Captain Kronos, the Comic!

Ok, so I must admit I’ve been a little bit lazy when it comes to the ol’ To Watch Pile, but I have been distracted. The good thing is you, dear reader, probably won’t notice as I try to run the blog six weeks ahead so there is no interruption if I need a week away or something.
For the past two weeks though, I have had a couple of things I really love outside of Horror get released at my local video game specialist.

First was Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus, the first person game based in an alternate universe when the Nazis won the First World War. In itself it is a horror film, and the story with this one (so far) has been full of dread, with great graphics and amazing gameplay, and a free ‘GI Joe’ styled toy of BJ, the hero of the piece.

A promotional poster for Wolfenstein II.


In the same week, Mario Odyssey was released for the Nintendo Switch. I have been waiting to buy a Switch until the new Mario was released and I have grabbed 4 games to various deal of success. Odyssey is truly an amazing piece of gaming equipment!

Finally, a week after those two releases, we have the big daddy release that I buy every year, Call of Duty World War II, which after three years of scifi styled stories (4 if you say Ghosts was a truly scifi setting) we are back to boots on the ground, old school weapons. Funny, after three years of complaining about the movement being far to big a factor of those games, I am finding my skill totally lacking, but it’s a good looking game… maybe I’ll get better at it.

This isn’t me doing a market report or boasting of my crap gaming skills, no, this little piece is to tell you all about an amazing comic that may have slipped by without being noticed.

Titan Books have a fledgling comics line that seems to be picking up steam, which thankfully doesn’t have a shared universe like Marvel or DC and is instead a series of licenses like Assassin’s Creed, the aforementioned Wolfenstein, Warhammer and The Evil Within, just to name a few.

This new series I am excited about is based on a Hammer Horror film called Captain Kronos: Vampire Hunter.

One of the many movie posters to Captain Kronos, Vampire Hunter


This series is written by Dan Abnett, probably best known for the creation of the 2000AD strip Sinister Dexter, and has worked on several Marvel titles The Punisher, War Machine and various X-men titles. I’m not the biggest fan of Sinister Dexter, but I have enjoyed his writing on other series though, including some Doctor Who Magazine comics he also wrote.

The highlight for me though is the art by industry legend Tom Mandrake. I love Mandrake’s work as his art is very pre-Image comics, very proper like artists like John Buscema and Joe Kubert (probably because he was trained at Kubert’s school), and he has worked on many comics over his time, and is know for the co-creation of Batman villains Black Mask and Film Freak. Over the years he has mainly worked on DC titles, but also for Marvel, First, Eclipse and Image Comics.

This comic is doing something that I detest which is alternate covers, but I do like the fact that some of the alternates are called ‘Hammer Glamour’ and have photographs of Caroline Monroe on the cover.

The photo covers to Captain Kronos, Vampire Hunter, issues 1 and 2.


Captain Kronos: Vampire Hunter tells the tale of a group of miscreants sometime in the 18th century who hunt vampires… as the title may suggest. Captain Kronos is a handsome ex-soldier, who is fast on horse and swift with sword, Grost is his hunchbacked, one-legged assistant and finally Carla, lovely, ruthless and skilled at fighting.

This comic furthers his adventures and is full of much vampires and derring-do. I certainly hope it can maintain the quality of these first two issues. If you are a fan of swashbuckling comics, vampires and old school art style, you’ll probably like this comic.

Advertisements

The Brides of Dracula (1960) Review

One from the to watch pile…
Brides of Dracula (1960)

The Australian bluray release of The Brides of Dracula


Film: I have always been a champion of Hammer Horror films. I prefer them over the Universal ones just because in general I find them more compelling; still melodramatic, but more compelling.

This film, The Brides of Dracula, stands out in amongst Hammer’s Dracula films for the sole reason that it doesn’t feature Dracula in it at all. Sure there is a vampire with a bevy of evil she-demons at his hand, but no actual Count Dracula! 

Don’t worry though, Van Helsing still turns up!

