Saturday, February 01, 2014

Tales from the Cryptkeeper – Vampire episodes – review

Director: Laura Shepherd

First aired: 1993-94

Contains spoilers

Tales from the Cryptkeeper was a cartoon series based on the live action Tales from the Crypt, aimed at a younger audience and hosted by the Cryptkeeper (John Kassir). We have previously looked at three of the live action episodes, Comes the Dawn, Cold War and the Reluctant Vampire, as well as the spin-off film Bordello of Blood.

beauty has no reflection
The reason I started looking at the series was due to the episode The Sleeping Beauty, as Alex left me a comment on my look at Matthew Bourne’s Sleeping Beauty to let me know that the ballet was not the first time the subject had been covered with a vampire twist. Truly there is very little new under the moon. I then decided to look at all the vampire related episodes – some about vampires and others where they appear in passing. All the episodes I am looking at come from the first two seasons, were found on YouTube and, if I have missed a pertinent episode, please let me know in the comments.

The house
The first season 1 episode was called While the Cat’s Away and featured brothers Dwight (Daniel DeSanto) and Stu (Noam Zylberman). They desperately want a new dirt bike and are going to ask their Dad (Don Dickinson) – who happens to be a travel agent – to buy them it. When they arrive the travel agency clearly isn’t doing too well but a customer phones asking for a no expense spared trip to Transylvania, the brothers leave the shop having heard his address.

Stu has decided to go to the house, whilst the owner is away, and steal something in order to pay for the bike. Younger Dwight is persuaded to go along with this. The derelict house is filled with secret passageways and monsters – including three identical looking vampires who play a very small part in the episode. There is some nice breaking of the fourth wall when they discover the treasure is the first edition of the Tales from the Cryptkeeper comic and it is their story.

chamber of horrors
The episode Works In Wax aired in 1993 and followed the adventures of Craig (Stuart Stone) a young boy whose favourite place is the wax museum. He is friends with the janitor William (George Buza) and the owner, Mr Rottmucker, lets him in for free. On this occasion, however, he is charged entry but he pays and goes to his favourite exhibit – the chamber of horrors with models of Count Dracula, the wolfman and Frankenstein’s Monster.

Count Dracula
He discovers that Mr Rottmucker has died and the museum has been taken over by Mr Boswick (Cedric Smith), despite the fact that Craig knows that Rottmucker left the museum to William – but they do not know where the will is. Craig ends up falling into the three displays and being transported to a place where the tableaus are real. This kind of scenario (falling into a world represented by the waxwork) had previously been done in the film Waxwork.

vampire hunters
In this Craig falls into Count Dracula’s scene first and sees a bat fly towards a crypt pursued by vampire hunters. He follows and realises that the two hunters are going to stake the Count. He hides out of view and emulates various vampire voices to make it appear there are ten vampires in the crypt, gets the hunters to throw down their stake and steals it. The hunters rumble the ruse and chase but he throws the stake and the Count gets away as he lures the hunters in another direction. Having saved the Count he returns to the museum. The Count appears again at the end of the episode when all three monsters hunt down Mr Boswick.

bats in the woods
The episode the Sleeping Beauty first aired in 1993 and followed the misadventures of two twin (not identical) princely brothers; Melvin (John Stocker) who was somewhat nerdy and 10 seconds younger than his brother Prince Charming (Stephen Ouimette) – also known as Chuck – who rode on his steed Splendour – also known as Steve. The quest was to find Sleeping Beauty (Karen Bernstein).

beauty's true form
As they progressed through the haunted forest, Charming kind of slept his way through while Melvin was plagued by wolves, snakes and demon trees. The barrier of thorns seemed to part for Charming and the two brothers were left to explore the castle. Eventually they reach beauty and Charming kisses her (having once more checked his reflection, a perpetual habit). Chuck sees that she has no reflection and she shows her true face.

vampire horse
The castle is a ruse and all the other would-be-suitors, presumed killed in the forest, are vampires in the castle too. Now I don’t want to spoil how Melvin escapes the predicament but I will say that Charming and Splendour (or Chuck and Steve, if you prefer) do not get away scot-free as they end up contracting vampirism – a fate worse than death for Charming as he can no longer check his reflection. I mention this because of the relative scarcity of vampire horses.

in the movie
Fare Tonight was a season 1 episode that first aired in 1993. Now, at the head of it the Cryptkeeper, dressed as Sherlock Holmes, suggests that it is a detective story that involves a werewolf… he is wrong. The episode starts off black and white and we see a vampire. Two girls, Mildred (Marsha Moreau) and Camille (Valentina Cardinalli), are in the cinema watching a classic vampire movie. When a punk takes the mickey out of their screams they show (fake) fangs and scare him off.

Camille and Mildred
Camille believes in vampires but Mildred is sceptical. However, with fake fangs stuck to her braces, Mildred agrees to meet Camille in a diner in a rotten part of town that night – the indication is that Camille has proof. In actual fact she has a newspaper with a story about odd goings on – which Camille puts down to a vampire. Friendly limo driver Eugene (Robert Bockstael) is going to borrow the paper but then gets a job. Camille, the next day, has built a vampire detector and the two girls go out to hunt the vampire. Their efforts, through the episode, are somewhat slapstick and Buster Keaton is mentioned.

stake \at the ready
When the detector shows a vampire nearby it appears that he is Eugene’s latest client and, worse, the client wants Eugene to drive him to Stoker street – a part of town with very little but disused warehouses. The girls jump onto their push-bikes ready to give chase and save Eugene… In this episode we get the use of garlic, the destructive power of sunlight, turning into a bat and turning into smoke or fog.

video game bats
When season 2 started the show added the Old Witch (Elizabeth Hanna) and the Vaultkeeper (David Hemblen) into the wraparound as the two characters tried to steal the show from the Cryptkeeper. The first episode was Game Over, which aired in 1994, and is a bit of a cheat as it didn’t have vampires in it as such.

vampire bats 
It followed the fortunes of Buddy (Zachary Bennett) and Vince (Miklos Perlus) who were two high school kids who would skip school to play video games – when we first see them they are playing the game Monster Blast. Now we get some bat graphics in the game and, when the game seems to become real and attack them, we see them attacked by vampire bats. Given the inclusion of werewolves and zombies I have assumed that they were vampires in bat form (we never see them in any other form) but we do also get a giant leech.

Mike and Ben
The final episode of Season 2 was a full on vampire episode called Transylvania Express in which two surfer dudes, Mike (Damon D'Oliveira) and Ben (Rob Stefaniuk), discover that their vacation is not to Australia but Austria. When they contemplate getting the Transylvania Express an old woman food seller throws stakes and garlic at them before scurrying off.

They try to buy tickets but the ticket seller (who later appears to be a conductor also) refuses them passage on the midnight train saying they must wait until morning. They decide to sneak on board, narrowly escaping a werewolf in the toilet and Frankenstein’s Monster but find an empty coffin in the cargo car. They immediately connect the coffin with a shapeshiting dude (or vampire), showing considerably more awareness than they do in the rest of the episode.

the vampires are coming
It transpires that are several vampires aboard and most of the episode is madcap chases up and down the train. Garlic, stakes and sunlight all come into it as do crap bats, manbats and general physical displacement. All in all it was a fun episode despite the two main characters being a low rent Bill and Ted.

The series was good fun and never took itself seriously. It was a lot milder than the more adult orientated live action series and involved a fair amount of slapstick. All in all the episodes together probably peak at 7 out of 10.

The series imdb page is here.


Alex. G said...

Nicely done. Now all you got left to cover is the EC comics these were based on.

Taliesin_ttlg said...

cheers Alex