Back in the 80's, Nickelodeon was pretty much my home on TV. Shows like "You Can't Do That On Television", "Turkey TV", and "Out Of Control" were all Nick shows that I followed every week. But as far as their cartoons go, none stand out more in my mind than Dangermouse. A secret agent mouse with an eye-patch and a bumbling sidekick hamster named Penfold - both of which have strong British accents. How could you go wrong with a combination like that? You couldn't. I never did find out what happened to Dangermouse's eye that made him need to wear the eye-patch, but I'd wager that Penfold had something to do with it.
Now Dangermouse had his share of evil enemies, but only one was so good that he got a spin-off show of his own. That enemy was none other than COUNT DUCKULA! Now Duckula wasn't your ordinary vampire duck. See, when he first was turned into a vampire, performed the rites improperly. They used KETCHUP instead of BLOOD. So instead of an evil, blood-thirsty vampire duck, you get a vegetarian, actor-wannabe vampire duck.
One of my favorite memories about Duckula is that there was a guy in high school who I referred to as "Count Duckula". See, his name was Ken Mallard (as in a Mallard duck) and he had a cut that was identical to a classic Begla Lugosi "Dracula" hairdo. So combine the Dracula look with the ducky last name and you have Count Duckula in the flesh! I would walk up to him, and in my best vampire voice I'd shout, "BLAH BLAH! IT'S DUCKULAAA!" He never knew what the hell I was talking about, but I did and that's all that mattered. I'm sure he's in therapy by now anyway, as are most people who've had to put up with my shit at one time or another.
Ok, now that you're all caught up on a lil' history of these shows, along with my stupid high school antics, let's take a look at one of the infamous Dangermouse vs. Count Duckula episodes...
One of the best things about every Dangermouse episode was the announcer guy. He played the "I'm really lonely, so I'll talk to you people out there" theme perfectly, often proving to be the best part of the show. Before this episode starts, he informs us that somebody has stolen his bike and just when he is about to give us a phone number to call if we know who took it, he realizes that somebody stole his phone. Poor guy never got any breaks, but hey, that's what us kids loved... the misery of others. Actually, I still love that, so not much has changed. Thank you Dangermouse.
Baron Silas Greenback, the world's most villainous toad and arch enemy of a certain Dangermouse, is in his secret London headquarters on the phone with Count Duckula. Greenback asks Duckula to use his "special powers" on each member of the British government in exchange for a TV show of his very own. Duckula apparently agrees, and then Greenback returns to his new hobby of smashing little Dangermouse figures with a large hammer.
On a side note, Nero was always one of my favorite characters. He was Greenback's fuzzy caterpillar-like sidekick and he made the craziest sounds you've ever heard. While Greenback was always screwing up evil plots, I'm pretty sure that if Nero were in charge, Dangermouse would be doomed. I also always wanted to see Nero kill off that annoying cat from Inspector Gadget, MADcat. You just KNOW Nero would destroy.
Now when he wanted to be, which wasn't very often, Duckula could appear to be a pretty menacing vampire. Just look at how he stalks down this member of the British government, completely with glowing eyes! Ok, so it's not really that scary at all, but it sure is a hell of a lot scarier than what Duckula actually does to the guy:
Nope, he doesn't bite his neck or tear out his guts or eat his brains or any of the good stuff one could expect from an evil character. He makes the poor bastard tell really bad jokes and then perform a juggling act in the House of Commons. EVIL?
Apparently so, because Colonel K (aka: "The Chief") felt it warranted the super-agent investigative skills of Dangermouse. He informs them about Count Duckula's actions and Dangermouse let's out one of his main catch-phrases: "GOOD GRIEF!"
Now cut to a flashback scene from their first encounter in which Dangermouse needed two feathers from a vampire duck in order to save Penfold's life (long story). Duckula's voice combines aspects of Porky Pig and Daffy Duck, with plentiful interjections of stuttering and alliteration. Duckula tells Dangermouse he'll give him two feathers in exchange for a television show of his own. He puts on a horrible rendition of Hamlet, and Dangermouse quickly realizes that Duckula should be far away from TV.
Back to present time, Duckula appears out of thin air and is ready to attack. Luckily, Penfold walks in to report that he found a bad egg in the fridge. And wouldn't ya know it? Stinky, bad eggs are a weakness of vampire ducks!
