Judge Patrick Naugle does not believe in vampiric waterfowl.
I want to suck your, broccoli?
"Castle Duckula—home for many centuries to a terrible dynasty of vicious vampire ducks: the Counts of Duckula! Legend has it that these foul beings can be destroyed by a stake through the heart or by exposure to sunlight. This does not suffice, however, for they may be brought back to life, by means of a secret rite, that can be performed once a century when the moon is in the eighth zenith. The latest reincarnation didn't run according to plan."
So goes the opening credits to Count Duckula, a spin-off of the popular early '80s cartoon Danger Mouse. You see, when Count Duckula's servants tried to bring him back to life they used ketchup instead of blood, transforming the vile, evil Count Duckula into a pretty nice guy who likes tomato juice more than blood. Count Duckula lives in an old rotting mansion with his two servants, Igor (a bald headed buzzard) and Nanny (a clumsy, enormous piece of poultry), and gets into all sorts of adventures including a trip to the ancient pyramids, a battle with an evil opera phantom, and a run-in with Count Duckula's arch-nemesis, Van Goosling!
The human mind is a mysterious organ. The things that you recall from your past are often very vivid (being beaten in a burlap sack by Amazonian women comes to mind, though it's never happened to me, per se) or either as cloudy as a September afternoon in Seattle.
Now, I remember Count Duckula, but I don't really remember Count Duckula, if you get my meaning. If I dig deep enough into my memory I can recall sitting and watching this animated cartoon when I was a kid, yet I don't remember any specifics. In fact, when I sat down and plowed through this set's 26 episodes I was surprised at how familiar it seemed (the opening theme song was especially weird, I kinda sorta knew the words to it), yet totally unrecognizable (the rest of the show seems alien). Much like the show Fangface (a "Scooby-Doo"-like animated comedy about a teenage werewolf and his mystery solving friends), Count Duckula would be a great nostalgic trip if I could only remember more than 5% of it.
But I can't, and so Count Duckula becomes an exercise in mediocre animation. During the first episode I found myself enjoying the show just enough, and by just enough I mean to the point where I felt all I needed to see was the first episode and that's it. I'm finding that many '80s cartoons (including He-Man and the Masters of the Universe and The Transformers) don't hold up as well in my memory as they did a few decades ago. But I digress; Count Duckula doesn't pretend to be anything but a goofy story about a once villainous vampire duck who now only wants to munch on veggies instead of hapless necks. That joke is taken to the very extreme, and beyond; as clever as the concept is, Count Duckula feels like a one-note Saturday Night Live skit that jumped the track and took on a life of its own.
Count Duckula himself is a funny, odd guy (voiced with above average enthusiasm by David Jason) who often finds himself overwhelmed by his bumbling, caustic staff. There's Nanny (voiced by Brian Trueman), an oversized bird with a bandaged arm and a knack for walking through walls; and Igor (Jack May), a stuffy Jeeves-like butler who often looks bored/indifferent/annoyed with Count Duckula and Nanny's antics. Other minor characters pop in and out of a few episodes, including Duckula's enemy, Van Goosling—get it?!? Van HELSING—but none overly memorable. Maybe if they could have gotten Hugh Jackman to play Van Goosling it would have amped up the action quotient.
Count Duckula is often based on odd exchanges between the various characters. To show you the goofy extents the show goes to, here's an example of a dialogue exchange between Count Duckula and two Egyptian characters (Hoomite and Yoobee):
Hoomite: I am Hoomite, High Priest of the Sun God Ra! And this is my
And so it goes on, for another few minutes. If you found that funny, you'll bust a gut laughing at Count Duckula. As for this reviewer, that kind of verbal shtick got tedious fairly quickly. But I don't want to pooh-pooh something that someone else may find nostalgic. Heck, one of my prized DVDs is The Midnight Hour, a cheesy made-for-TV movie from the mid-80s that isn't very good, but a real gas to those who saw it. So with that in mind, go ahead and pick up Count Duckula: The Complete First Season if you remember liking the show. For the rest of us, more than a few episodes can feel like a real pain in the neck.
All 26 episodes of Count Duckula are presented in their original aspect ratios of 1.33:1 full frame (restored from their original prints). It's hard to compare the transfers of something like a 1988 cartoon show to today's computer animated, high tech glossed picture—the fact is, Count Duckula doesn't look fantastic. That being said, the black levels and color patterns are bright and solid when warranted. There is a bit of grain in the image at times, as well as some bleeding in the colors, stamped on some stiffly rendered backgrounds. Hey, it ain't perfect, but it's the best Count Duckula will most likely ever look.
The soundtrack for each episode is presented in Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo in English. Much like the video transfers, these soundtracks aren't anything to write home about. There's very little (read: zero) in the way of directional effects or surround sounds. The dialogue, music and effects are all clearly heard, though a tad bit louder than needed at times. Also included on this disc are English subtitles.
The producers of this set were kind enough to include a few extra features for your rabid Count Duckula fans. Two interviews—one with Cosgrove Hall co-founder Brian Cosgrove and another with senior producer/artist John Doyle—give fans a little more insight into how Count Duckula and the series came into being. "How To Draw Count Duckula with Mike Whaite" is as fluffy as it sounds—learning how to draw your own Count Duckula is something only a five year old would find amusing; for the rest of us, we call it "tracing." Finally there is a short piece on the restoration of the series (which includes a split screen test to show you how much clean-up work was accomplished) and a short photo gallery from the series.
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