The Brides of Dracula: Peter Cushing as Van Helsing


Schoolteacher Marianne Danielle (Yvonne Monlaur) has found herself abandoned by her horseman in a small town whilst on her way to her new post at a school for young ladies. Baroness Meinster (Martita Hunt) offers to take her in overnight seeing as how the local boarding house has no rooms available.

The problem with the Baroness’ manor though is that she has her son, Baron Meinster (David Peel) chained up in a room. Marianne takes pity on his interment and steals a key so that he may be freed, but then she finds the horrible truth about the baron… he is a vampire!

She runs away from the castle, only to be luckily found by a certain Dr Van Helsing (Peter Cushing), who is continuing his journey across Europe, executing the undead wherever he finds them.

Even though the slick of this Bluray claims that this film has ‘some of the best acting, photography and period detail of the Hammer Dracula series’, I honestly don’t see it. I found it to be staged, melodramatic and overwrought and difficult to remain engaged with it.

The whole process of the story seems to take far to long to sell to the viewer, and unfortunately, I didn’t find Peel’s vampire to be very threatening at all. In actual fact, he appears more like Rocky from The Rocky Horror Picture Show than a threatening undead figure.

The Brides of Dracula: David Peel as Baron Meinster


The film has several examples of Hammer glamour in it though. Yvonne Monlaur is exquisitely beautiful, and is juxtaposed nicely by Andree Melly’s unusual fairy-ish looks.

One weird thing I notice about this film is the soundtrack’ I almost get a Friday the 13th vibe off it. It’s possibly just me, but I just hear elements of the score in there.

All in all it’s not an awful film, it’s just somewhat of a trial to get through.

Score: **


Format: This film was reviewed on the Australian region B bluray release which runs for approximately 85 minutes. The 16×9 image is bright but grainy (with an odd artefact) to the point of distraction. The Dolby Digital 2.0 audio is pretty good though.

Score: **

Extras: Only a trailer for the film.

Score: *

WISIA: The film is extraordinarily slow and the 85 minutes it runs for feels like 3 days, and I won’t have 3 days to waste ever again.

The Brides of Dracula: Yvonne Monlaur as Marianne

Scream of Fear (1961) Review

One from the re-watch pile…
Scream of Fear aka Taste of Fear (1961)

Madman’s release of Scream of Fear on Bluray


Film: I have mentioned regularly, not just here (such as in my review of The Nanny) but also in other websites I have reviewed horror films for, that I am a big fan of Hammer films, and that I love some of these earlier, less gory and more psychologically driven thrillers.

This film initially caught my attention for the same reason the aforementioned The Nanny did, it is written by Jimmy Sangster, who did a great job of adapting the book that The Nanny was based upon, but also gave us the Hammer versions of Dracula (in The Horror of Dracula) and The Mummy. It’s directed wonderfully by Seth Holt, who directed The Nanny, but also is responsible for my favourite Hammer film, Blood from the Mummy’s Tomb, which stars the stunning Valerie Leon.

Scream of Fear: Susan Strasberg as Penny


Speaking of stunning, this film stars Susan Strasberg as Penny Appleby, a woman who has an unreasonable fear of everything, and is bound to a wheelchair after an accident where a horse fell on her a broke two of her vertebrae. She is returning home to her estranged father’s (Fred Johnson) house in the French Riviera after not being in too much contact with him for 9 or 10 years, based on an invitation he sent to her.

Upon returning she is picked up from the airport by kindly chauffeur, Robert (Ronald Lewis) who takes her to her father’s house only to find that he has gone away, and she is left in the arms of her step-mother, whom she has never met, Jane (Ann Todd).

The two bond quickly, but Penny starts to suspect something is amiss when she finds what appears to be her father’s corpse sitting in one of the rooms. When she tells Jane and Robert though, the corpse mysteriously has disappeared.

Penny quickly suspects that something is going on, and enlists Robert in her quest for the truth, even though her step-mother, and her father’s friend, Dr Gerrad (Christopher Lee) suggest that maybe she is having flights of fancy… or do they have a more sinister plan in mind…

Scream of Fear: Christopher Lee as Dr Gerrad


Filmed in glorious black and white, Scream of Fear is a wonderful example of a thriller. It unfortunately didn’t find much success in the USA but was a hit in Europe and had several imitators, according to Marcus Hearn in his book The Hammer Vault (if you are a Hammer fan, this MUST be in your collection). 

