In some ways this is a typical Hammer outing and, yet, in so many other ways it is definitely one of their more unusual releases. A lot of the credit must go to writer-director Brian Clemens, and I must express my regret that he didn't direct any other movies, either for Hammer or anyone else who could have utilised his vivid imagination and talent.
A number of
young women are found dead or dying in the English countryside, they
have blood on their lips and have aged terribly in the space of just a
fleeting moment. What can be the cause of this? The local doctor (Dr
Marcus, played by John Carson) feels that his good friend Captain
Kronos (Horst Janson) will be able to get to the bottom of things.
There is foul play here and no man is better than Kronos for dealing
with such dark matters, ably assisted as he is by the hunch-backed
Professor Hieronymus Grost (and "what he doesn't know about vampirism
wouldn't fill a flea's codpiece"). Oh, did I say vampirism? Yes, that is the root cause of the problem here, and, while this may not come as much of
a surprise, the way the attacks occur in daylight and the revelation
that every vampire needs a different method of being despatched help to keep this film feeling fresher than many other Hammer vampire movies.
With the added lure of the beautiful Caroline Munro, playing Carla, and
the usual Hammer production values (hmmm, okay, the films may have
varied at times but this one looks good enough to me), this is a great
film for fans who want their standard fare with some nice, quirky
touches. The vampires also have reflections, nothing here is rooted so
deeply into the accepted mythos that it cannot be turned on it's head.
We also get some wonderful moments and additional titbits such as
buried dead toads coming back to life if a vampire walks over/close
enough to them and the fact that the cross only protects those who
believe in it. I do not know if these have ever had any basis in the
lore of olden days but they are fascinating and enjoyable new additions
to the proceedings.
The acting is fairly good all round (although John Cater is the
standout as the Professor), there are enough red herrings to keep you
wondering who is the ultimate baddie (surely that Durward family has
some skeleton in the closet . . . or what about the local thug in ye
olde tavern?), the script is full of both light and very, very dark
humour (most notably in a scene with Grost and Kronos trying to find
out how to kill a vampire they have restrained) and the pace never
flags as our swashbuckling hero strives to save the English countryside
and, of course, his companions. A wonderful little movie that deserves
to be seen by fans of the genre and the company it came from.