a small village. Cue, scheming villagers, rich and mysterious landowners and several hired mercenaries who are set to stop Kronos and his gang.
As a novelisation it sticks, as you would expect, pretty closely to the film’s storyline and that’s no bad thing. Brian Clemens, the original creator (who contributes a foreword to this book) had invented an interesting take on the vampire mythos. Here were vampires who had different strains of the ‘disease’ meaning some could venture out in daylight, others couldn’t be killed by staking, others didn’t mind garlic – you get the idea. That coupled with the mystery surrounding Kronos and Grost’s history and the strong female character of Carla, contributed to an interesting plot that is retained in all its glory here. We do get some added backstory that illuminates several characters and fills in some of the many blanks from the film that were presumably to be filled in with the sequels.
The biggest problem with the book is the chapter structure. Each chapter is narrated by that chapter’s lead character. It’s a clever device that not only provides the reader with multiple viewpoints but also lets us inside the minds of many characters. The only problem is the character development is not strong enough to make these narrators particularly distinctive. This leads to frequent confusion as to who is actually speaking. This was particularly noticeable with the minor characters.
For those who haven’t seen the film and have an interest in sword wielding heroes taking on vampires, this is recommended. For fans of the film it fills in some useful backstory, but feels like a mere prelude to further adventures from Kronos and the gang.
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