Sunday, November 29, 2009

The Little Vampire – 1986 (TV series) – review

dvd setDirected by: René Bonnière

First aired: 1986

Contains spoilers

Ahh rose tinted glasses. Hands up, who remembers this joint Canadian/German production. How about the theme song, ‘They can see in the Dark’, performed by Darkroom, whose lead singer – Jim Gray – played the vampire Lumpi in the series. Those classic lyrics:

If you see one tonight
Don’t put up a fight,
Make a friend if you can,
A friend who can fly,
Can fly oh so high…

This was, like the film 14 years later, based on the books by Angela Sommer-Bodenburg, actually on the specific volumes “The Little Vampire” and “The Little Vampire Moves In”. Note, with character names I am using those in the English recording and not the German dub.

Michael Gough as Uncle LudwigIt begins with Rüdiger (Joel Dacks), in a crypt, declaring to his Uncle Ludwig (Michael Gough) that he is bored and going out to eat. Anton (Christopher Stanton) lives with his parents Robert (Michael Hogan) and Helga (Susan Hogan) and when we first meet him he is in a gym class. His ‘friend’ Cyril (Christopher Kent) seems a little less than friendly and his mom has come to pick him up as she and his father are going out to a business dinner. No one notices the face watching from a skylight window.

Joel Dacks as RüdigerThe face belongs to Rüdiger and he follows Anton home. Anton loves horror things – actually amongst the posters in his room is one for the film Saturday the 14th as well as posters for Frankenstein and one depicting Bela Lugosi as Dracula. His parents don’t understand his taste in movies, but they do realise that he is lonely as his best friend Teddy has moved away. Rüdiger appears at his window.

Anna with Aunt HildegardPerhaps Anton is less phased than he should be, but he always knew that vampires were real. For his part Rüdiger acts like a brat ripping up things for the sheer Hell of it. Eventually, of course, they become good friends. Rüdiger explains that he lives with his uncle Ludwig and Aunt Hildegard (Lynn Seymour), their son Lumpi and his sister Anna (Marsha Moreau). Rüdiger smells musty and decayed, but that is actually the smell of the substance put on cloaks to enable the vampires to fly. Rüdiger insists on borrowing a book about Dracula before leaving.

Gert Fröbe as GurrmeyerThe friendship that develops between Anton and Rüdiger is dangerous as vampires have few laws but the one – that leads to banishment from the crypt and loss of the cloak – is that they should never reveal themselves to humans. Dracula did, hundreds of years before, and it led to persecution of vampire kind. Indeed there are a family of vampire slayers called Gurrmeyer and the latest generation of the Gurrmeyer clan (played by Gert Fröbe) has come to the city, hired a house by the cemetery where the vampire family live and become cemetery caretaker. Cyril thinks something is going on and neighbour Effie wants to prove that she has seen Anton fly (and that she isn’t crazy).

Rüdiger becomes an outcastEventually Rüdiger introduces Anton to Anna. Anna has not yet developed her fangs and so drinks milk. This is because she has not yet decided what size/apparent age she wants to be – something a vampire can do. By that logic Rüdiger chose to be a child vampire. When the relationship is eventually discovered, Lumpi appears more understanding because, whilst he has not revealed his actual nature, he also hangs around with humans.

tools of the vampire slaying tradeAnna is rather infatuated by Anton and would like to turn him into a vampire. To be turned into a vampire one has to be bitten, die but also want to be a vampire. It also seems to be on Rüdiger’s mind as he is reminded, when mentioning turning a human, that no human has been turned for 100 years. Other lore we get includes a suggestion that stakes through the heart are a good way to kill vampires as Gurrmeyer keeps them close (and hammers stakes into graves). Garlic smells very strong to a vampire and if they drink the blood of someone who has eaten it they will smell of it for eternity. Sunlight burns them.

Anton and Anna at the Everything is Forgiven partyWe also, over a course of a couple of episodes, attend the vampire’s annual “Everything is Forgiven” party – a bash where literally all transgressions are forgiven. Rüdiger (who is banished at the time, but refuses to accept forgiveness for his crimes, preferring to atone) and Anna sneak Anton in, disguised as a vampire. We discover that all vampires can dance. Gypsy vampires come from wherever their cloak falls. Vampires cannot eat human food, with the exception of milk for teething vampires and consommé; all other food would make them very ill. It appears they must feed on blood on a daily basis, but rarely kill, just cause their victims to faint.

indoor flying looked better than outdoor flyingThe show is very kid’s TV and yet, probably because of rose tinted glasses, I sat entranced as I rewatched it. The acting is varied, Dacks as Rüdiger and Gough as Ludwig stand out. The effects are, well candidly they are not brilliant as they have not stood the test of time – the flying over the city is too obviously matted for instance but, you know what, it doesn’t matter. The show has little tension as the peril is so low throughout. Yet it was great fun.

To be fair, 5.5 out of 10 is probably – in the grand scheme of things – a little too generous if we were to be totally detached when deciding upon a score, but then it is difficult to remain detached about part of your childhood (or mid-teen-hood). I can’t push to a higher score because part of me knows it doesn’t really deserve it. However, it is out there on German DVD and well worth tracking down, especially if you have fond memories of the show.

The imdb page is here.


Nicole_Hadaway said...

I've seen the remake, but the original German version looks like it might actually be better. I'm loving the look of the vampire, anyway!

I know what you mean about the rose-tinted glasses of youth -- you'll never, ever hear me say a bad word about the original 3 Star Wars films. I can't look at them without thinking of how much fun my friends and I had acting out the scenes when we were 10!

Taliesin_ttlg said...

Hiyah Nicole

This was joint German and Canadian - so it was actually (roughly) set in Canada.

There was another (later) series that was German only, available on DVD but only in German, with no dub or subs.

As for the original Star Wars trilogy - I am there with you except for the ewoks...

Derek Tatum said...

I give this review a 6 out of 10 Bronto choking noises.

Taliesin_ttlg said...

The review or the show?

And Bronto choking noises? lol

Derek Tatum said...

The review, I never knew about the show.

Taliesin_ttlg said...

In that case, what could I have done to improve the review?

Taliesin_ttlg said...

To add to that... the question is genuine, and without offence, I'd like the blog to be as helpful and imformative as possible.

Anonymous said...

Hmm, I was thinking about this show the other day and pretty much the rest of the 1980's to be honest - I grew up as a kid in this time and never really to too much notice (my time really was the '90's) but shows like this always spark a certain sense of nostalgia.

I'm in England and me and my dad used to sit down in front of the TV on a Saturday afternoon and watch this in ITV, and can only really remember the bits where Antons mum washes his 'stinky' cloak, which unfortunately means Anton couldn't fly. Ruddiger brought over some of the subsance they use to make it fly but accidentally spilt some over the duvet and they end up flying around the room on it.

Would like to get hold of a copy of this.. good review.

Taliesin_ttlg said...

Hi anon... glad I could spark a few childhood memories for you. I actually couldn't remember if it played on the BBC or ITV.

I picked up the DVD set via ebay, so that may well be a good place to start hunting it down.

Mirko Carls said...