The performances are melodramatic as one would expect from a film of this vintage, and Christopher Lee’s French accent is of dubious pedigree, but it really adds to the atmosphere of the film.

More twists than a strand of DNA, this film is a wonderful watch, and will keep everyone guessing almost to the very end. 

Score: ****

Madman’s Scream of Fear menu screen: no extras here!


Format: The version of this film reviewed was the Australian, region B bluray which runs for approximately 82 minutes. The film is presented in a grainy, and occasionally blurry 1.85:1 image with a Dolby Digital mono soundtrack which sounds pretty good. One can’t expect a film of this age to look perfect, but there are many films from this time and earlier which look much better due to various restoration processes.

Score: **1/2

Extras: None, which is a shame, though considering pretty much well everyone who worked on the film is no longer with us, not surprising. A film of this quality at least deserves some kind of commentary or featurette from Hammer enthusiasts, film critics or other directors who champion it.

Score: 0

WISIA: A beautifully shot film with a stunning lead, not to mention Christopher Lee, but as with a lot of these sorts of films, once the secret is out, the impact of the film is lessened. That, however, doesn’t make it an occasional rewatch pile contender as it is entertaining.

Scream of Fear: father’s locked piano!

The Nanny Review

One from the To Watch Pile…

The Nanny 
Film: I’m not always a balls-to-the-wall, high gore horror fan, in actual fact, a lot of the time, I much prefer the slow-burn style thriller.  This leads me to enjoy some of the more older, black and white horrors, which is why I was excited to watch this Bette Davis, Hammer Horror film The Nanny.


The story is of young Joey Fane (William Dix), a ten year old boy who has spent two years in a facility for ne’er-do-well children after it seems that he accidentally killed his younger sister, Susy (Anghared Aubrey). Upon returning home from the facility, Joey is quite happy to see his mother, the faint-hearted Virginia (Wendy Craig, best known for the Tv series ‘And Mother Makes Three’/ ‘And Mother Makes Five’) and his quite strict father, Bill (James Villiers from Repulsion) but seemingly refuses to want to have anything to do with the family’s long standing ‘Nanny’ (Bette Davis, the Hollywood legend from films such as Dead Ringer and Whatever Happened To Baby Jane).


He becomes convinced that ‘Nanny’ is trying to kill him, and confides so in the 14 year old neighbour from upstairs, Bobby (Pamela Franklin from …And Soon The Darkness). Soon though, other members of the house become ill with evidence pointing to Joey poisoning them, and it would seem that perhaps he actually DOES have murderous intentions.


This film was produced and written by Jimmy Sangster, who wrote many scripts for the Hammer Horror stable, and was based on a book by Evelyn Piper. The director Seth Holt, sits high on my list of Hammer go-to guys as he directed Blood from the Mummy’s Tomb, which I love. The score was composed by Richard Rodney Bennett who also gave us the scores to such films as The Witches and Four Weddings and a Funeral.

This is a thrilling movie that is told very deliberately, and contains some great performances; especially from the youngsters involved who really had to hold this film together. The film takes place mostly in and around the apartment building that the Fane’s live in, and Holt’s direction keeps it interesting, though never too much like it is a theatre piece, which could have happened in a lesser director’s hands. Highly recommended.

Score: ****

Format: The review copy of this film was a region B bluray released by Shock in Australia. The movies goes for 93 minutes, and the audio is presented in a decent and clean 2.0 LPCM track, and the image is presented in a moderately clean 16:9 image, that is quite artefact-y with many little marks and scratches on the print, but not to the point of distraction. All in all, a nice image for a film of this vintage.

Score: ****

Extras: Unfortunately, there are no extras on this disc, which is a bummer, as surely this is an important piece of film history with its victim being a child, and other elements that possibly hadn’t been dealt with before this film which I won’t reveal here as they are somewhat spoilerific.

Score: 0

WISIA: I don’t think this film will end up on high rotation, but it is good enough to keep in any collection, especially for fans of older, less ‘Hollywood’ horror.