So, Dangermouse and Penfold rush off to find Duckula in his new hideout under London's theatre land. It's never revealed how they actually know he's there, but hey, Dangermouse is a super spy. We're supposed to just trust his instincts, not question them. And if you've never seen the cartoon or their car, the Dangermobile put the Batmobile to shame. It could fly, go in the water, drive up walls, and it even had an on-board videophone so Colonel K could annoy them while driving. I never understood why they drove around almost all the time when the thing could fly. You'd think they'd want to avoid traffic when they were rushing out to stop a criminal. "Oh 'eck!"
Anyway, sure enough, Dangermouse was right about the location of Duckula. The Count calls it a day, and goes to sleep in his coffin (after kicking out a stray black cat that decided to take up residence in it).
They arrive at the gates looking for Duckula when all of a sudden Duckula appears in a beach chair right behind 'em. "Wait a minute, everybody knows the sun burns vampires!" Dangermouse proclaims. Even though Duckula has been a vampire for ages, he apparently is unaware of this as he steps out of the shade to prove Dangermouse wrong.
His skinned gets burned to ash black instantly. Didn't see that coming did ya? Well, at least it was amusing when we were kids, I think. Dangermouse then threatens Duckula with a bad egg, but Duckula is prepared. "He's got an anti-rotten egg peg!" Well he does for about 5 seconds, because the next time they cut back to Duckula, the peg has completely vanished from his bill. Oh the wonders of brilliant cartoon animation...
Even without the peg on his nose, Duckula overcomes Dangermouse and Penfold and once again, makes them juggle and dance uncontrollably while he makes a quick escape.
Dangermouse somehow manages to throw himself into a garbage can, and there just happens to be some rotten cabbage in there. The spell is broken, for rotten cabbage apparently works just as well as bad eggs! Dangermouse then lobs the stinky cabbage at Penfold to break him out of the spell too. "Cawwww chief!" "Penfold... Shush!"
Next, they go down into Duckula's underground lair and Penfold laughs when Duckula and some of his vampire buddies start to sing. Insulted, Duckula prepares to attack Penfold, but Dangermouse shoves the cabbage in his face. Now we get to watch Duckula show of those great acting skills of his as he puts on an overdramatic death scene. "Book my table at the academy awards!"
Naturally he was faking and stinky cabbage doesn't even have an effect on him, so he captures both Dangermouse and Penfold and puts them through some real torture: Duckula's various stage performances! It's almost reminiscent of Clockwork Orange when he's forced to watch all that extreme footage... only their eyes aren't being forced open, so it's their own fault for watching.
First, the Count performs a high dive into a tiny cup of water a la' Looney Toons. Of course, a shark attacks him while in the cup, so it's onto the second act...
Knife throwing. Duckula chooses a monster that is just as big as the target itself and wonders why the knives didn't hit the target. So the monster gets pissed off and chases Duckula away. Stupid monster should've known better in the first place...
Now Duckula takes himself out of the spotlight by putting his giant stilt-walking elephant on stage. Gee, stilts and a big elephant and Count Duckula down below it, I wonder what's gonna happen here?
After being crushed by the elephant, Duckula returns with his final act - a Bavarian Brass Band. Needless to say, this band has nothing on Herb Alpert & the Tijuana Brass. Not being able to tolerate the horrible acting and stage performances any longer, Dangermouse and Penfold literally burst from their shackles and head up to ground level.
They wait for Duckula to come out, jump him, and then wrap him up in a big wooden box and ship it to Australia. Now, that's just plain cruel if you ask me. I mean, they've already got Yahoo Serious in Australia, isn't that enough torture for their people? Why send another annoying performer their way?
Well don't worry, Duckula didn't even make it there. Dangermouse and his amazing super-intellect apparently forgot that Duckula can vanish into thin air. Realizing that he's no match for Duckula, Dangermouse decided to call in the one person who can put an end to Duckula's reign of terror:
Agent 57 pulls up, wearing an Uncle Sam hat and sporting a John Wayne cowboy voice. He tells Duckula "I'm a big-time US showbiz agent and I'm signing you up!" Duckula is thrilled for he's finally achieved his dream of becoming a star. "Oh crumbs!" He's even booked for a world tour.
Thankfully, his world tour will be in extremely remote areas, starting with the South Pole with an audience of penguins. Ah bad acting... the worst form of animal cruelty.
Count Duckula wasn't just reserved for Nickelodeon in the 80's, nope. He appeared in his very own game on the Commodore-64! Now you can try out the original ROM!
And to all of you fans of the Dangermouse after-show glory known as Bananaman... don't worry, I'm working on getting some episodes to review in the near future!
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