Der Kleine Vampir – Neue Abenteuer (1993)

This show is a continuation (as far as the source material is concerned) of the 1986 German-Canadian TV-show The Little Vampire: while that show was based on the first two novels in Angela Sommer-Bodenburg’s children’s book franchise, this follow-up series is based on books 3 and 4 (Der Kleine Vampir Verreist and Der Kleine Vampir auf dem Bauernhof). Der Kleine Vampir – Neue Abenteuer is an exclusively German-language production (unlike the previous one). So there is – as far as I know – no English version available.

The premise is unchanged. Anton, an only child, still lives with his parents in a flat. He is friends with the vampire children Rüdiger and Anna, who often visit him at night. There is not much of a plot. A few episodes take place in the city. But then Anton’s parents decide to take him to the countryside for a lengthy holiday. Bored by the idea of three weeks without Anton, Rüdiger decides to temporarily resettle to the country as well, coffin and all.

After a gap of seven years, the show naturally features an entirely new cast. This cast is made up mostly of German actors this time round, because this is no longer a German-Canadian, but a German-Austrian co-production and the production had been moved from Canada to Germany’s westernmost region (and nearby Belgium). Looking at footage from the old show, one had to assume that the protagonists lived in or near Edmonton; but from the footage of the new show we can assume that they are supposed to live in Wuppertal. That’s neither here nor there, of course, since it’s a kids show and no-one cares about those things. But since continuity would suggest that both the old and the new show take place in the same city, this location issue shows that there are (inevitably) continuity problems when moving production into another country (and language). In short, the setting and scenery looks very different – the previous show had a distinct North American look to it, the new one very much not so.

 

A major disconnect between the two shows is the fact that in the newer show, Anna and Rüdiger suddenly have parents, in addition to an aunt and other elderly relatives; and their older cousin Lumpi is suddenly their older brother. As I have never read the books, I cannot tell you which of the two character constellations is closer to the source material.

Still, the show tries to create some sense of continuity with the older German-Canadian co-production. Like that first show, the newer one boils down the plot of two books into 13 half-hour episodes, which means the speed and pacing of the two shows feel similar. It also uses the melody of the original‘s famous title song in its opening theme and at times for score. And the cemetery – probably a soundstage set – also looks North-American rather than German.

 

The looks (or “types”) of the three child characters is vaguely similar to the looks of the characters in the original series. But since I do not know the books, I cannot say for sure if this was an attempt to create a sense of continuity, of if both shows based their casting decisions on descriptions and/or illustrations in the books.

Anton and Anna are played by decent child-actors; while the boy playing Rüdiger is clearly overacting, as is the actor who plays Lumpi. In general, there seems to be a string of directorial decisions on this show that try to aim at the hammiest and absurdest tone possible, so I’ll blame these performances on the director as well.

Knowing that German state television tends to massively over-analyse children’s shows before production starts, I would venture a guess and say that the hammy and absurd tone was intended to ensure that children understood that the things shown on this show are not real.

The good acting by the actors playing Anton and Anna is hampered by the shoddy dialogue which often bears all the hallmarks of lines written by an adult desperately trying to make them sound like children’s lines.

 

The early episodes see the return of the vampire hunter Gurrmeyer, who had been played by Gert Fröbe in the original show. With Fröbe havind died in 1988, the role in this new production went to Slovak actor Marián Labuda, who does a more than decent job here. Incidentally, Labuda passed away only a few weeks ago, on January 5th 2018.

All other roles in the show are filled by seasoned German actors, including A-listers like Dominique Horwitz (deliberately chewing all of the scenery as a rural vampire hunter) and Dietrich Mattausch. The one-off guest roles are also filled well, often by employing well-known character actors like Tana Schanzara and Hildegard Krekel.

 

It is difficult for me to judge whether this show might be enjoyable for kids. For adults, it is pretty unbearable. The bad acting and constant shouting by the kid actor who plays Rüdiger ruins the show, but it is just the most obvious symptom of a very hammy style the whole show is geared towards. As such, it lacks the charm of the original series; and it is hundreds of miles away from the professionalism of My Babysitter is a Vampire and the intelligent writing of Young Dracula.

Rating: 3.5 to 4.0 out of 10

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