Thursday, December 21, 2006

Count Duckula – the complete first season – review


Directed by: Chris Randall & Keith Scoble

Originally aired: 1988

Contains spoilers

The character Duckula originally appeared in the cartoon Danger Mouse but eventually got a series in his own right. The first season is now available on DVD, a set containing 3 discs and coming in at over 11 hours of viewing. However, there has been no digital re-mastering and the series shows its age simply in the quality of the transfer.

memory in sepiaEach episode is stand alone, and indeed facts can shift from one episode to another depending upon the gag, and concern the Transylvanian vampire duck Count Duckula (David Jason). Duckula’s father (and other forebears) are often mentioned – we even get a sepia flashback to his great-grandfather, but in truth they are all Duckula – he is simply reincarnated.

The title sequence tells us the basic rules around vampires and the way in which they can be resurrected. Vampires can be killed by exposure to sunlight or a wooden stake through the heart and can Igor tries again to make the Count drink bloodthen be resurrected through a ceremony which can take place once a century. Unfortunately the reincarnation process went awry when Duckula’s manservant Igor (Jack May) called for blood and the dim-witted Nanny (Brian Trueman) brought tomato ketchup instead. The resultant Duckula is a vegetarian who cannot stand blood. The advantage gained from this is that he can also stand sunlight and doesn’t bear fangs, although he still casts no reflection.

IgorOther constant characters include Igor, the butler. Igor has served the Duckula family for centuries and is disgusted by his new master’s hatred of blood. He spends many episodes trying to lure the Count into the ways of evil and often tempts him with blood and maiden’s necks.

NannyThere is also Nanny, a giant, ham-fisted, dim-witted hen, who refers to Duckula as “Ducky-boos” and cannot get the hang of doors. Blessed with very few brain cells the character becomes the centre of many of the verbal jokes and is a joy to watch for any fan of Monty Python as her voice is very reminiscent of Python doing little old ladies.

In every episode, at the beginning and the end we also get a voice over by Barry Clayton, for all the world doing his best Vincent Price type voice.

Von GoosewingAnother recurrent character is Dr Von Goosewing. He is, obviously, the Van Helsing like character but also takes on the role of the mad scientist character, at one point Frankenstein and at another Jekyll – though his potion turns him and Duckula into blood-thirsty vampires, makes Igor nice and Nanny intelligent. He tries to make an assistant, Heinrich, invisible – there is no Heinrich there but he then assumes invisibility and often talks to him in other episodes, despite the fact that there is no Heinrich.

Time for a bad jokeOccasionally we see the bats Sviatoslav and Dimitris pop out of their clock to tell some funnily bad, off-the wall jokes. The clock is vitally important. Duckula can transport his castle anywhere in the world (which makes going on madcap adventures easy) and when the clock reaches the time of dawn in Transylvania it causes the castle to transport home.

the stone DuckulaIn several episodes we get to see what Duckula would have been like if blood had been used in the ceremony. One of these episodes sees a statue of Duckula brought to life and we get the full cape across the face mode. In the one where Duckula drinks Von Goosewing’s potion he can suddenly not go out into the light of day.

I said earlier that the stories are not always consistent. In some Duckula is aware that they have a pet werewolf (we never actually see it) and in others he is not. It really depends how the gag is supposed to run. That said we often pop down to the village and share a pint with the peasants in “Ye Tooth and Jugular” Inn, nice to see and reminiscent of the taverns in the Hammer films.

Hiding from the sunThe gags are silly and zany, as one would expect from a cartoon and, although this is really for kids it is a nice rose-tinted look at our youth (in truth I was getting a little old when this came out but who can resist a cartoon – at any age). If you are searching for serious vampire lore then look away but if you are after something that is fun for the kids, and perhaps nostalgic for adults, this could be the ticket. Zany and madcap, although perhaps 26 episodes get a bit much in a condensed period of time – but none the less, for the price, its great value. 7 out of 10.

The imdb page, for season 1, is here.

Castle DuckulaI’ll leave you with one of my favourite narrator voice over quotes: “It’s time to say farewell to this realm of darkness. Where the werewolves roam and the ogres and the Hell Monsters play. Where seldom is heard an encouraging word and foul slimy things slither all day. Goodnight out there, whatever you are.”


Suzanne said...

See, Edward Cullen is so unoriginal - Duckula was the original vegetarian vampire

Taliesin_ttlg said...

lol - Suzanne, that is the sort of insightful comment I want on this blog. Bless you (darkly, of course) - and, of course, you are correct.