1995: The Ketchup Vampires

Long about 1985, my friend and I used to sit on top of a set of monkey bars. We'd pretend that it was a space ship or a WW-1 style plane, and that we were under attack by some group called The Ketchup Vampires. "Fire mustard!" we'd shout. When that failed to blow them out of the sky, we'd shout "Fire horse relish!"  (we were about confused about the actual names of condiments).

A decade later or so, in the late 1990s, I happened upon a VHS tape called The Ketchup Vampires 2 at Blockbuster and figured that that must have been where we got the idea. But the tape was dated a few years too late for us to have seen it, so it was sort of a mystery. Naturally, I rented the video out to see what it was was, even though they only had part 2, not part 1.

What it was, was awful. It was apparently a foreign cartoon that had been badly dubbed into English and was pretty much impossible to watch, despite some decent animation (or decent backgrounds, anyway). I seem to recall that you could still hear the German audio track in the background. Information on this thing is scarce even now, but it seems that The Ketchup Vampires was a short-lived series in Germany that spawned a couple of 90 minute specials that were then released in the States with narration by Elvira. Sources differ as to whether the videos are the specials or a whole season of cartoons edited into individual movies. The latter explanation would explain a lot.

The movies were released in 1995 and 96, a full decade after our monkey bars game, so this wasn't where we got the idea for it. It couldn't have been. Even if it EXISTED (and enough people seem to think of it as an "80s movie" that I'm willing to concede that it might be older than the VHS release implies, though I found no evidence), we probably wouldn't have sat through it. And man, we sat through a lot of crap in those days.

The plot, such as it is, concerns a group of vampires who, according to the theme song, would "rather kiss you than kill you." I don't want them to do either of those things to me. As the name implies, they eat ketchup - and various "ketchup products" - rather than drinking blood. This sort of conceit has worked well enough for others; Bruce Coville did a book in which Dracula drinks V8 juice, and a couple of my own books with vampires had them drinking a vegetable compound that was developed during the Civil War and found to be more satisfying than blood (I needed some plausible reason that they could be let into high schools after "coming out of the coffin.") And, no, contrary to some popular youtube comments, I can't imagine that this cartoon was the inspiration for Stephanie Meyer's "vegetarian" vampires, who still drink blood, just not human blood. It's an easy joke for when you want to have vampires, but need them not to be too violent.

Having seen this cartoon years before writing those books of my own, I do wonder if maybe it was lurking somewhere deep in my subconscious when I wrote out I Kissed a Zombie and I Liked It, but I somehow doubt it, because only now, 15 years after I came up with the initial version of this page, after years of scouring the world for new specials to write about, have I even remembered that this thing existed.

I'm usually willing to forgive the real stinkers on the grounds that nostalgia is nostalgia, and quality doesn't always figure into these things. But I doubt that many people could watch this and feel particularly nostalgic. For one thing, I don't think very many people ever saw it to start with, and I think that even fewer people saw more than a few minutes of it before getting bored and going to do something else. Even at age 5.

I can picture the scenario in which this would get watched. The lady down the street whose house you go to after school is having some of "The Girls" over, and needs you and the other kids she watches to be quiet. So she rented this cartoon, and unless it's an emergency, you're all to sit quietly and watch the cartoon until it's over. But even then, and even if said Lady Down the Street was one of those mean ones who wasn't ABOUT to let you do anything else besides watch the movie, your mind would wander. You would focus on picking your nose, scratching out shapes in your arm with your fingernail...pretty much anything. Or stare at the window, maybe, where the trees swaying in the branches were putting on a better show than what was on the screen.

Then again, googling around shows that there ARE people who don't hate this, so I suppose it takes all kinds of kinds. Many maintain that Ketchup Vampires 2 is a LOT better than the first installment, which is sort of terrifying.

All that said, The Ketchup Vampires 2 has some good visuals, and the songs WILL stick in your head. It may be that they could have edited this down into a really fun 20 minute cartoon. Information about it scant enough that I'm not totally sure that it didn't exist, at least in Germany, when my friend and I were playing on the monkey bars, but how we would have heard of it is completely beyond me. Here's the intro to part 1, if you're so inclined, with a catchy theme song:

And part 2, the one I saw:

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