Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Fright Night and Kronos

Another two films to discuss this time ... one from ages ago, Hammer's Captain Kronos, and one current, the remake of Fright Night ...

Heading back in time first, and 1974's Captain Kronos is one of the better Hammer films, made even more special by the overall concept which was fully intended as a trial for a possible series of films (I hope I'm right saying that and it's not just an urban myth). Unfortunately the copy we got was very murky and degraded - no clean up whatsoever had been done on it and it had white marks down the screen for some of it ... and anything in the dark, well forget seeing anything much there!  Nevertheless it still stands today as a great take on the vampire myth - that here the vampire feeds on the youth of the victims and leaves them withered husks, while the vampire stays looking young and vibrant.  I suppose it's another twist on the Countess Dracula idea that bathing in the blood of virgins would keep you young.

The film contains some brilliant performances, and particularly of note are the leading triumbrate of Kronos (Horst Janson), Grost (John Cater) and Carla (Caroline Munro). These three manage to make for gripping viewing, and it's really nice to see in a film of this period that the hunchback servant (Grost) is not an unintelligent man, but a doctor and essential to Kronos in his work. Caroline Munro also brings great empathy to the role of Carla, who could have been nothing more than some pretty window dressing. But she manages to hold her own, to help Kronos in his battle, and even to dominate some of the scenes. It's a shame she is left behind at the end really, as I really wanted her to travel on to more adventures.

Other stand-out roles include the ever reliable John Carson, and Shane Briant as Paul Durward brings a baby-faced malevolence to every scene he is in. Lois Daine as Sara Durward has a cool modern short haired look which is very fetching indeed, and Wanda Ventham as Lady Durward does well with the limited material she is given.

Watching the film today, you can see that Hammer really pulled out all the stops for it, and the characters cry out for more adventures. If there was one film which could do with a remake and a reimagining then it is this ... and I wonder what a modern take and approach to the adventures of Captain Kronos would be like.

Which is totally the opposite to the way I feel about Fright Night. The original 1985 film has gone down in time as a quiet classic. Chris Sarandon's turn as a sexy vampire is memorable, and the characters of Charley Brewster, his girlfriend Amy, and best friend Evil Ed, all helped by TV Horror presenter Peter Vincent all gelled perfectly to create a film with many subtexts about sex and power, and how belief can win over against the odds.  It was a strange choice of film to decide to remake as there really isn't anything wrong at all with the original film.

But remake it they have, and in doing so they have managed to completely miss what it was that made the original so appealing. Which is strange as Tom Holland, who scripted the original, is also credited as providing the story for this ... maybe he didn't understand himself why the original became a cult classic. The actual script is by Marti Noxon, a name which seemed familiar, and IMDB confirms that she wrote several episodes of Buffy The Vampire Slayer, and was also script editor/producer/exec producer on many more ... which might explain why the new film feels more like an episode of that series than anything else.

In the new version Charley (Anton Yelchin) again finds himself living next door to a vampire (Colin Farrell) but here Jerry Dandridge doesn't seem to be hiding - he kills kids right outside his door, and makes no attempt to disguise what he is. His 'Renfield' is missing from the plot this time, and that's a shame as this element added much to the original plot. Rather than being a 'plain Jane', Amy here (played by Imogen Poots) is a stunner and acts in a very Buffy-like way throughout. The seduction of her by Dandridge is missing, and this led to some of the most powerful scenes in the original film (in the club for those who know it). Although they do recreate the club scene, it has little power as Amy is basically drugged by Jerry with his own blood and forced to become a vampire against her will - in the original film there was the subtext that Amy actually wanted this to happen, and that Jerry was more of a man than Charley could ever hope to be (even down to the sounds of Amy climaxing on the soundtrack as she is bitten in the 1985 version - something she never did with Charley).

But the biggest mis-step is in the reinvention of Peter Vincent from a small-time, washed out TV host who has something to prove (superbly played by Roddy McDowell) into a top-of-his-game arrogant stage magician played by David Tennant. In the new film, there is no reason at all for Vincent to help Charley, and indeed the idea that Charley would ever get to even meet him is laughable - there would be several layers of 'people' to get through before even the sniff of an interview was available.

I am a massive fan of David Tennant. Everything I have seen him in, he has been brilliant. Except here. This is played a little like a drunk tenth Doctor, all fast speaking, garbled dialogue, asides and mannerisms which are straight out of the TARDIS. Tennant even uses his 'Doctor' English voice for the part which adds to the feeling that he is just strolling through it. I'm so sorry if you are a big fan of Tennant in this role, but for me it just didn't work at all. I preferred him when he wore the wig and beard at the start, but when he strips it off, like the character, all the magic goes.

Overall I found the film boring and pointless. There was nothing to really interest or excite me. I did like the moment when the girl being rescued by Charley explodes as soon as she gets into sunlight, and I liked that Amy's vampire face echoed the same scene in the 1985 version. There's also a neat cameo from Chris Sarandon as a hapless driver who gets savaged by Dandridge ... but as I mentioned before, what was the point of remaking it?  The original version was and is much better, has more interesting characters who have proper motivations for what they are doing, and was made at a time when the prosthetic effects were of a standard to impress. My advice then, ignore this and get the DVD of the original film ... you won't regret it.

1 comment:

Nikkita! said...

I totally agree about Fright Night, blood awful springs to mind! Captain Kronos is brilliant and of course it will benefit from the blu-ray restoration project currently underway at Hammer. Some years ago I attended a screening of the film with a meet, greet and Q&A afterward with Caroline Munro, Horst Janson and Brian Clemens to name a few...