The Little Vampire (1986)

This box-set came into my possession quite recently. And knowing that an animated version of The Little Vampire is currently being rolled out in cinemas across Europe, I thought it might be a good time to re-watch and review this show.

 

Anton Besker is an ordinary boy, living with his parents in a nice flat in a high-rise building. He enjoys reading horror-related books and watching horror films; and he has been spending a lot time on his own recently, since his best friend moved away. But one day Anton makes the acquaintance of a young vampire boy named Rüdiger, and they form a friendship of sorts. They have to keep this secret, of course, since Anton’s parents must not know that Rüdiger is a vampire, and Rüdiger’s family must not know that he has betrayed their secrets to a human.
Anton and Rüdiger are not as careful as they think they are, and the combination of their carelessness and the snoopiness of the people around them leads them into one tight spot after another. Anton is harassed by his nosy friend Cyril, and he has to deal with his meddling neighbour, Mrs Perkins, and her equally meddling daughter Effie. Not to mention the brazen vampire hunter Gurrmeyer who has just arrived from Europe…

 

The Little Vampire is a TV-show made for younger children. This German-Canadian co-production was directed by René Bonnière, and is based on the children’s novels Der Kleine Vampir and Der Kleine Vampir Zieht Um by Angela Sommer-Bodenburg, making this the first of several adaptations of this franchise.

Shot in Edmonton, the show has a chiefly Canadian cast, including Michael Hogan (Battlestar Galactica) and his wife Susan, as well as Lynn Seymour, who was one of the leading prima ballerinas of her day and from 1978 till 1980 had been the artistic director of the ballet section of the Bavarian State Opera in Munich.

To this quite remarkable cast are added two international stars: firstly Michael Gough, who already looked old in 1985, when this was produced; and secondly everyone’s favourite Bond villain, Gert Fröbe, in what would prove to be more or less his last role before his death. I am pretty sure Fröbe is not being dubbed here, and he has remarkably few problems with the English language, considering that they dubbed his Goldfinger because he was allegedly unable to speak even a single line of English.

It goes without saying that all these actors do a fine job here. Fröbe hams it up in just the right manner for a children’s show villain, although in hamming it up he sometimes ends up looking like he is phoning it in.

The numerous kid actors are adequate, but nothing to shout about. Their acting is often stiff and “rehearsed”, but part of that impression might come from the ADR which I suspect has been employed here.

 

Some episodes are better than others, and of course there are numerous plot holes, as is unfortunately usual with material produced for children. But in general the scripts are OK, even if the plots are rather run-of-the-mill. In spite of the efforts in the casting department, you feel that this show’s intention was to entertain younger children, not to win any awards for high art. Still, there are a number of nice scenes and funny lines, for example when Michael Gough’s character tells stories from the old country, reminiscing about Dracula. And the show benefits from its assembly of rather eccentric characters that children will certainly enjoy.

 

One of the more memorable elements of the show is the title song (“They can see in the Dark”), which has been written by the show’s writer/producer Richard Nielsen and set to music by the show’s composer John Mills-Cockell. According to the credits, actor Jim Gray performs the song together with his band, Dark Room.

The vampire make-up is very simple, mainly consisting of white face paint and some fangs, but together with the hairstyles and the costumes it works quite nicely. There is a lot of “flying” in this show, and the green-screen and/or wire-work employed look OK-ish, but it is at all times obvious that these are mid-1980s effects.

The look of the flat in which much of the action is set “dates” the show; and some other aspects of this show have not really aged well either, but it is still a very entertaining show that is suitable for younger children (roughly ages 6 to 9, I assume). Which is nice as – all things considered – there are not that many vampire shows/films out there that are suitable for children this young.

Rating: 6.5 out of 10

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