Monday, December 09, 2013

Duckula – the Danger Mouse episodes – review

Directors Brian Cosgrove (3 episodes) & Chris Randall (1 episode)

First aired: 1982 – 1986

Contains spoilers

We have previously looked at the series Count Duckula (Season 1, Season 2 & Season 3) and were charmed by the zany antics of the Transylvanian vegetarian vampire duck.

However, Duckula (David Jason) first appeared in the series Danger Mouse, featuring in four episodes in total and, as we will see, his character was somewhat different to the duck me meet in his own series. Danger Mouse itself was a UK cartoon series about a secret agent mouse, the eponymous Danger Mouse (also David Jason), and his useless side kick the hamster Penfold (Terry Scott, Carry on Christmas).

Greenback's infernal plan
The Four Tasks of Danger Mouse was an episode from the second series and the episode is built up of 5 short parts. In it Dastardly Baron Greenback (Edward Kelsey) has kidnapped Penfold and requires that Danger Mouse carry out 4 impossible tasks (in order that Greenback may create an indestructible monster).

dramatic entry
The task we are interested in is to gain two feathers from a vampire duck – a creature that Danger Mouse believes to be myth. However in Transylvania he comes across Count Duckula. Now, this must be a previous incarnation of Duckula to the one in the stand alone series for this Duckula is prepared to show fangs and threatens to drink blood. He is also scared of sunlight, something the more familiar Duckula is immune to.

fanged duck
Luckily the vampire duck is also stage struck and is willing to trade in his feathers for a TV spot… something Danger Mouse cannot offer (as TV just isn’t ready for him). So after auditioning as a magician (pulling a hat out of a rabbit and being sawn in half – down the middle) and doing some ham Shakespearean acting, Duckula finds himself on the receiving end of Danger Mouses’ exploding harmonica, rendering him insensible as two feathers are plucked.

eye mojo
The next appearance of Duckula was in the aptly named season 4 episode The Return of Count Duckula – indeed Danger Mouse even remembers scenes from his previous encounter (in an abridged format). This time Duckula is called to England by Baron Greenback with the task of hypnotising the Members of Parliament to act like stage struck fools (a little like Duckula) in return Greenback will get Duckula a TV show (and take over Britain in the ensuing chaos).

vampire backing group
In this episode we discover that both bad eggs and rotten cabbage are an apotropaic against vampire ducks – and the stench of the cabbage can break the duck’s hypnotic grip on a mortal’s mind. During the episode we actually get a backing group of vampires. In order to defeat the tenacious Duck, Danger Mouse summons Agent 57, a master of disguise, who appears as an American talent agent and books him on a theatrical tour of the Antarctic.

diabolical duckula
Later in the fourth series Duckula returned in the episode The Great Bone Idol. In this Greenback hired the vampire duck to go to the Himalayas and retrieve the mystic stick that would then lead him to the great bone idol. The idol is kept in a magic kennel (which can only be opened once every thousand years) and is a bone containing the bark of Cerberus. Possession of the bone gives the bearer control of all dogs.

relaxing in the sun
In return for his help, Duckula is promised Australia and is quite taken with the idea of Bondi Beach – a strange thing for a vampire duck you might think. However later we see him in the Sahara Desert, the place where the bone is hidden, sunning himself. Yes, despite fleeing the sun the first time we met him and, in this season, him burning in the sun, the scriptwriters have forgotten their own lore and allowed him into the sun – but that’s alright as the series is silly enough to get away with it.

Colonel K
Finally the Chris Randall directed Duckula Meets Frankenstoat was from season 7 of the series and began with Danger Mouse and Penfold on a skiing holiday, a holiday cut short when Colonel K sends then a recorded message warning that Count Duckula and Doctor Frankenstoat had teamed up. It is time for a trip to Transylvania.

vampire bat
However, before they can leave the Piste they are confronted by Duckula – in full on am-dram mode. He turns into a bat (a cricket bat, and there are a lot of cricket related puns in the dialogue) but is thwarted by a neatly aimed snowball flung by Danger Mouse. Penfold and Danger Mouse then make their way to Castle Duckula.

cor chief
There they discover that Frankenstoat has built a vampirematic, a machine programmed with Duckula’s personality that will create an army of vampoids – that he needs Duckula to control. The vampoids take the form of flying cricket bats! Danger Mouse has to destroy the machine.

So there you have it, 4 episodes and a rather different vampire duck. Nevertheless it was still great fun – as a whole series and these episodes in particular. 7 out of 10.

The imdb page is here.

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