Count Duckula: The Complete Third Series Review
"Over seven hours!" To these eyes, that looks like a threat. However, showing that my words counts for so very little even in my own house, such is my children's love of this show that I return, following so much of their pestering, to Count Duckula and to the vegetarian vampire who hops hither and thither with the aid of his crumbling old castle. Say nothing of the pester power wielded by children come supermarket checkouts lined with sweets and chocolate bars, the love that children have for a bumbling vampire duck is powerful indeed.
In the first season, Ducky Boos, as he is called by his Nanny, visited Spain in search of the sun, which is an odd thing for a vampire to do. Then again, Count Duckula is a very odd vampire, not least that he prefers a floret of broccoli to a pint of blood. Elsewhere, he attempted to redecorate the castle, travelled to Australia, searched for the monster at Loch Ness and bought the Eiffel Tower. He did all that and managed to avoid the various means employed by vampire hunter Von Goosewing to kill him. Come the second season, Count Duckula continued to travel through space and time and to get himself into all manner of bother, that with Von Goosewing included. He sets off (with Igor and Nanny) to find gold, avoids a kidnapping, appears on Transylvanian Television, trades places with Sid Quack in his own take on The Prince And The Pauper and joins the French Foreign Legion. He even, with the aid of a bump on the head, becomes the ideal Transylvanian vampire with a thirst for blood and a liking of all things dark and dank.
This third season of Count Duckula carries on this nonsense with the twenty episodes seeing Count Duckula deciding to become a detective, hacking into the Transylvanian Space Centre with his computer and travelling to Hollywood to make a quick sale with Castle Duckula. Later, the castle's werewolf runs wild in Really Creepy Forest, he travels back in time and across the seas to the Wild West where he shoots a six gun as Deadeye Duck and puts on a pantomime with the help of the Crow Brothers. Santa gets lost in the castle in the show's Christmas special, travels back to interfere with the history of his own family and accompanies Nanny on a mystery cruise. On to the show's fourth series, which finds itself lumped in with the thirteen episodes from the third, and Count Duckula races around the world, arrives in Manhattan and enjoys romping about in the Rockies as a Mountie.
My problem with Count Duckula is more what it is not. The Narrator, who opens and closes each episode, promises much dread and even more horror. The sorrowful voiceover even signs off with a, "Goodnight out there...whatever you are!" My expectations would have Count Duckula closer to Scooby Doo than what he is. Unfortunately, there's no sign of this horror outside of the opening credits and the occasional glimpse of the dustier parts of Castle Duckula and the odd werewolf or ghost who passes through. In that, I feel like Igor, who wishes for his master to stop it with the eating of broccoli, carrots and cabbages and to get on with the biting the necks of peasants and to drink their blood. Me, I'd rather Count Duckula cease with the moon-, time- and place-hopping and be a gloomy horror comedy.
In as much, though, that I'm in a minority of one in my own house as regards Count Duckula, I don't doubt this show, like Danger Mouse, has very many fans who like it just as it is. Certainly, it has its moments when it's very funny. The animation, in spite of a few sequences that make more than one appearance, is of a fairly high standard. What makes it a cut above the average cartoon is the development of its characters who are consistent throughout not only this season but have been from series one. What that does is to allow Duckula, Igor and Nanny to find gags even in stories that, at a glance, are retellings of earlier plots. So in series one, Duckula travelled to London to become a famous detective but does so again here albeit now in Chicago. The characters, the homage to noir and the situation all allow new jokes to be developed and there are moments when it is funny. And I did laugh...at moments.
Perhaps it's that I was never much of a fan of Danger Mouse or Duckula at the time and what I feel for them now is carried over from then. My children, who would have been the audience then, really like Count Duckula and have asked for series one time and again between first reviewing it and now. And in between a few BBC releases coming up (Tommy Zoom, In The Night Garden, etc.), they've been consistent in asking for Count Duckula. Or in the case of the two-year-old, "that duck!" That, at least, shows there's an audience of children out there for a well-produced British cartoon that's terrifically silly but funny. Contrary to what many of us might think, it's not all nostalgia for Count Duckula.
The look of the show has not changed one bit from the first season to this third. As such, I have reprinted what I said about the DVD release of the show's first series, which is as relevant now as it was then. Presented as a 1.3:1 image within a 4:3 frame and complete with the Thames Television logo, this looks to have come of a videotape with only the quickest of glances from anyone to supervise the transfer. Looking scratchy, dirty and soft and with a noticeable amount of grain, this is a very unimpressive release, which though maybe be no better than Fremantle's Danger Mouse releases, ought to have been a good deal better than this. There is also a very clear wobble to the image, which is apparent on even the smallest of sets, never mind a larger television. Unfortunately, it isn't even good enough to be described as functional with the faults being apparent when seen even on a small laptop monitor never mind a larger television screen. Similarly, the DD2.0, which is in Mono, isn't terribly good, sounding harsh and much too trebly. There are English subtitles.
There are no extras on this DVD release.